Identity Theft and Your Tax Return

 Darth Vader

Darth Vader

Scary stuff, actually. A million phony tax returns being filed annually seems to me to be a bigger threat to our nation financial security than kissing Grover Norquist’s, uh, ring.Too bad the Republican Do Nothings in Congress have partisanship on their mind, party over country… 

Besieged by identity theft, Florida now faces a fast-spreading form of fraud so simple and lucrative that some violent criminals have traded their guns for laptops. And the target is the United States Treasury. With nothing more than ledgers of stolen identity information — Social Security numbers and their corresponding names and birth dates — criminals have electronically filed thousands of false tax returns with made-up incomes and withholding information and have received hundreds of millions of dollars in wrongful refunds, law enforcement officials say.

The criminals, some of them former drug dealers, outwit the Internal Revenue Service by filing a return before the legitimate taxpayer files. Then the criminals receive the refund, sometimes by check but more often though a convenient but hard-to-trace prepaid debit card.

The government-approved cards, intended to help people who have no bank accounts, are widely available in many places, including tax preparation companies. Some of them are mailed, and the swindlers often provide addresses for vacant houses, even buying mailboxes for them, and then collect the refunds there.

Postal workers have been harassed, robbed and, in one case, murdered as they have made their rounds with mail trucks full of debit cards and master keys to mailboxes.

The fraud, which has spread around the country, is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually, federal and state officials say. The I.R.S. sometimes, in effect, pays two refunds instead of one: first to the criminal who gets a claim approved, and then a second to the legitimate taxpayer, who might have to wait as long as a year while the agency verifies the second claim.

J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, testified before Congress this month that the I.R.S. detected 940,000 fake returns for 2010 in which identity thieves would have received $6.5 billion in refunds. But Mr. George said the agency missed an additional 1.5 million returns with possibly fraudulent refunds worth more than $5.2 billion.

Career criminals know easy money when they see it. The police say they run across street corner drug dealers and robbers who have been in and out of prison for years now making lots of money by filing fraudulent returns. Some have been spotted driving Bentleys and Lamborghinis.

“A gentleman, a former armed robber, said: ‘I’m not doing robberies anymore. This is much cleaner. I don’t even have to use a gun,’ ” said Sgt. Jay J. Leiner of the economic crimes unit in the Broward Sheriff’s Office, which has formed a multiagency task force.

Mr. Ferrer, the United States attorney, said he had seen tax fraud overtake violent crime in Overtown, a poor, high-crime section of Miami. He said criminals there were holding filing parties, at which they would haul out laptops and, for a fee, teach others how to run the swindle.

“There is no real competition,” Mr. Ferrer said. “They are not fighting each other. Altogether, they are stealing from the I.R.S.”

(click here to continue reading With Personal Data in Hand, Thieves File Early and Often –

Florida Edition of GOP Clown Car

Like we noted earlier, despite all the talk of momentum, whatever the hell that is, the primary season is not over yet. Gingrich, and Ron Paul are going to keep going on as long as they have enough money to do so, and they would be stupid not to continue.

Newt Gingrich has been predicting that the battle for the Republican presidential nomination will last “until June or July, unless Romney drops out sooner,” but the magnitude of his loss to Mitt Romney in Florida’s primary on Tuesday could force him to recalibrate.

Romney 46.4%

Gingrich 31.9%

Santorum 13.4%

Paul 7.0%

It is possible, of course, that the contest will stretch on for several months, largely because the voting so far has allocated only 5 percent of the delegates needed to claim the nomination. On Wednesday, the battle turns to states like Nevada that award their delegates on a proportional basis, so even coming in second will have a payoff, unlike in Florida, where the winner takes all.

(click here to continue reading Gingrich Pins Hopes on Super Tuesday and Delegate Shares –

To update my calculations, and including Automatic Delegates a/k/a Super Delegates, I have the current allocation as:

  • Dog Mittens Romney – 78
  • Newtonious Leroy Gingrich – 28
  • Ronald Paul – 9
  • Sticky-Rick Santorum – 7

Not close to over, yet.

GOP Clown Car 2 1 2012
GOP Clown Car 2-1-2012.PNG

Polls Show Romney Ahead

Rooms 75 cents
Rooms 75 cents

I am no statistician, and never took any statistical analysis classes in school, but a six point lead two days before the Florida primary is overwhelming? Seems like a close race to me.

