Tampa police announced Wednesday a big tax fraud round-up that detectives have been working on for two years.
The investigation started off by surprise when detectives serving a drug warrant instead found 15 people in a hotel filing thousands of fake tax returns.
On Wednesday, at a home in Wimauma, police served a warrant and removed cars and a big-screen television.
Maurice Larry, 26, along with 33-year-old Marterrence Holloway, were indicted in federal court Wednesday. They are facing charges of conspiring to defraud the United States, commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and access device fraud.
Police arrested also arrested Larry's girlfriend, 26-year-old Rashia Wilson, who detectives said calls herself the First Lady of the Bay area's biggest tax scheme.
"She was known as the First Lady," Maj. Ken Morman said. "That's what she posted on Facebook."
Right now, Rashia Wilson is only charged with being a felon in possession of a gun. Police said the tax fraud charges will be added.
Detectives said the three were the kingpins of a ring of people that stole at least a half-billion dollars by filing fake tax returns.
Neighbors said they suspect something wasn't right at the house.
"We suspected something wasn't right because of the cameras and nice cars," said neighbor Dora Hubley.
Twelve other people face charges as well, including Algernon Belin, 26, who police said had $23,000 in cash plus benefits cards for food stamps and Medicaid.
Also arrested; 32-year-old Curtis Williams. Bay News 9 went to Hawks Landing, an upscale neighborhood in New Tampa where Williams lives and was arrested on Wednesday. We met with one of his employees who has worked for him for more than four years.
"By the time I lift up my head, there were about four to five marshals or police officers that already had swarmed the house," said Joseph Hendrickson.
Hendrickson, an air-condition technician, watched as his boss was cuffed and carted away. When we told him what his boss was charged with, he stood in disbelief.
"I would have never known that,” Hendrickson said. “I would have never known that at all because you just never see it coming. I never see it coming until today."
Police said it took two years to bring this tax fraud case to a close because of all the bureaucratic red tape. They announced Wednesday that they were forming an investigative alliance with the Internal Revenue Service and the Secret Service to speed these types of cases up in the future.
"Literally, every day I hear from somebody who is touched or victimized by this," Maj. Morman said. "So many people have been touched by crimes of this phenomenon."