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CNN PRESENTS

CNN Presents: Death of an Addicted Star; NFL Bounty Hunters; Refund Robbery; The Price of Life

Aired March 31, 2012 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CNN PRESENTS, "Death of An Addicted Star."

DON LEMON, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT: Why didn't you die, you think?

SAM MOORE, SINGER: I almost did.

ANNOUNCER: Tough love saved this rock 'n' roll legend's life. How he tried to do the same for Whitney Houston.

"Bounty Hunters."

MORTON ANDERSON, FORMER NFL FOOTBALL PLAYER: His job was to put me out of the game. There's no question in my mind.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT: All for $1,000?

ANDERSON: For a thousand bucks, man.

ANNOUNCER: Players getting paid for vicious hits. How far does the NFL bounty scandal go? We investigate.

"Refund Robbery."

DETECTIVE CRAIG CATLIN, NORTH MIAMI BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT: It's like the federal government putting crack cocaine in candy machines. It's that easy.

ANNOUNCER: This isn't just a drug bust. It involves tax fraud and your refund is at risk.

"The Price of Life."

ALAN NORTHROP, FORMER INMATE: The worst is not being able to watch my kids grow up.

ANNOUNCER: Locked away for a crime he didn't commit.

KAJ LARSEN, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT: What did they give you when you got out?

NORTHROP: Nothing.

ANNOUNCER: Revealing investigations. Fascinating characters. Stories with impact. This is CNN PRESENTS with tonight's host, Randi Kaye and Drew Griffin. RANDI KAYE, CNN PRESENTS HOST: Good evening. More than a month after Whitney Houston's tragic death, a toxicology report reveals drugs, indeed, played a role.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN PRESENTS HOST: The news does not surprise someone who knew Houston all her life. A man she referred to as Uncle Sam.

KAYE: Sam Moore. You probably know him better as half of the '60s singing duo Sam and Dave. Best known for their hit "Soul Man." Yet a drug addiction brought him to the bottom, devastating his life and career.

GRIFFIN: His life intersected with Whitney Houston in many ways through the years. And at the end, he hoped to help bring Houston back from her addiction.

Don Lemon has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON (voice-over): It was February 12th, 2011. A year before Whitney Houston died. A pre-Grammy party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss Whitney Houston.

LEMON: Whitney was back. Back from years of erratic behavior and drug use.

MOORE: Where's the voice?

LEMON (on camera): You're saying she couldn't sing?

MOORE: Yes.

LEMON (voice-over): Rock 'n' roll hall of famer Sam Moore was in the audience. An old Houston family friend, he and his wife, Joyce, knew the girl everyone called Nippy growing up, was in trouble.

MOORE: She came in and she looked over and she saw me. And I said, Nippy, hey, baby. She started -- and she fell on her knees. I said, no, don't get on your knees. And she's -- and she's sweating really. She's starting to -- and I said, Joyce, she's high.

LEMON: High on drugs. Far from the girl he first met decades earlier.

MOORE: I thought she was the cutest little thing. Oh, my god. Pretty.

LEMON: Moore's career was just beginning. Part of the singing group Sam and Dave. With chart toppers like "Soul Man" and "Hold On, I'm Coming."

He was traveling and performing alongside gospel greats Aretha Franklin and Houston's mother, Cissy.

MOORE: I remember her. And I even saw the first "Seventeen" magazine. And I said, look it here. Oh, my god, look it here.

LEMON: Whitney came to call him Uncle Sam. And as quickly as Moore watched the girl he called Nippy rise, he watched her fall. It was the early '90s.

MOORE: When I first realized that she was using, I saw her on TV. She always was perspiring. She was doing this to her face. Wiping the sweat.

LEMON: At that moment, he knew she was an addict. He knew because Sam Moore was an addict himself. On the streets of Harlem in the 1960s, Sam Moore's nearly deadly descent into drugs began.

