Protecting yourself

Miami students flunk conmanship

Jay MacDonald

If you’re a parent with a college-bound kid, you likely have a wish that goes like this: May my child graduate with the career of their dreams that will enable them to pay off their student debt.

But if you live in Miami, be careful what you wish for.

An enterprising group of 18 current and former Miami Dade College students have been indicted for laundering $500,000 in other people’s stolen income tax refunds through their Higher One student financial aid accounts, in exchange for a cut of the action.

The FBI says the students, along with three others, were part of a Miami-based ring that “systematically hacked” Social Security numbers and other personal identifiers from businesses and governmental agencies. In addition to indicting the gang, the FBI froze more than 1,000 MDC student bank accounts suspected of laundering stolen IRS refunds.

Some of this Con Tech Class of 2014 managed their money laundering better than others.

Take MDC undergrad Caleb Fadet, who allegedly received $10,200 for renting out his Higher One account. Fadet apparently raised some flags when he allegedly direct deposited seven of the 12 purloined refunds through his Higher One account on the same day.

Any grad of Con Tech, or fan of Scorsese films for that matter, will tell you it’s best to spread those sketchy deposits out over several weeks to avoid detection. Fadet’s fellow student Sandy Jean-Louis allegedly managed to slip through 37 refunds right under the government’s nose. Probably a Scorsese watcher.

Other alleged refund wranglers like Erving Etienne simply let their greed get the best of them. When Etienne allegedly tried to squeeze the refunds of 92 separate taxpayers through his Higher One account, the IRS naturally suspected, then rejected, 90 percent of them for possible fraud.

Tongue firmly in cheek, Miami Herald columnist and native funnyman Carl Hiaasen couldn’t resist commending the students for keeping a local industry alive in these hard times.

“Parents often complain that colleges aren’t preparing young people for the real world. You could argue that learning the nuances of identity theft, tax fraud and money laundering are excellent preparation for an entrepreneurial life in South Florida.”

To which he adds this postscript: “Graduation plans are, presumably, on hold.”

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