Monday, December 15, 2008

Colorado judge halts arrests in immigration-identity theft cases

A judge has halted arrests in the largest immigration-identity theft case ever investigated in one Colorado county.

The Greeley Police Department, along with the Weld County District Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Department, seized 1,338 tax files from Amalia's Translation and Tax Service in mid-October.

Investigators claim many people used the tax service with false names and false Social Security numbers in a massive identity theft scam. They traced about $2.6 million in payments to illegal immigrants using phony Social Security numbers who used the tax service. By mid-November, 26 arrest warrants had been issued and 11 people arrested as a result of the investigation.

Judge James Hartmann, however, issued a show-cause order directing the district attorney to show why any state court has jurisdiction to issue a search warrant for federal tax files. The judge said he believes the filing of a federal tax return and the receipt of a federal tax refund may be matters that fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States government, not a state court.

The district attorney's office, however, maintains the state court has jurisdiction. Those involved, they said, filed a federal tax return and obtained a tax refund unlawfully. Others, it alleges, were able to obtain employment through the use of a Social Security number belonging to someone else. Hartmann has set a hearing on the matter for Thursday.

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