California Inmate Steals Identities of 700 Fellow Prisoners, Files Fraudulent Tax Returns

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Inmates walk in file at San Quentin State Prison. (Credit: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

A Marin County man was convicted of using his time in prison not to rehabilitate and learn the error of his ways, but to steal the identities of his fellow inmates and use them to file fake federal tax returns.

Howard Webber, 52, was found guilty by a jury Tuesday of conspiring to use stolen identities to file fraudulent tax returns, a scheme that he operated for two years from behind bars that netted him and an accomplice more than $600,000.

“We want everyone who files a tax return to take advantage of the deductions and credits to which they are entitled by law,” Tyrone Blanchette, assistant special agent in charge of the IRS’s criminal investigations unit, said in a statement. “However, no one is entitled to defraud the United States and the American Taxpayers.”

Webber has been incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, Santa Clara County Jail and Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility in Wisconsin, federal prosecutors said. During his stints in those facilities, he convinced inmates to give him their full names and Social Security numbers and paid others $75 for each inmate they recruited to do the same, according to the grand jury indictment.

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