Federal grand jury in Pennsylvania indicts 16 in fraud, identity theft conspiracy tax case

A federal grand jury in western Pennsylvania has indicted 16 people — most from the New York City area — in a wire fraud and identity theft ring that prosecutors say caused the Internal Revenue Service to pay more than $10 million in fraudulent tax refunds.

Federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh and Erie say the group stole the identities of more than 11,000 people and used the information to open nearly 3,500 phony bank accounts involving more than 440 financial institutions.

Authorities say the group used the stolen identities to submit tax returns claiming $38 million in refunds, more than $10 million of which was actually paid.

Most of those involved face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, though two key members face more than 36 years each.