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East Texas Couple Indicted For ID Theft In Connection With CARES Act Payments

TYLER, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – An East Texas couple has been indicted and charged with with conspiracy to unlawfully transfer, possess and use a means of identification.

Dalton Brewer and Emilee Fenton of Gilmer, both 24, were indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday.

According to the indictment, from at least November 2019 through June 2020, Brewer and Fenton conspired to use other people's identities, including names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, in connection with the theft of government money, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, theft of mail and fraudulent use or possession of identifying information.

Fenton was also charged with theft of government money and aggravated identity theft for her role in obtaining two Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) using the means of identification of other persons.

The CARES Act was enacted in March to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress authorized more than $2 trillion in relief programs, including approximately $560 billion for benefits to individuals.

An estimated $300 billion of that total was allocated for EIPs.

Under the CARES Act, qualifying individuals may receive up to $1,200 in EIPs per adult, up to $2,400 for married couples filing jointly, and $500 per child under 17 years old. Individuals with income exceeding $99,000 or joint filers whose income exceeds $198,000 do not qualify for any payment.

"Fraudsters engaged in identity theft to steal taxpayer refunds have now turned their attention to stealing Economic Impact Payments," said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox. "We are committed to fighting fraud and criminal activity relating to the COVID-19 pandemic – this is a top priority for the Eastern District of Texas – and, along with our law enforcement partners, we will use all available tools to pursue wrongdoers who seek to exploit the crisis."

"It's disheartening to see individuals and communities already facing challenges related to COVID-19 be targeted with crimes like these," said Ketty Larco, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Fort Worth Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. "Protecting the U.S. Mail and American public are priorities for Postal Inspectors however, and these arrests are a product of that commitment. The Postal Inspection Service appreciates the efforts of all our federal and local partners who helped bring this crime spree to an end."

"The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), and its law enforcement partners, will aggressively pursue those who endeavor to steal Economic Impact Payments afforded to the American public under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act," said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. "We appreciate the efforts of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in this investigation."

"IRS Criminal Investigation continues to pursue identity thieves who view the American taxpayer as an easy target," said Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge Marcus Henderson of the Dallas Field Office. "Today's indictments highlight our commitment to protecting the very people the Economic Impact Payments were intended to benefit during this global crisis."

If convicted, Brewer and Fenton face up to 15 years in federal prison.

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