Hillsborough women arrested in IRS tax fraud bust | News
Riverview, Florida -- It's a crime happening far too often in Florida, especially in the Bay area.
People are filling out phony IRS tax forms and collecting millions in fraudulent returns. In fact, two women in Hillsborough County were "shocked and surprised" to see federal agents at their doors Thursday morning, sources say.
Just before 9 a.m., those agents served search warrants and arrested Tanya Cullens, a former employee of University Community Hospital in Tampa and Carlista Hawls, a student. Cullens was arrested in Brandon and Hawls in Riverview.
The women are accused of working with their friend in California, Kenyon Williams, in filing roughly 150 phony IRS returns to collect more than a milion dollars.
According to both agents and federal documents, the trio is accused of using patient ID's from both UCH and the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego, where Williams lives.
"When you're in the hospital at your lowest and then someone steals your identity, you've got other things to worry about if you're in the hospital. We are tracking these people," said Cpl. Bruce Crumpler from the Economic Crimes Division of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
UCH, now known as Florida Hospital, released the following statement:
"At Florida Hospital Tampa, our first priority is taking care of our patients and ensuring their safety, security and privacy at all times. We take any breach of personal healthcare information very seriously. Unfortunately, we recently learned that personal information relating to 45 of our patients had been compromised in January 2012. These patients have been notified and we are fully cooperating with investigating agencies. We deeply regret that this incident occurred. We remain committed to the protection of our patients personal information. In April 2012, the hospital implemented electronic health records to further enhance the privacy and security of the information we are entrusted with."
"They always believe this day will never come," said Cpl. Crumpler. "They always have that look on that face when they're caught, like hand caught in the cookie jar."
The two women appeared in federal court in Tampa today and bonded out Thursday evening. The conditions of their bond include not taking a job where personal identifications of others are readily available. Neither woman wanted to make a statement to the media.
Hawls left the courthouse alone, while Cullens was accompanied by an attorney.
If you have been a victim in this case and are one of the 45 people who have had identities stolen, please contact 10 News by calling 727-577-1010. We would like to hear from you.