MOORE: We were sitting in there. And he said, come with me. Took me right down. Went to one of the stalls in the bathroom and he had this little package. White powder.

LEMON: The white powder was heroin. And it didn't take long for Sam to get hooked. His habit soon cost him $600 a day. And while he still was able to perform, the money soon ran out. He became desperate.

(On camera): It got so bad that you would send your girlfriend down.

MOORE: Mm-hmm. Prostitution. You know, you use everybody. You use everybody. You penalize everybody, you use everybody.

LEMON (voice-over): And since Sam was still a superstar in those days, he was surrounded by people who for 15 years fed his habit.

MOORE: It was much easier to have the yes-man. And most of the time he'd go and get the drug -- the dope for you.

LEMON (on camera): Why didn't you die, you think?

MOORE: I almost did. And that's what really turned did it, turn around for me. Because I started OD'ing everywhere I went.

JOYCE MCRAE, SAM MOORE'S WIFE: We went out to eat. And he nodded into a plate of food.

LEMON (voice-over): Sam's wife, Joyce McRae, dated him in the '80s when he started to hit rock bottom. She convinced him to seek help and start taking a drug that blocks the high you get from heroin. Soon, he was off heroin for good. Now, 30 years later, Sam is back. Performing at the Apollo Theater.

And it is where he is reminded of Whitney Houston. The theater was the sight of a memorial after her death. A death Sam knows all too well was tough to prevent.

MOORE: If they want it, they're going to get it. Don, you've got enablers. You've even got parents. They know that their child is doing it. That person is the cash cow. So what are they going to say?

LEMON: And making it even more complicated, Joyce's belief that Whitney's own family helped fuel her habit.

MCRAE: Members in Whitney's family, immediate and extended, that had their problems with drugs.

LEMON: It's a claim supported by Monique Houston, Whitney's former sister-in-law. The family declined to comment and did not respond to our questions about these claims.

MOORE: I feel that if they had addressed the problems and gotten the proper support about how to take the tough love steps, all this -- these addiction issues wouldn't have snowballed. It came to a tragic ending.

LEMON: Tough love that Sam Moore hoped he could have given Whitney that fateful night one year ago. But her entourage pulled her away too quickly. Then, he says, he talked to Whitney's cousin, Dionne Warwick.

MOORE: I said, Dionne. She's struggling, man. This ain't cool. And she said to me, malicious gossip, Sam, what are you doing? I'm just telling you, she's getting high. Sam, stop. Stop. You're starting rumors. There's nothing wrong with her.

LEMON: Warwick's spokesperson says Dionne didn't feel it was her place to discuss Houston's personal matters. Sam stepped away. Moments later, Whitney's daughter approached him.

MOORE: Here comes Bobbi Kristina. Uncle Sam, I said, hey, baby. Uncle Sam. I said, yes, what? Help my mommy. And before I could say anything, this guy -- literally pulling her away from me.

LEMON: A moment that haunts Moore to this day.

MOORE: She was one of the greatest voices. And you knew what she was doing. Well, why you didn't help her save that voice? That -- she could have had a legacy. But where is it? It died with these people. That's the legacy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Up next, playing to hurt. A bounty hunting scandal that's rocking the NFL to its core.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: It's said while baseball may be America's pastime, football is its passion. The mentality of the sport is violent by nature, but some players and coaches crossed a fine line that separates fierce competition from thuggery.

The NFL has concluded that the New Orleans Saints have been involved in what's been referred to as bounty hunting. Where payoffs were made for inflicting game-ending injuries on other teams' star players.

Just how did the bounty or incentive programs work and how prevalent are they in the NFL? Ed Lavandera investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Big games, big hits, big skin. NFL players rewarded not only for big plays, but for intentionally trying to seriously injure their opponents. An NFL investigation recently found the New Orleans Saints under the leadership of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had a wide ranging bounty system in place from 2009 to just last year.

"Sports Illustrated's" Peter King has been following this story closely.

