A Broward County man accused of scheming in Key West to cash tens of thousands in fraudulent tax return checks has been arrested by undercover FBI agents, and is being detained on $250,000 bail.
Federal court records state Victor Martinez Pantoja met with undercover operatives in two separate incidents in November. He gave them U.S. Treasury checks and fake driver's licenses and Social Security cards in order to cash the bad checks.
Pantoja was charged on suspicion of aggravated identity theft and theft of government property or money. As of Wednesday, he had not been indicted by a federal grand jury.
In the first meeting on Nov. 21 at the Marriott Courtyard hotel, 3031-41 N. Roosevelt Blvd., Pantoja told the undercover agents he and a co-conspirator had obtained the fraudulent checks by filing false tax returns using identities of people who died in 2012, according to federal court records. The FBI alleges that Pantoja got those identities from the Internet, but the five-page complaint filed in court doesn't state how or where Pantoja might have found that information online.
"Pantoja further told the [undercover agents] that he made the driver licenses and Social Security cards on his computer and he agreed to produce counterfeit driver licenses and Social Security cards for the [agents]," the complaint states.
He allegedly negotiated a deal with the undercover FBI agents to cash three U.S. Treasury checks worth a combined $27,263 and give him $20,500 of that. The rest they were to keep as part of the scheme.
"Pantoja endorsed the back of each Treasury check by forging the names listed on the front of each Treasury check," the complaint states.
He also agreed at that meeting to bring more checks, worth about $100,000, back to Key West for another meeting with the agents on Nov. 26, records say.
The undercover agents met with Pantoja on that date in Davie and recorded the meeting using audio and video equipment. Pantoja can be seen and heard giving them six checks worth a combined $35,547 before being arrested, according to court records.
He has a detainment hearing scheduled today in Fort Lauderdale. His arraignment was set for Wednesday, also in Fort Lauderdale.
Pantoja has been tentatively assigned a federal public defender.