But new polls suggest that Mr. Gingrich is trailing badly in Florida. A survey released on Saturday night by The Tampa Bay Times and several other Florida news organizations found Mr. Romney ahead, 42 percent to 31 percent. (The telephone survey of 500 registered voters likely to vote in the Florida Republican primary was conducted Tuesday through Thursday by Mason Dixon Polling and Research. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.)

(click here to continue reading Gingrich Presses Attack as Polls Show Romney Ahead –

Turning stadiums into homeless shelters

Sunset at Safeco Field
Sunset at Safeco Field

This would be the best solution to the ongoing saga of billionaire sports owners ripping off their local communities, right? Too bad it isn’t a national bill…

According to a 23-year-old Florida law that has been mostly ignored, professional sports facilities built with the help of government funds are required to house the homeless on nights when no official events are taking place.

Two lawmakers have dug up that old statute, and are pushing bills that would make stadium owners return millions of taxpayer dollars if they can’t prove they’ve been operating as a haven for the homeless in the years since they began receiving checks from the government. The bill passed its first committee in the Senate on Monday with a unanimous vote.

“We have spent over $300 million supporting teams that can afford to pay a guy $7, $8, $10 million a year to throw a baseball 90 feet. I think they can pay for their own stadium,” said Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, who is pushing the bills along with Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami. “I cannot believe that we’re going to cut money out of Medicaid and take it away from homeless and take it away from the poor and impoverished, and we’re continuing to support people who are billionaires.”

Bennett’s bill would force owners of sports facilities like the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg to refund millions of dollars and begin operating homeless shelters on off-nights. So far, the state has spent more than $270 million on constructing stadiums, with the former Dolphin Stadium receiving $37 million and AAA taking $27.5 million. It is unclear whether any of the stadiums, which receive monthly subsidies of about $166,000 each, is operating an active homeless shelter program.


(click here to continue reading Bill would enforce law turning stadiums into homeless shelters on off days – Florida –


We’ve fulminated against the sports stadium boondoggle a few times, like here, here, and many other times

Nudists From Germany, Britain Sought

I’m guessing the Tea Partiers might object…

A west Florida community is spending $3,800 in tax dollars to entice naked Germans to spend their summer vacations there. The advertising grant was awarded Tuesday by the Pasco County commission to Pandabare, a local nudist organization representing 16 resorts, campgrounds and clubs located in the largely rural county north of Tampa. The ads, to be placed in European publications, will promote the county’s longstanding reputation as the nudist capital of America.

(click here to continue reading Florida town seeks nudist vacationers from Europe – Yahoo! News.)

On the other, uh, hand, that isn’t much money.

All Hail HCR

Atheist in Florida Files Suit Citing Harassment in Arrest

Picasso on The Cross

Picasso on The Cross

Sheriff Grady Judd sounds like a real jerkstore. He should move to Yemen or Afghanistan if he’s so intent upon living in an intolerant country. Or Arizona…

MIAMI — An atheist in Central Florida filed suit in Federal District Court in Tampa on Friday, accusing the Polk County sheriff, an evangelical Christian, of harassing and unnecessarily arresting her as retaliation for not believing in God and for her efforts to keep prayer out of public meetings.

EllenBeth Wachs, the legal coordinator for the group Atheists of Florida, asked the court to prevent the sheriff, Grady Judd, from conducting any new investigations, arrests or complaints resulting from her “nonreligious, atheist viewpoint in the predominantly Christian-oriented Polk County, Fla.” The sheriff’s actions, including two arrests and searches of her house, violated her First Amendment rights and her right to due process, the suit states.

A nonpracticing lawyer, she signed the requests with the designation Esquire after her name. Sheriff Judd sent a team of officers to arrest her and charged her in March with illegally posing as a lawyer, a felony.

“This does not violate any bar rules,” said her lawyer, Lawrence G. Walters. “She is allowed to use esquire.”

(click here to continue reading Atheist in Florida Files Suit Citing Harassment in Arrest –


Caboodle Ranch – Colbert Show

Stephen Colbert had a funny exposé on Craig Grant’s Caboodle Ranch, in Lee, Florida

In Lee, Florida, Craig Grant trains his 650 cats to take over America’s government, law enforcement and failing schools. (05:32)


The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Enemy Within – Caboodle Ranch
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If the video won’t load, go to the Colbert Show’s website directly, it might work better there

Craig Grant tells how he started the Caboodle Ranch

I was renting a two bedroom condo by the beach with my son. It had all the comforts and conveniences of home. Nice furniture, a short walk to the beach and close to work. Then my son moved out on his own for the first time. He left his cat, Pepper, with me because he couldn’t take it with him. I didn’t like cats but I agreed to keep him. I wasn’t used to being alone and I guess Pepper wasn’t either.