(On camera): Do you think all of this is driven by Gregg Williams?

PETER KING, SENIOR WRITER, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: I think Gregg Williams spurred a lot of it on. But I also think he had to have players on his defense who were very willing to cooperate and very willing to let this culture exist. I mean, Sean Payton, the head coach, and Mickey Loomis, the general manager, have admitted, and they're right, they lost institutional control of the defensive side of the ball.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The Saints' headhunting reportedly reached a fever pitch when one player, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, bid $10,000 of his own money to take out Brett Favre in the 2010 NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings.

(On camera): Is this far and above beyond anything you've ever heard of in the NFL?

KING: I'll be honest. I've never heard of a team paying money, confirmed, to put a -- try to put a guy out of the game.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): While the Saints' sweeping bounty system might be unheard of, former players we spoke to weren't shocked that there was some incentive program going on.

(On camera): Was there a similar bounty program with the Buffalo Bills while you were there under Gregg Williams?

COY WIRE, FORMER NFL FOOTBALL PLAYER: What appears to be as a bounty program in New Orleans is different from what I experienced in Buffalo. In Buffalo we had a pay for play, player driven performance technique. You know, we had a way to motivate each other. We had a pot. You know you get fined if you show up late for a meeting. You can get fined if you have a mental error during a game or in practice. And the players put money into the pot. And from that pot, you're also rewarded for positive play.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): We reached out to the Bills about Wire's assertion that there was a player-driven incentive program. The team tells CNN it's sticking by a March 3rd statement in which Bills' CEO Russ Brandon said, "We are unaware of any type of bounty program occurring during Gregg Williams' tenure as our head coach and we would not have tolerated that type of behavior." In its investigation, the NFL found no evidence of other teams having bounty programs like the Saints. But some veteran players paint a different picture. Morton Anderson spent 25 years in the NFL, and he is the league's all-time leading scorer. Anderson says he was the target of a bounty as far back as 1987 when he played for the Saints.

ANDERSON: And it was an opening kickoff. We're playing the Houston Oilers. Jerry Glanville is the head coach. He's over there on the sideline all in black. And Walter Johnson was linebacker for the Houston Oilers at the time. Short set on me. His job was to put me out of the game. And he came -- as I come through the ball, my head is down. I'm still trying to regain balance about five yards down the field. And all I feel is a helmet in my rib cage. And I go flying the other way 10 yards. I'm decleated.

LAVANDERA: Dazed and confused, Anderson had to be helped off the field. And that's exactly what the oilers wanted, according to the long-time kicker. Anderson says the player who targeted him was the Oilers' Walter Johnson. And when the two eventually became teammates two years later, that Johnson confirmed there was a bounty on Anderson in the 1987 game.

ANDERSON: One of the first things I'd asked Walter was, hey, why did you do that, man? And he said, you know, I was told to do it. I said, what do you mean? He said, they gave me $1,000 and they told me to do it. I feared for my job.

ANDERSON: Walter Johnson wouldn't talk to CNN. But he did talk to his hometown sports reporter, Joey Martin, and denied he was ever paid for the vicious hit on Anderson.

JOEY MARTIN, REPORTER: As far as getting paid, he was vehemently denied that. He said, no, there's no way I got money from that.

LAVANDERA (on camera): And when you first asked Walter about that hit, what did he say?

MARTIN: You could tell he was a little bit remorseful about it. I mean, he didn't want to hurt Morton. But if he had to do it again, hey, it's football. It's physical. And it's my job.

LAVANDERA: What did he tell you that Coach Glanville told him to do in that game?

MARTIN: Just take out the kicker. Take out Morton Anderson.

ANDERSON: I distinctly remember $1,000 being discussed. So his word against my word.

LAVANDERA: Coach Jerry Glanville told the "Boston Globe" a year after the Anderson hit that when you've got a guy that good, you've got to figure a way of making him less effective. He missed two kicks, so I guess it worked.

