ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque man is behind bars, accused of taking people’s unemployment money and using phony information to get a job at H&R Block. This isn’t the first or even second time he’s been caught, either.
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Russell Mays started this year as an employee for H&R Block but it wasn’t long before one customer noticed that right after her tax appointment with Mays, her unemployment benefits stopped. She says her tax preparer had asked for her login information for New Mexico Workforce Solutions.
“They thought they needed to give this information to the tax prep professional for their taxes,” said Det. Weylin Proctor with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office. “They were able to take our initial victim’s information and kind of backtrack it to a bank account that was taking her unemployment insurance money.”
She says Mays was the only other person who knew her account info and more than $1,400 in missing unemployment money later, she knew something was up. When BCSO detectives started digging deeper with Workforce Solutions, they found the Wells Fargo bank account tied to Mays was also bringing more than $700 in unemployment funds from another person.
“Once I talked to that victim, they had no idea they even qualified or even had any unemployment insurance benefits,” said Proctor. “Much less had any idea that they were receiving any benefits.”
Sure enough, the second person mentioned they also got their taxes done at the H&R Block on 2nd Street near Osuna. Court records show this isn’t Mays’ first fraud charge or his second.
A year after a 2018 indictment for credit card and identity theft, he was convicted of forgery when applying for a job at Los Poblanos. When his application was flagged for a criminal record, an employee says he claimed he was a victim of identity theft and produced falsified court documents that seemed to misuse two legal terms. After a court confirmed the documents were false, Los Poblanos reported Mays to police.
So how was he able to pass a background check with H&R Block? — Then again for his most recent job with a hospitality company? Proctor says Mays used his mom’s social security number, which was linked to no known criminal record.
“I don’t understand, myself. I think a lot of these large corporations, they have a contractor that does background investigations for them,” said Proctor. “It’s a very decentralized process so these people, I don’t think they really look to see if names match up with names on social security numbers, they just make sure there’s nothing like no past criminal history or something like that that’s associated with the name or social security and they just pass them.”
Detectives say even with warrants, COVID-19 backlogs have only delayed getting proof for these kinds of cases. Proctor says it took months to get the bank statements and hiring documents from corporations needed to make an arrest.
“Had to do another warrant to Wells Fargo and that warrant didn’t come back until early November. It took months for me to start getting all the different documents together from legal process,” said Proctor. “It takes a long time for these white-collar cases to come to a head, just because it takes so much time to get records.”
After a months-long investigation, BCSO took Mays into custody this week. Proctor says based on his record, the possibility of Mays doing something similar in the future can’t be ruled out.
KRQE News 13 reached out to H&R Block for comment. They say they’re aware of the situation but because there’s ongoing litigation, they can’t comment. Mays is currently behind bars at MDC where he’s facing four felony counts of fraud and two of identity theft.