A 36-year-old Shirley man was sentenced Tuesday to 6 ½ years in federal prison for stealing the identities of thousands of Puerto Rican citizens to collect $16 million in fraudulent tax returns.

Michael Figat was convicted at Central Islip federal court of participating in a scheme to defraud the United States. Judge Sandra Feuerstein also sentenced Figat to 3 years of supervised release and ordered him to forfeit $250,000.

“Figat and his co-conspirators stole the personal information of thousands of unsuspecting Puerto Rican citizens to enrich themselves at the expense of the United States and the taxpaying public,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Prosecutors said Figat exploited tax laws that exempt Puerto Rican citizens from filing federal income tax returns if their income is solely from sources within the commonwealth.

Figat and his co-conspirators stole their victims’ dates of birth, social security numbers and other information, then used that info to file thousands of fraudulent tax returns between January 2011 and April 2012, authorities said.

He and the others bribed U.S. Postal Service employees to intercept tax refund checks from the mail and stole tax refund checks from the addressees’ mailboxes, many of which were in Shirley, Patchogue, Lindenhurst and West Babylon.

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.