Like Johnson, Glanville turned down our request for an interview, but in an e-mail denied Johnson was paid any money, adding, "At no time did we ever have a bounty on anybody in the history of my coaching career. Never happened. Never did."

(On camera): I keep hearing from a lot of people out there, they don't understand, what's the big deal?

KING: Because the NFL players pride themselves on being such a fraternity. And, you know, when we get together on Sunday, boy, we go at each other's throats, but we're all brothers. I don't know any other fraternity where somebody tries to knock out and break the leg of one of his brothers. Or do whatever to one of his brothers. It's just -- it's over the top. It's wrong.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): So wrong in the eyes of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that he's dropped the hammer on the New Orleans Saints for their bounty system. The commissioner suspended head coach Sean Payton for a year without pay. He also suspended Saints' general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games this regular season.

But Goodell saved the worst punishment for the man at the center of the bounty scandal. Former Saints' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. He's been suspended from the league indefinitely, effective immediately.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: It's being called the new crack cocaine of crime. Thieves stealing your tax refund before you even know it. How do they do it? My special investigation is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Imagine filing your income taxes, only to be told someone else has already done the same thing and gotten your refund. It's a fraud so big that the IRS doesn't even know how much money is getting into the hands of criminals. Although law enforcement says it's well into the billions of dollars.

Every taxpayer is at risk. And as our investigation reveals, the criminals have gotten incredibly brazen. In spite of an IRS crackdown on refund fraud. It's gotten so out of hand that police call this the crack cocaine of crime.

Now for the first time in our investigation, you'll see the fraud as it unfolds in Florida, where in some neighborhoods, refund robbery has become a way of life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CATLIN: Westbound on 163. This is a known gang member. Here, slow down. Let him get around us.

KAYE (voice-over): We've just rolled up on what police say is evidence of one of the biggest and easiest frauds in America to pull off. A crime hidden on a piece of plastic. A debit card.

CATLIN: He's got the cards. He just purchased them, it looks like. KAYE: Those debit cards, police say, are used to take advantage of fast tax refunds from the IRS. The thieves are stealing those refunds by stealing people's identities. Filing returns online with phony information. And getting the IRS to put the refund money on the debit cards.

DETECTIVE ROCKY FESTA, NORTH MIAMI BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is what they're buying. See, Green Dot money cards. Target. He went to Target and spent 600 bucks. And he paid with a -- he paid with a debit card. What did you get? $1,000 for Christmas in gift cards?

KAYE: Police say the man they've pulled over who's already facing identity theft charges in another case is a known member of the infamous Money Avenue Gang, which specializes in this kind of fraud. Not surprisingly, he's in no mood to talk.

(On camera): I'm just curious what you do for work that you drive such a fancy car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know nothing about that.

KAYE: You don't know nothing about that? Can you tell me if you know anything about identity theft happening around here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know nothing about nothing.

KAYE: Are you involved in any of the tax fraud?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know nothing about nothing.

KAYE (voice-over): Detectives Craig Catlin and Rocky Festa of the North Miami Beach, Florida, police department will later charge him with buying these gift cards with stolen tax return money. Police say here's the same guy on video at Target using a debit card in someone else's name with a fraudulent tax refund on it. And, police say, he used that debit card to buy those gift cards that were on the front seat of the car.

He's arrested for marijuana possession. But police later charged him with grand theft in connection with tax refund fraud. He has not yet entered a plea to either charge.

(On camera): How easy is it to do this?

CATLIN: The fraudulent refunds are so easy, it's like the federal government putting crack cocaine in candy machines. It's that easy.

We already have one detective on the scene with an eyeball at the jewelry store. You guys show up. We're going to need help over there. A car just pulled up. It's the target we observed receiving about 23 fraudulent U.S. Treasury checks.