We slowly began to get along. A couple months went by and I found out Pepper was pregnant. Oh great, now what? She had five kittens. I wanted to give them away because I didn’t want my beautiful home destroyed, but my son told me they had to stay with their mother for 8 weeks. Over that time I learned that every cat had his own unique personality and it wasn’t long before the kittens were swinging from my curtains. I didn’t care. Something had changed… I didn’t want to give them up.

But with six cats, complaints started from the condo owner and the neighbors. I knew I had to look for other places to go. They weren’t safe in the neighborhood. I found a B.B. lodged in the side of one of my cats and another was bitten by a pitbull that I know was set loose on purpose. Something had to be done. I wasn’t sure what to do at first, so I built a shed in my son’s yard and lived in it for a while. Then I found an advertisement in the paper from a realtor offering five acre partials on a tree farm; owner financing, low money down and low monthly payments… the problem was that it was 100 miles west of Jacksonville. I drove out to see it and I loved it.

Over the next months I bought five more partials. I now have 25 acres. I cleared a small area and bought an office trailer as a shelter for my cats. I put in a pet door and padded shelves for them. We moved out there in November of 2003, the day after Thanksgiving. By that time I had 11 cats. I had taken in abandoned and stray cats from the neighborhood and areas that I work as a contractor. I had 22 cats by the spring of 2004. I moved the shed out to the property and made a little cabin out of it. I thought it would be for me, but many of my cats wanted to sleep next to me… so I moved back into the office trailer where we had more room.

(click to continue reading Caboodle Ranch: About Us.)

Sex, Drugs and Bill Clinton

Sounds like the perfect task for former President Clinton: he seems to genuinely love campaigning, kissing babies and shaking hands. The Democratic Party would be foolish not to give Clinton free reign to create a Never-Ending, Traveling  Campaign Circus. Give him a bio-fuel bus like Willie Nelson, and send him around the nation…


[Bill] Clinton is getting credit for helping to resurrect the candidacy of Congressman Kendrick Meek, who gave up his safe seat to bid for the Democratic Senate nod. Meek was the presumed nominee for months, but then he got hit with a free-spending challenge from real-estate billionaire Jeff Greene, who made his money by buying credit default swaps that rose in value when subprime borrowers defaulted on their home loans. The “meltdown mogul”—as Meek dubbed him—pumped roughly $25 million into television and radio ads and mailings to likely primary voters. Not surprisingly, he surged in the polls.

Greene’s spending overwhelmed Meek and it appeared that another wealthy newcomer—like California Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman, California Republican Senate nominee Carly Fiorina and Connecticut Republican Senate nominee Linda McMahon—might beat a buy a nomination that had been expected to go to a candidate with more experience but less money.

When Meek was at his weakest point, however, Clinton stepped in to campaign for the congressman, stumping in a state where the former president remains extremely popular with Democratic voters.

Then came a series of revelations about wild parties on Greene’s former home in Los Angeles—complete with appearances by boxer Mike Tyson and Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss—and intoxicated romps aboard the billionaire’s private yacht.

The combination of Clinton’s campaigning—the ex-president attended five fundraisers for the congressman, sent two fundraising e-mails on his behalf, and then appeared at rallies in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties—and the sin-at-sea stories swirling around Greene shifted the dynamic of the race at the close.


(click to continue reading Sex, Drugs and Bill Clinton: Florida’s Ugly Senate Primary | The Nation.)

Clinton was never my favorite Democrat, but nobody can deny he is good ((usually) at campaigning.

Alan Grayson leads Republican primary

Too funny. More Democrats like Rep. Alan Grayson please…

T Rex isnt afraid of the puny sun

Rep. Grayson Has Huge Lead in Republican Primary

No, that’s not a typo. According to a poll of registered Republicans last week, Congressman Alan Grayson has an enormous lead in the Republican primary for Florida Congressional District 8 (FL-8).

Of course, Grayson is a Democrat. Yet Grayson is far and away the leading choice among registered Republicans in FL-8. In fact, he has almost twice as much support among Republicans as all his Republican opponents combined.

In the poll, Grayson won the support of 27.8% of registered Republicans. None of Grayson’s 13 opponents scored higher than 3.7%. Their combined performance was only 14.5%. The remaining 57.7% of registered Republicans were undecided.

30.1% of registered Republican women support Grayson. And Grayson has the support of 25.5% of registered Republican men.

