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One of the recurring themes we explore here at MyGovCost is that of government bureaucrats who behave badly.
Today, we’re featuring the story of Internal Revenue Service employee Gina Colombo, who works at the IRS’ Taxpayer Assistance Center in Phoenix, Arizona and who is also the sole owner of Uncle Joe’s Auto Sales in that city, who has admitted to defrauding numerous poor and non-English speaking customers at her used auto dealership business. Robert Anglen of the Arizona Republic reports:
The owner of a Phoenix used-car dealership who admitted defrauding dozens of desperate customers is a longtime employee of the Internal Revenue Service….
An investigation by The Arizona Republic found that Colombo has been employed by the IRS since 1998 — and she remained employed after state prosecutors shut down Uncle Joe’s and filed a consumer-fraud lawsuit against Colombo and her husband, Joseph Carrecia, in March….
IRS officials last week confirmed Colombo’s employment. They would not explain whether her admissions of fraud in the civil lawsuit preclude her from working for the agency….
They confirmed last week that Colombo works as a management and program assistant and earns a base annual salary between $34,662 and $45,057. Her name is listed in a lobby directory of the Taxpayer Assistance Center at 4041 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix.
Colombo appears to have worked for the IRS for a sustained period of time, as she cited the IRS as her sole employer in her 2010 Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings.
In addition to having a long track record of poor handling her own financial affairs, Colombo, who has been banned from operating any used car dealership in Arizona after admitting she “approved, endorsed, directed, ratified, controlled or otherwise participated in the acts and practices of Uncle Joe’s” that have been described as fraudulent by the Arizona Attorney General’s office, has been employed by the IRS to provide taxpayers with guidance to resolve their tax problems.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the IRS’ Taxpayers Assistance Centers have had a long history of being unable to provide useful help to a very large percentage of taxpayers seeking assistance, either giving wrong answers or no answers to as many as 43% of the questions they were asked by U.S. Treasury Department investigators.
Although the IRS declined to indicate whether Colombo’s admission of having commited acts of fraud in a civil setting would prevent her from being able to remain employed at the IRS, we should note that her admission would not be much of a barrier, as President Obama is seeking to exclude the consideration of criminal history from federal employment applications altogether, which would make it much easier for individuals with criminal convictions on their records to get jobs with the federal government. Stephanie Condon of CBS News reported back on November 2, 2015:
President Obama on Monday announced new steps he’s taking to make it easier for Americans with a criminal record to become productive members of society, including “banning the box” on federal job applications….
The president noted that around 70 million Americans have some sort of criminal record — that’s nearly one in five Americans, and nearly one in three Americans of working age.
“A lot of the time that record disqualifies you from being a full participant in society,” he said. “It means millions of Americans can’t even get their foot in the door… We’ve got to make sure Americans who paid their debt to society get a second chance.”
Since Gina Colombo’s admission of fraud is taking place as part of a civil settlement, it is highly unlikely that her admission of fraud will cause the IRS’ leadership to remove her from the federal government’s payroll. Instead, it is much more likely that she and her fellow IRS employees will continue to provide the same level and quality of service that regular Americans have long come to expect from the IRS’ Taxpayer Assistance Centers.