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Schenectady man admits to fraud over tax refund checks

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— A Schenectady man has admitted to taking part in a scheme to cash fraudulent tax refund checks made payable to people who were deceased, making off with more than $30,000 in the process, authorities said.

Michael A. Scouten, 30, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court earlier this month to two federal charges: conspiracy and passing a Treasury check with a forged instrument. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison, and agreed to waive any right to appeal a sentence of 21 months or less.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on Scouten’s case or say whether anyone else has been charged.

According to papers filed in U.S. District Court:

The co-conspirators filed false federal income tax returns for people who had died, intending to fraudulently receive the tax refund checks. Scouten and others forged the endorsements on the checks and then deposited them and made off with the money.

Scouten opened two personal checking accounts in November of 2011 at banks in Schenectady for the purpose of cashing the tax refund checks made out to dead people. From Dec. 8, 2011, to Jan. 17, 2012, he received a total of eight checks ranging from just over $3,400 to more than $5,200 from a co-conspirator.

Scouten knew the checks were fraudulent because he watched as the co-conspirator endorsed each of the checks using the names of the dead payees.

After each of the first seven checks were deposited, Scouten waited for them to clear, withdrew the money from the account and then handed over the majority of the money to the original co-conspirator.

The scheme was discovered before Scouten was able to withdraw the money from the eighth check, deposited Jan. 17, 2012.

Scouten is represented by the federal public defender’s office. He is scheduled to be sentenced in January.



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