General Crime

Clifford Bercovich and Howard Webber Accussed of Filing False Income Tax Returns for Prison Inmates

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Two men with ties to Marin County have been indicted on charges of carrying out a scheme to file false federal income tax returns for prison inmates, U.S. authorities have announced. Clifford Bercovich, 66, of San Rafael, and Howard Webber, who according to prosecutors resided in Marin County and Milwaukee, Wisc., were indicted by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on Oct. 3. Both were charged with one county of conspiracy to defraud the government as well as 12 counts of mail fraud in connection with a dozen returns filed on behalf of six prisoners between 2010 and 2012.

Bercovich is additionally accused of 12 counts of aggravated identity theft for using the names and Social Security numbers of the six inmates in the allegedly fraudulent returns. The prisoners are identified only by their initials. Bercovich made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero in San Francisco on Oct. 8, was freed on $100,000 bail and is due to be arraigned and have his defense attorney identified at a hearing before Spero on Monday. Webber was arrested Oct. 8 and made an initial appearance before a federal magistrate in Minneapolis that day, according to court records.

After he agreed to be transferred to the U.S. District Court in San Francisco and to remain in custody for the time being, a magistrate ordered the transfer on Oct. 16. Webber has not yet appeared before a magistrate in San Francisco. The indictment alleges that Webber obtained personal identifying information about inmates and that Bercovich then prepared tax returns containing fictitious figures for wages, salaries and tips. The document claims the two men recruited unnamed other accomplices to obtain personal identifying information about inmates and that Bercovich paid $75 for each completed information sheet.

The allegedly false wage figures resulted in inflated tax credits for the inmates and in fraudulent refunds, the indictment contends. Bercovich used a post office box as the taxpayer address for receiving the refunds and deposited the refunds in a bank account he controlled, according to the indictment. The indictment alleges that Bercovich and Webber split a fee of either $250 or 25 percent of the proceeds for each refund, but does not specify the total amount each defendant allegedly received.

If the men are convicted, the conspiracy and mail fraud counts each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and the aggravated identity theft charges have a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years. The actual penalty given by a judge, however, would be determined after consideration of federal sentencing guidelines.

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