DoJ Loses Bid to Block Prisoner's Testimony
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Inmate #35211-086 will, after all, testify Thursday morning before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on his criminal career as an identity thief who used online auctions to hijack peoples' identities for financial gain.
Earlier this week, the Department of Justice (DoJ) attempted to quash a summons for notorious scam artist Evangelos Dimitrios Soukas' appearance.
Soukas, 28, is expected to testify on the various online schemes he used to defraud victims of more than a million dollars. Using stolen identities obtained in fraudulent Internet auctions, Soukas filed false income tax returns in his victims' names in an attempt to obtain tax refunds. He even applied for refund anticipation loans in his victims' names.
But Monday the DoJ asked U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan to dismiss the Finance Committee's summons for Soukas since the Bureau of Prisons' policy is to not allow inmates to have an "elevated status" over other prisoners. The DoJ also cited "security concerns."
Tuesday afternoon, Hogan sided with the Finance Committee and ordered U.S. Marshals to produce Soukas for the panel's annual hearing on the tax filing season and challenges taxpayers face.
"I'm baffled as to why the Department of Justice would try to stop Congress from alerting Americans fully to the problem of identity theft and tax fraud," Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said in a statement.
Baucus said the DoJ "didn't articulate any legitimate reason" for quashing the summons and it appeared the DoJ "just wanted to stop the Finance Committee from holding a hearing as we see fit."
The panel's ranking member, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), complained the DoJ's action was a waste of taxpayer time and money.
"The Justice Department has better things to do than waste precious resources interfering with a congressional hearing that ironically will highlight their good work convicting a tax-scamming con artist," Grassley said.
The DoJ did not return a request for comment.
Soukas' appearance will be part of a busy Thursday morning for the Finance Committee. In addition to Soukas, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Mark W. Everson will be questioned over the agency's almost 500 missing or stolen laptops over the last three years.
According to an IRS internal audit, many of the machines were likely holding unencrypted, sensitive taxpayer data.
Soukas is serving almost eight years in a Victorville, Calif., federal prison following his 2005 conviction for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud using another person's identity and numerous individual counts of I.D. fraud and submitting fraudulent claims to the IRS.
In early 2000, Soukas fled the United States for Greece to avoid arrest. Five years later, he was arrested as he arrived at the airport in Cyprus and transferred to the United States for sentencing.
According to court documents, Soukas posted false and fraudulent advertisements for non-existent electronics merchandise on various Internet auction sites from 1999-2004. He used at least 15 victims' names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth to open bank accounts, to apply for lines of credit and loans on the Internet and to purchase merchandise.
The scam resulted in more than $18,000 worth of Dell computer equipment being sent to Soukas' Monroe, Wash., home. He also has more than $5,000 worth of Target merchandise and gift cards sent to his home.
Even after Soukas fled to Greece, he continued to engage in identity fraud, attempting to raid victims' credit card and stock trading accounts to obtain cash advances.
According to the Finance Committee, as many as 15,000 American taxpayers may have fallen victim to identity theft tax crimes last year.
"We have called this witness to help taxpayers understand how criminals can prey on them at tax time," Baucus said.