Off Key

By Robert Frederickson

From Fiscal Irresponsibility to Thespian Imbecility…

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

The IRS finally caught up with a Tampa man who filed a phony tax return back in 2016 that netted him a refund of $980,000 on a declared income of just $19,000.

Which begs the question, why did it take over three years to catch on to this fraud instead of the three seconds it should have required had even a modicum of common sense been applied? But sadly, you know the answer: common sense is a rare commodity among our federal bureaucracies these days.

All Ramon Christopher Blanchett, 29, had to do to get that check for just shy of $1 million was claim he had overpaid nearly that same amount in taxes. Really? A nursing home worker earning less than $20,000 a year? Just where did the IRS think the funds for that ‘overpayment’ came from? Tips? But the key word here is ‘think.’ There was precious little ‘thought’ involved here at all. The IRS simply takes it on faith that all Americans are truthful and honest. How quaint. Have they checked the calendar lately? This isn’t 1950.

How much time would it take to flag any refund check greater than the average declared income of the taxpayer receiving it for say the past three, four or five years? Any business I’ve ever been involved in has had an accounts payable department that exists to make sure all payments are legitimate. I worked for one publisher who would look at every single outgoing check each week before it was put in the mail, just to double check that nothing illegitimate was slipping through. I think most business owners have similar approaches. But not the IRS. Too big, I guess. Can’t be bothered with details that would slow the process of wading through all those returns…

Blanchett’s ‘mistake’ in his criminal enterprise was to leave out a crucial step others in this line of work know better than to overlook. He forgot to file a return using someone else’s name and social security number, not his own (“d’oh!” as Homer Simpson would say). Those more adept in this type of fraud also know to add a new address to the return so the bogus refund comes directly to them with the actual taxpayer being none the wiser that their return has been hijacked. It’s incredible that the IRS hasn’t tightened up its procedures over the past four years since this type of fraud surfaced and subsequently swept across the nation after being incubated right here in the Tampa Bay region beginning around 2015.

So, what can you do to protect yourself? Well, given the lack of vigilance by the IRS, file your taxes as early as possible. Don’t wait around until April 15th. That just extends the opportunity zone for someone with access to your name and social security number to slip ahead of you and file a fake return in your place, potentially leading to your very own Homer Simpson moment when the IRS refuses to accept your actual return because, as they tell you, “it was already filed, and your refund was sent out weeks ago!”

“D’oh!”

For his part, after finally being nabbed late last year, Blanchett had to forfeit the $51,000 Lexus he bought with his ill-gotten gains along with the balance of the bogus refund; he now faces a three year prison stint set to begin shortly, which should give him plenty of time to ponder his own Homer Simpson moment.

Albino Alligator spotted at Bobby Jones Golf Course

A new attraction has been spotted at the Bobby Jones Golf course in Sarasota: an albino alligator has been observed in one of the small lakes near the fourth tee of the British Course. The city recently announced plans to update the municipal course after several years of declining revenues; but adding a menagerie of exotic wildlife was not part of the plan, so we are left to conclude the rare gator came to the course entirely on his own

BREAKING NEWS: John Ringling a RACIST!

In a recent front page, above the fold piece in the Herald Tribune, columnist Chris Anderson formally outed Sarasota cultural icon John Ringling as such.

(Yawn).

I mean, in this modern era when ‘RACIST!” is bandied about with the frequency of waves breaking along the Gulf, when a former presidential candidate can casually relegate more than a quarter of the nation’s voters – upwards of 30 million Americans – to a ‘basket of deplorables’ exhibiting behaviors Ringling would likely have embraced, well, of course a man born in the 19th century would easily make the grade.

Must have been a slow news day.

The only thing missing: context.

…which has sadly gone the way of the dodo bird in today’s journalism.

Can you say Probable Cause?

More news from brilliant criminals. The AP reports an FHP trooper patrolling I-10 in Santa Rosa county recently pulled over Ian Simmins and Joshua Reinhardt, both 34, for flying down the highway at 95 mph…not an especially smart move, if along for the ride you allegedly have 75 grams of meth, 3.6 grams of fentanyl, 1.36 kilograms of GHB, 15 MDMA tabs and one gram of cocaine. Oh, and for Reinhardt an active felony warrant for probation violation.

But it gets worse for these two. The contraband was found in two ditty bags conspicuously labeled “BAG FULL OF DRUGS.”

The two men were taken to the Santa Rosa county jail and later, deputies posted a photo of the incriminating ditty bags on Facebook with the caption: “Note to self: do not traffic your illegal narcotics in bags labeled ‘Bag Full of Drugs.’ Our K9s can read.’ ”

Memo to Deer: ‘Don’t Cross Here!’

An online post reported this anecdote describing a blissfully uninformed neighbor who refuses to believe Dr. Doolittle is a fictional character.

“I live in a semi-rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local city council to request the removal of the DEER CROSSING sign on our road. The reason given by the concerned resident? ‘Too many deer are being hit by cars out here! I don’t think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore.’ “

A Glittering Jewel of Self-Absorbed Excess

A question for our earnest readers: In your working career, past or present, do you ever recall a formal workplace event where you witnessed one of your co-workers being called forward in recognition of a job well done and having that individual take the opportunity to discuss his or her political beliefs, opinions on issues of social justice or the plight of polar bears living above the arctic circle?

Me either.

So exactly why is it that actors think we give a rat’s backside about their personal outlook on the trending issues of the day?

I’d like to ask Brad Pitt or Joaquin Phoenix this: in your heightened state of enlightenment, is there no room for even a glimmer of understanding that the reason most of us go to the movies in the first place is to escape the drivel of folks who presume to lecture us on what we should think or feel about all manner of subjects they likely know less about than we do?

There’s a reason ratings for the Oscars hit an all-time low this year. Unlike the Golden Globes, the Oscars didn’t even have an MC this time out to poke fun at all the glittering jewels of self-absorbed excess preening about.

At least the earlier event had Ricky Gervais adding some comic relief with gems like this delivered right at the outset:

“You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for, I mean…unbelievable. Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you? So, if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech, right? You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Sunberg. So, if you win, right, come up, accept your little award thank your agent and your God and F*** off.”

Too bad there’s no category for “Speaking Truth to Glittering Jewels of Self-Absorbed Narcissism.”