Grayson also has an enormous lead in name recognition. 76.9% of Republicans know Grayson; none of his opponents scored higher than 15.1%. 81.4% of Republican men know Grayson, and 72.4% of Republican women know him.

Grayson received high marks from Republicans for his Constitution initiative. Over half of all Republicans said that they were more likely to vote for Grayson because he passed a resolution urging high schools to teach the Constitution, and he had distributed tens of thousands of copies of the Constitution throughout the district.

Interestingly, Grayson is more popular among Republicans than Republican Governor Charlie Crist is. 42% of Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of Crist, far more than those who have an unfavorable opinion of Grayson […]

The poll was conducted on Feb. 26th. There were 324 respondents, all registered Republicans in FL-8. The margin of error was 5%. The poll was conducted by Middleton Market Research.

[Click to continue reading Daily Kos: FL-08: Grayson leads, er, Republican primary]

Republicans predictably are sputtering with indignation, but impotent to change facts.

Florida Tomato Shortage

Was wondering why there was such a dearth of good tomatoes in the grocery store. At least the shortage can’t be linked to corruption in the FDA and food corporations

Heirloom Tomatoes

A shortage of tomatoes from weather-battered Florida is forcing restaurants and supermarkets to ration supplies amid soaring prices for America’s most popular fresh vegetable.

Fast-food restaurant chains such as Wendy’s have stopped automatically including tomatoes in sandwiches; now customers have to know to ask.

Even then, consumers might not get what they usually do. At Lloyd’s, a white-tablecloth restaurant across the street from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, signs went up this week warning that only plum tomatoes are available.

“People love having tomatoes in their salad and in sandwiches but we want people to know ahead of time that the quality just isn’t what they are used to,” said Sam Berngard, president of Taste America Restaurant Group LLC, which operates Lloyd’s and two Chicago seafood restaurants.

Fresh tomatoes are in short supply because of the unusual spell of freezing temperatures that hugged Florida in January. The cold temperatures that dented citrus production also destroyed roughly 70% of the tomato crop in Florida, which is the largest source of U.S.-grown fresh tomatoes this time of year.

Reggie Brown, executive vice president of Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, a Maitland, Fla., trade group, said Tuesday that a 25-pound box of tomatoes is trading for $30, compared with $6.45 a year ago.

[Click to continue reading Florida Tomato Shortage Hits Restaurants, Supermarkets –]

Cream Sausage Tomatoes

Winter tomatoes kind of suck anyway, I can wait until locally grown varieties start appearing again. And climate change is thankfully not refuted in this article1.

  1. since it isn’t relevant, probably []

Florida Voter Fraud

Oh sure, blame it on the voters again1 . The NYT photographs of the ballot don’t make the same point, in fact, the ballot looks fairly straightforward.

Panel Cites Voter Error, Not Software, in Loss of Votes

Florida officials suggested that as many as 18,000 votes were lost in a disputed Congressional race due to voter confusion rather than malfunctioning software.

While some voters in Sarasota bristled yesterday at the idea that they had done anything wrong in casting their votes, or that nearly 13 percent of all voters could have failed to spot the race on the ballot, members of the investigative team said that those remained the only plausible theories.

The report acknowledged that the huge undervote — in which voters cast a ballot in other races but not for the Congressional seat — was both “abnormal and unexpected.

Clare Ward-Jenkins, a Sarasota resident who had trouble registering her vote, said she felt insulted by the report’s implication that ”we’re too stupid to know how to vote.“

Ms. Ward-Jenkins and more than 100 other voters contacted The Sarasota Herald-Tribune shortly after the election to complain that even though an ”X“ appeared on the touchscreen when they pressed the box for Ms. Jennings, their votes had disappeared by the time they got to a final screen for reviewing their choices. Ms. Ward-Jenkins and most of the others said they had to go through the process at least one more time to make their votes stick, raising concerns in the Jennings camp that other voters might have failed to notice similar problems that voided their ballots.

But other voting experts said that because the machines used in the election have been sequestered by a court, only a portion of them have been examined closely.

The software experts said they also found several security vulnerabilities in the programming for the voting machines, made by Election Systems and Software in Omaha

I expect all problems to be ignored, and expect most news reports to focus on the view of ‘experts’ who support the election board, ignoring the minor yet nagging indications of fraud.

  1. actually a repost from 2007. Am curious as to the 2008 election. Perhaps since the Karl Rove conservatives aren’t really vested in John McCain, they won’t even bother trying to swing the current election, and will just keep their powder dry for a future election []