KAYE (voice-over): Police in North Miami Beach alone, with just 98 officers patrolling a city of 41,000, have seen over $100 million in tax refund fraud just in the last two years alone. It's big money. The criminals cash in those debit cards as quickly as possible. Showing off their riches with expensive luxury cards. Jaguar. Porsche. BMW. Mercedes Benz. And souped-up sports cars with expensive rims.

They flaunt fancy watches. Diamond pendants worth $55,000. And other jewelry. This one inscribed with the words "Money Hungry."

(On camera): Is this all about fast money, fast lifestyle?

INTERIM CHIEF LARRY GOMER, NORTH MIAMI BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT: I think it is. The money doesn't mean anything to them because they can make so much of it.

KAYE (voice-over): The fraudsters buy the Social Security numbers from insiders at hospitals, doctors' offices, even car dealerships. Any place where you have to give your personal information.

Larry Gomer, the interim police chief, says as soon as the thieves buy a debit card, they're off and running.

GOMER: They register that card in the name of the victim. They already have the victim's name and date of birth and Social Security number for the return that they're going to file.

KAYE: When the tax refund hits the debit card the identity thieves call it the drop. The criminals then take the drop money to ATM machines and grocery stores to get the money off the card as quickly as possible. As these police videos of suspects who were later arrested show. And while the debit cards are widely used for fraud, the criminals are so confident they won't get caught that at times they even have actual U.S. Treasury checks sent to them. In this North Miami Beach neighborhood where the Money Avenue Gang operates, tax refund fraud has replaced drug dealing.

(On camera): So in the cars that you pull over, do you find, you know, instead of bricks of drugs, do you find bricks of debit cards?

CATLIN: Debit cards. And the other thing that we find that we get lucky on sometimes is the actual ledgers of the names, Socials and date of births.

KAYE: That they've stolen?

CATLIN: Yes. They've stolen.

KAYE (voice-over): And no one is safe. These two detectives among four in the unit who fight this very crime are themselves victims of tax refund fraud. Detective Denise Love got a call just hours before our interview that someone had filed a tax return under her name.

DETECTIVE DENISE LOVE, NORTH MIAMI BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT: Here we are living a legal life and working a job. You know, and these crooks are rolling around in $100,000 cars and staying in penthouses on Miami Beach and throwing money at strip clubs and everywhere else. You know.

KAYE (on camera): With your money. LOVE: With my money.

KAYE (voice-over): Detective Jose Marin got this chilling message when he tried to file his return this year. Someone else had already done it under his name.

DETECTIVE JOSE MARIN, NORTH MIAMI BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT: The thing that really hits us hard is that it mostly affects our family. And when you start messing with our family, it's something, you know, you take it to another level so you get upset.

KAYE: Marin was counting on more than $9,000. Love was expecting $6,100.

LOVE: And I know from dealing with victims that it's going to be -- it's going to be a long time before I see that money.

KAYE: Coming up, what does the IRS say to some officials who charge it's making it too easy for your money to wind up in the hands of criminals?

(On camera): Why hasn't the IRS stopped that?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to CNN PRESENTS with your hosts tonight, Randi Kaye and Drew Griffin.

GRIFFIN: Law enforcement says a massive scheme to defraud the government and steal refunds from taxpayers could be derailed if the IRS stepped up with better enforcement.

KAYE: But that isn't happening as we found in one of the worst hit areas in the country. My investigation into refund robbery continues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE (voice-over): It's just another night on the streets in Tampa, Florida. Where police say tax refund fraud is the new crack cocaine for criminals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's over 2,000 cash. This lady doesn't have a job. She's unemployed.

KAYE: But inside her SUV, it looks like she went on a shopping spree. And police find this in her purse. Someone else's Social Security number, and an online tax filing Web site. A red flag for fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got the information for somebody, their Social, their e-mail address, dollar amount that they're going to put in for with the federal government. They get a return on them.

