JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Five tellers at VyStar CU, a Citibank credit card employee and a hospital worker were among those charged today in a ring that stole the identities of at least 185 people and used their information to file fraudulent tax returns and cash refund checks of almost $600,000.

Investigators in a seven-month probe dubbed “Operation Zig-Zag” said that the tellers were paid about $1,000 for each identity taken. The average refund amount was about $7,500.

The Internal Revenue Service and Secret Service joined the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the state attorney's office in the case that has led to 17 arrests. "It's not somebody cheating on their taxes. This is total theft of government money, taxpayer money," said Secret Service Special Agent Paul Elliot.

The investigation began when VyStar noticed irregularities and contacted authorities. The case led them to victims in several states.



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