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Prisoner steals identifies of 700 inmates and receives $600,000 in fraudulent tax returns

By Mason White 4:11 PM January 29, 2017
Prison (illustration)
By: Tanya Clark

An inmate came up with an elaborate scheme to defraud the government while he was behind bars.

The man of California, spent time in two different prisons, where he managed to steal the identities of 700 inmates.

He then used the identities to file false federal tax returns.

Howard Webber, 52, was found guilty by a jury of charges including mail fraud and wire fraud. He faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

Investigators said that her operated the scheme for two years with an accomplice and they made over $600,000.

Authorities said that Webber persuaded prisoners in California and Wisconsin, to give him their full names and Social Security numbers by promising them to help them take advantage of government programs.

He also paid inmates $75 for each name and Social Security number they collected for him from their fellow inmates, according to a grand jury indictment.

He was charged in Milwaukee, and the case was transferred to California.

His accomplice, Clifford Bercovich, 69, created a bogus company, which they used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns for over 700 inmates.

The checks were either deposited in a bank account that belonged to the suspects, or it was sent to a post office box, which they created.

Bercovich pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.