Resurrection 43Posted: November 23, 2016
This is a chapter of the book I am writing for NaNoWriMo. If you want to read it from the start, click here for the chapter index.
Flores-Figueroa v. United States
Flores-Figueroa v. United States, Case No. 08-108, had worked its way through the judicial system and landed on the esteemed desks of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009*. Ignacio Flores-Figueroa, a Mexican national, had used a fake Social Security card giving his name, but an SSN that was not his. He had no idea who, if anyone, it belonged to. He used it to get a job in East Moline, Illinois.
When he was arrested as an illegal alien, he was also convicted of aggravated identity theft, a crime which carries a two year sentence. The statute in question, 18 U.S.C. §1028A(a)(1), states “Whoever…knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person…”
The law had been used regularly to imprison illegal immigrants who had come to the US illegally, hoping to find work, putting many in prison for up to two years. He did not know the number had been assigned to another person, a minor at the time.
Flores-Figueroa’s attorneys argued that while he did use a random social, he did not know whether it belonged to someone else. At odds was the question of how “knowingly” in the statute meant he knew it belonged to someone else or just he knew it was fake.
On May 4, 2009, the court announced their unanimous decision: A person is only guilty of aggravated identify theft under the statute when they use a Social Security Number they know belongs to another person.
Under that statute, Ricky was certainly going to commit identity theft – and much worse.
He now had all the information he needed to “appropriate” John Reeve’s identity except for his Social Security number. But that would be easy enough. He already knew the first six digits – they would be the same as his. Chances are the last four would be one digit different. He could guess, though that was a risk. Most people know their social without hesitation.
He could “front” and call Reeve’s directly, then ask him to verify “the last four of his Social” before giving him the fake information. People give away the last four of their SSN without hesitation, Of the two, he enjoyed the idea of the last. He could talk to his “brother” directly.
People typically fear calls from the IRS. Taxes are complicated and even if the taxes are completed by a tax preparer, most people still wonder if it was done correctly. The average tax refund in the US is $2,700.00. While in truth that simply means people paid far more money to the IRS than they actually needed to, the feeling people often have upon receiving the money is “they just got money from the government.”
Minister’s taxes in the US can be complicated. Under the tax code, a minister’s home is considered an extension of the church. The assumption is the home is a place where church business is conducted, formal and informal meetings are held with parishioners, Bible studies are held. Unlike a home office deduction, the code assumes any or all parts of the home might be used for ministry purposes.
Ministers are therefore allowed a tax-free “housing allowance” to cover things like utilities, cleaning supplies, upkeep. In the Methodist church in the Eastern Kentucky district, the church owns the parsonages. For non-clergy, receiving free housing as a part of your job is considered income, and is taxed at a rate consistent with the retail rental value of the property. Ministers are exempt from this taxation as well.
All of this together, however, means calculating taxes for a minister can be somewhat complicated.
Ricky decided call Reeves directly, to pose as an IRS worker. He would say he was looking into his past year’s return and have him give him the last four of his social. He would then say to Reeves he was possibly due an additional refund due to an error on the IRS’ part.
The IRS does not call people, they only notify by phone, but Ricky didn’t know this. Most people do not.
Just like Bob Phillips, Ricky knew all about Google Voice. It was common knowledge among criminals. Useful. He set up an account in the 202 area code, and connected it to the app on his burner phone.
John answered the phone on his desk. “First United Methodist,” he answered.
“Yes, my name is Mr. Johnson from the Internal Revenue Service. May I speak with John Reeves?”
John’s heart skipped a beat. He was good with people, good at speaking, good at organizing and running the church. He was not good at taxes.
“This is John Reeves.”
“Sir, I need to inform you this call is being recorded. Before we can proceed, I need to verify your identity. Can you please give me the last four of your Social Security number?”
Ricky completed the call, noting the relief in John’s voice when he was “informed” he would possibly be receiving an additional refund from his last year’s return.
Ricky now had all he needed except for an untraceable gun.