KAYE: And anyone can learn the crime. This handwritten guide confiscated by police spells out how to get away with it. Something this police informant and convicted felon we'll call Cheryl knows all too well. She says she teaches friends how to do what's known on the street as the drop. Someone else's tax refund dropped on to a fraudster's debit card.

CHERYL, POLICE INFORMANT: Basically it's like friends that get together. We're going to meet here. Everybody bring their laptops and we'll all work together. Some people I know get up at 8:00 in the morning, don't finish until 8:00 at night.

KAYE (on camera): So it's like a full-time job for some?

CHERYL: Yes.

KAYE: But do you think anybody who's involved in tax refund fraud thinks about the person who's identity they've stolen? Whose IRS refund they're taking?

CHERYL: No. They're trying to get to the top. They want to be better than the next person.

KAYE (voice-over): The goal? Make money as fast as possible.

CHERYL: Fast money, you have to flash it. You have to let others know, hey, I got this.

KAYE (on camera): Even if it means you're going to go to jail?

CHERYL: Yes.

KAYE (voice-over): And the lure was apparently too much for Cheryl. Just days after our interview, she was arrested for tax refund fraud.

CHIEF JANE CASTOR, TAMPA POLICE DEPARTMENT: The process is broken.

KAYE: In Tampa alone where police estimate the fraud approaches a staggering half billion dollars in the last two years, Police Chief Jane Castor says the IRS' efforts to curtail it aren't working.

CASTOR: I don't think that I have ever seen this magnitude of fraud that is just wide open. It's wide open. And there just doesn't seem to be much being done about it.

KAYE: She says suspects charged by local police know the penalties are light. Unless there are federal charges, which in most cases, don't happen or take a long time to file. For its part, the IRS identified $6.5 billion in tax refund fraud related to identity theft last year.

CASTOR: I'd like to hear the other side of that equation, too, and an estimation of how much got through.

KAYE: That's what we wanted to know. But after weeks of asking, the IRS' deputy commissioner, Beth Tucker, still could not provide an estimate of the fraud that's gone undetected.

(On camera): So just to be clear, you can tell us how much has been caught. But the IRS can't say how much of this fraudulent money has ended up in criminals' hands?

BETH TUCKER, IRS DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: We process 140 million tax returns at IRS on a given year. The greatest majority of our taxpayers file a legitimate tax return. So, you know, do some of these fraudsters, perpetrators, actually get a tax refund illegally? Unfortunately, yes. But for the actual, you know, size of the problem, we probably need to get back to you with a number.

KAYE (voice-over): We're still waiting on that number. Typical, says Tampa mayor, Bob Buckhorn, who is furious with the IRS.

(On camera): Has the IRS disappointed you and your city?

MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN, TAMPA, FLORIDA: I don't know. I haven't seen them. As far as I'm concerned they're missing in action. They have not been helpful. They have not been a player. They have not taken responsibility for their side of the enforcement. If anything, you know, we've been banging our heads against their door asking for help and getting nothing in response. The silence has been deafening.

KAYE: Is the IRS missing in action in Tampa? What's your response?

TUCKER: No, the IRS is not. In fact, we have significantly increased the amount of resources we've devoted to identity theft, which is a heinous crime.

KAYE (voice-over): Just one week after our interview, the IRS sent a team to meet with Tampa and North Miami Beach police officials.

Law enforcement tells us there's a simple solution to curbing much of the fraud. Don't allow the refunds to be put on debit cards.

(On camera): Why hasn't the IRS stopped that?

CATLIN: Not every taxpayer has a bank account. And so the debit cards that are issued by a third party provider are a legitimate way for taxpayers to get their refund.

KAYE (voice-over): The IRS does not verify information entered on the return before issuing the refund.

(On camera): How much of this has to do with a speedy return? I know you want to get the return to the taxpayers as early as possible. Is that part of the problem?

TUCKER: The balancing act is something that we're constantly aware of. I mean, the American taxpayer that's worked hard all year long and is depending on that legitimate refund, they have a right to get that refund from IRS as quickly as possible.

