Charge cards in first-grader's backpack lead to full-on tax-fraud investigation

TAMPA - Tuesday we got to see the actual bag of 52 charge cards investigators say they pulled from a little girls backpack at Symmes Elementary late in the school day Monday.

This as investigators continue to question the student's mom as to how they ended up there -- just as they did last night while that girl played outside her Hawthorne Trace townhouse as cops first closed in.

"We're still searching the house and we have found other evidence of what we believe to be tax fraud," said Cpl. Bruce Crumpler as investigators pulled various items out of the home as darkness closed in. "And," he continued,"we're continuing the search."

And as our cameras rolled, lawmen left with loot they insist was ill-gotten -- bought with bogus tax refunds. Everything from big screen TVs  to a scooter that little girl may never get to ride again.

"It's a sad thing," said Crumpler, motioning to the van which would pull away with the thousands of dollars worth of property taken from the townhome.  "It shows you how rampant it is out there right now in Tampa Bay."

The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office has started a task force, tracking about 1500 of these tax-fraud cases -- totaling hundreds of millions of dollars in the past five months.  Those sorts of statistics giving Tampa Bay the dubious distinction of being number one in this kind of crime.

"It's a monster and we're trying to grab ahold of it," said a clean-shaven Crumpler as he addressed more reporters in a Sheriff's Office news conference this afternoon.

The Corporal told us today that there has still not been an arrest made in this case... but that it could be connected to the many others he's seen in what has become a huge drain on all of us.

"It's stealing from you," he said.  "It's the public.  Everyone that pays taxes in the United States is a victim."

Which means that all of us ought to be angry that this sort of thing goes on. The problem is, it's not that obvious, unless a kid shows to up to school with a bag of valuable plastic in their backpack.

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