PAGE – Page Police on Aug. 9 arrested Tinotenda Leon Madyira following an investigation into suspected fraudulent activity.
Tinotenda Madyira, a 31-year-old illegal immigrant, was booked into Coconino County Jail for one count of identity theft and one count of attempted theft, both felonies. He was also charged with providing false information to Police, a misdemeanor.
According to Page Police, “The investigation revealed Madyira went to the UPS sorting facility in Page and attempted to take possession of a package containing numerous cell phones that had been ordered by fraudulent means, using a local nonprofit organization’s shipping information. When contacted by police, Madyira provided a name and forged identification card that were not his own.”
Madyira was booked as “Jacob Daniel Smith.” Police soon discovered Madyira’s real identity with a fingerprint match. The suspect was moved to the Coconino County Jail in Flagstaff. According to Page Police, it is unclear at this point if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will step in, leaving the possibility that his alleged crimes in Page will not make it to the Coconino County courts.
A Chronicle investigation discovered Madyira, then 25 years old, was arrested and convicted in 2013 for a similar crime in Cincinnati, Ohio. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months and one day for selling a list of stolen identities to a Zimbabwe crime ring.
The ring used stolen identities to obtain at least $5 million in fraudulent tax refunds.
A March 7, 2013, press release from the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office in Southern District of Ohio stated, “In early 2012, the Secret Service and IRS began investigating a large ring of individuals around the Cincinnati community who were using stolen identities to file fraudulent income tax returns and then steal the fraudulent tax refunds. Members of the ring purchased stolen identities for thousands of actual taxpayers through illicit online forums and from accomplices. The undisputed head of the scheme was Kudzaiishe Marimbire, the brother of Tawanda Marimbire. Most of the stolen funds were laundered and sent to Zimbabwe.”
Government agents seized numerous luxury cars, computers and tax documents. They also found more than $1 million in cash and money orders in a storage locker used by the Marimbire ring. Kudzaiishe Marimbire, along with others in the gang, fled to Zimbabwe. Tawanda Marimbire was arrested attempting to cross the Canadian border with $76,000 in cash.
U.S. Attorney Stewart said in 2013, “This case is a perfect example of the emerging problem with tax refunds obtained through the use of stolen identities.”
IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Enstrom said, “Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude and with this degree of trickery, dishonesty and deceit, deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
Madyira only served part of his 2013 sentence and was released early for good behavior and put on probation. At some point, he went off the radar after failing to report to ICE.
The Chronicle learned from a law enforcement official of an effort to deport Tinotenda Madyira in 2014. The move was thwarted by a judge. Over six years later, Madyira, still in the U.S. illegally, is arrested in Page.
Little is known about Tinotenda Madyira’s activities, or what names he might have used before his 2013 arrest and the years leading up to his arrest in Page. His last documented address was in Escondido, California.
In June 2017, he received a traffic citation in the Phoenix area. Maricopa County court records show he didn’t have a valid driver’s license. He never showed up for his court date.
Little is known about the Zimbabwe men who got away, or how many more like them are operating in this country today.