A loophole in Puerto Rico's tax return regulations allowed a band of thieves to run a lucrative tax refund scheme between Hartford, Connecticut, and New York, according to the Hartford Courant.
The news source reports that due to Puerto Rico's status as a U.S. commonwealth, residents are exempt from filing federal tax returns. The thieves committed identity theft
by addressing fraudulent tax returns from actual residences in Hartford - a location from which a significant number of people have immigrated from Puerto Rico. As a result, "hundreds of thousands" of Social Security numbers were improperly used, to land the ring millions of dollars. Josue "Ariel" Mercado received a three-month jail sentence after authorities found a bundle of stolen tax refunds in his vehicle. Mercado acted as a liaison between ringleaders in New York city and a Hartford-based USPS letter carrier named Manuel Quiles. Mercado's lawyer suggested that he receive leniency, as he was a "very small cog" in the scheme. The news source reports in a separate article that Mercado allegedly received 11 envelopes containing federal tax refund checks, costing the U.S. Treasury between $10,000 and $30,000.