A Naples man was sentenced to 34 months in federal prison Tuesday for filing false tax returns using dead people's personal information in a case rooted in Key West.
U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez imposed the sentence on Victor Martinez Pantoja, 23.
According to court documents, last Nov. 21, Pantoja met with two undercover FBI agents at the Courtyard by Marriott in Key West and "negotiated a deal to cash fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury income tax refund checks."
Pantoja provided the agents with three checks totaling $27,263 and received $20,500 in return during a Nov. 26 follow-up meeting in Davie. Pantoja produced six more checks for the agents on that date totaling $35,547.
According to an FBI affidavit related to the investigation, Pantoja provided agents with a "counterfeited Florida driver's license and Social Security card for each corresponding Treasury check." He claimed to "have access to hundreds" of the checks.
The scheme apparently worked by Pantoja filing fraudulent tax returns using the identities of people who died in the previous tax year. Pantoja told the FBI he "obtained the deceased individuals' identities from the Internet."
The U.S. Department of Justice says Pantoja previously pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government money and one county of aggravated identify theft.
Pantoja's Miami-area lawyer, Marc Seitles, in December accused the FBI of "manufacturing crime" to get Pantoja.
Court documents are unclear as to why the original FBI meeting with Pantoja took place in Key West. Seitles had said Pantoja never lived here, has no connections here and was "lured there by a confidential informant working for the FBI."
Pantoja's 34-month sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release.