Tawanda Marimbire, 25, of Cincinnati was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 70 months in prison for his role in a scheme to use stolen identities to obtain at least $5 million in fraudulent tax refunds. Co-conspirator Kudzaishe Robert Bungu, 28, was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
In early 2012, the Secret Service and IRS began investigating a large ring of individuals around the Cincinnati community who were using stolen identities to file fraudulent income tax returns and then steal the fraudulent tax refunds. Members of the ring purchased stolen identities for thousands of actual taxpayers through illicit online forums and from accomplices. The undisputed head of the scheme was Kudzaiishe Marimbire, the brother of Tawanda Marimbire. Most of the stolen funds were laundered and sent to Zimbabwe.
On April 11, 2012, government agents executed a search at several locations. They seized numerous luxury cars, computers, and tax documents. They also found more than $1 million in cash and money orders in a storage locker used by the Marimbire ring. Several members of the group immediately fled the Cincinnati area. Kudzaiishe Marimbire, Hlomera Mabhande, Andrew Bere, and Julius Marimbire fled to Zimbabwe and are fugitives. Tawanda Marimbire was arrested days after the search as he attempted to cross the Canadian border with about $76,000 in cash. Johanes Tagarisa was eventually arrested in Atlanta months after the seven were indicted in September 2012. He pleaded guilty on December 10, 2013 to one count of conspiracy and is awaiting sentencing.
Tawanda Marimbire pleaded guilty on January 15, 2013 to one count of wire fraud. Bungu pleaded guilty on December 17, 2012 to one count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions.
Others charged as a result of the ongoing investigation include:
* Tinotende Madyira, 25, sold a list of stolen identities to Kudzaishe Marimbire. He pleaded guilty to identity theft and was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day of imprisonment.
• Liberty Matonhodze, 25, working for Bungu, he was involved in withdrawing the refunds from the debit cards at ATMs. He was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day of imprisonment, plus restitution of $120,000.
• Fitzgerald Chibamu, 36, was involved with Kudzaiishe Marimbire in the transfer of the stolen funds through his bank accounts to Zimbabwe. He has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
• Charges are pending against Lameigo Mutongwiza and Zla Holder, indicted on November 6, 2013.
SOURCE: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Ohio