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Men Accused of Using Tax Preparation Information to Steal IDs

Men Accused of Using Tax Preparation Information to Steal IDs



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Two men who worked at a Latino assistance center in Ogden are the subjects of an identity theft investigation.

A federal grand jury has indicted Heber Uriel Nevarez and Juan de Jesus Lopez. Both were employees of Centro de Servicios Hispanos -- a tax and law assistance center.

Nevarez, 25, was indicted on two counts of bank fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. There is a warrant for his arrest.

Lopez, 33, was indicted on four counts of bank fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft. Lopez is in custody at the Weber County Jail and is the brother of the company's owner, Victor Lopez.

An investigation was launched in late December after a car dealership alerted the state about a suspected identity theft scheme, said State Tax Commission spokesman Charlie Roberts.

Juan de Jesus Lopez and Nevarez were alleged co-conspirators in getting credit card numbers to buy vehicles and using stolen Social Security numbers, Roberts said.

"We just know that they both work for the same company, but we've made no connection to the firm," Roberts said.

But at least two people say they experienced identity theft problems after having their taxes done at the center.

German Rodriguez said he got a letter from Discover Card last November and realized that someone had applied for a credit card using his name. A few days later, he got a call from a car dealership in Murray that was trying to verify that he was trying to buy a car. He wasn't and he reported the attempted purchase to police. About a month later he got a similar call from a motorcycle saleswoman in California.

In January, Rodriguez met with state investigators who asked him where he had prepared his taxes, and showed him a picture of Nevarez. Rodriguez said he never met Nevarez but saw him at the center.

"Then everything started making sense," Rodriguez said. "(Nevarez) had access to the information."

Victor Lopez, who owns Centro de Servicios Hispanos, said he opened his company about 10 years ago in Ogden and now has another location in West Valley City. However, Centro de Servicios Hispanos is not a registered business with the state, nor does it have a business license in Ogden or West Valley City, according to state and city officials.

Victor Lopez said he has only had one recent client, not Rodriguez, complain that someone might have stolen their information from Centro de Servicios Hispanos.

But another man Juan Jesus Lopez, a 54-year-old Roy resident who is no relation to the Lopez brothers, said he had his taxes prepared at Centro de Servicios Hispanos in March 2006 and later started having problems associated with identity theft

In October, he also got a call from an auto dealership trying to verify that he was trying to buy a car. He said no, and when he went to meet with the dealership the police were waiting for him.

"I don't understand how someone was able to get seven cars and two motorcycles under my name," he said. "When I go and get a car or credit card, they ask me for so many documents and identification."

Nevarez and Juan de Jesus Lopez face up to 30 years in jail on each bank fraud charge and a two-year mandatory sentence for each aggravated identity theft charge if they are convicted.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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