Homeland Security Investigations of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have arrested two women as part of an alleged federal tax fraud conspiracy, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle of Tennessee.
Josephina Lopez-Lajuj was pulled over by the Tennessee Highway Patrol on Tuesday after exiting a check-into-cash business. HSI agents later arrived and allegedly found two envelopes containing more than $17,000 in cash.
Federal agents also arrested Mercedes Mardali Garcia-Lindo on Monday after raiding her Wallace Road apartment where they allegedly discovered multiple tax forms, social security cards and other documents. According to the Internal Revenue Service, eight different tax returns were mailed to her apartment this year.
The court documents claim that Honduran nationals in Middle Tennessee have devised a scheme to collect false tax returns worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The joint investigation with the IRS, HSI and the Postal Inspection Service has been ongoing since 2012.
Authorities say Lopez-Lajuj admitted she was a Guatemalan citizen in the U.S. without documentation or permission.
Some of the W-2 forms used in the fraud included real names and identities, while others were entirely fabricated.
Lopez-Lajuj and Garcia-Lindo are each being charged with mail fraud.