KAYE (voice-over): And the fraudsters? They know time is on their side. The faster the IRS sends out the returns, the sooner they get some hard working taxpayer's cash.

BUCKHORN: It's an underground epidemic. It has taken the place of street level drug dealing. CATLIN: Are these your cards?

BUCKHORN: It is a very, very scary proposition.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Troubling report. What about the victims now? How do they get the money that's owed them?

KAYE: It's a nightmare for them. Because the burden is really on the taxpayer victim to prove that their identity has been stolen and to prove that somebody filed in their name. And it can take the victims up to a year to get their refund. And critics of the IRS have said that even the improvements that they've made have fallen short. But the good news, Drew, is that the taxpayer victim does eventually get their refund. It's just that the IRS pays twice. Once to the fraudster and once to the victim.

GRIFFIN: And is this crime growing? Decreasing? Are they getting a handle on it?

KAYE: It's actually getting bigger because it's so easy and the fraudsters know how easy it is. In fact, high schoolers have been doing this because they can fill out these fraudulent forms with such ease. So there's really no end in sight.

GRIFFIN: Excellent report.

KAYE: Thank you.

GRIFFIN: Randi, thanks.

Coming up, he was locked away for a crime he didn't commit. Now he wants the state to pay up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: What's a year of your life worth? How about 10 or even 20 years? What if those years were spent locked behind bars for a crime you didn't commit? What would the state owe you? $100,000? $500,000?

In nearly half the states in the country, the answer is zero. Not a dime. You would think that innocent people wrongly imprisoned, sometimes for decades, would get some kind of compensation. But Kaj Larsen has found all too often they get nothing but the clothes on their back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARSEN (voice-over): In Washington state, Alan Northrop is getting ready to fight for 17 years of his life.

NORTHROP: No. I've been up since 7:00 this morning.

LARSEN: Seventeen years he spent in prison for a crime he didn't commit. This morning, Alan is on his way to the state capitol in Olympia to try to get something. Anything. To compensate him for those years.

NORTHROP: Well, I'm going to basically plead my case and let them know what I kind of went through and hopefully they'll realize and understand, you know, that they need to hopefully make things right.

LARSEN: He'll ask lawmakers to pass a bill that would give him and others like him money and counseling for the time they spent behind bars. He did the same thing last year and got nowhere.

NORTHROP: And what you go there in there mentally is just traumatic. It's something that's not even fathomable. It's not right.

LARSEN: Alan's nightmare began here in Woodland. A small logging town on the Oregon/Washington border.

(On camera): So in 1993, Alan is walking into his favorite bar, the Merwin Tap. And he thinks it's just a normal night. And as he walks in the door, he looks at the wall right here and there's a wanted poster with a composite sketch that some of the patrons said looked just like Alan.

(Voice-over): A few weeks after this picture was posted, Alan was at the bar next door.

NORTHROP: I went to go make a pool shot on the side of the pool table. And as soon as I put my hand back, a cuff went on my wrist. And, of course, I instantly said, no, you've got the wrong guy.

LARSEN: They did have the wrong guy. But nobody other than Alan would believe it for 17 years. He was charged with kidnapping and raping a housekeeper inside this home. With no physical evidence linking him to the crime, prosecutors relied on the eyewitness testimony of the victim. Even though she had been blindfolded during most of the attack.

NORTHROP: What I was saying, they'll figure it out, that it's not me.

LARSEN (on camera): What did you think when they pronounced you guilty?

NORTHROP: Oh, I was devastated. I couldn't believe it. You know, me? You think I'd do that? Really?

LARSEN (voice-over): Alan was sentenced to 23 years in prison. He left behind three children under the age of 6.

NORTHROP: The worst is not being able to watch my kids grow up.

LARSEN (on camera): If there's one thing you could -- you could get back from that time, what would it be?

NORTHROP: Being able to share, you know, with them, you know, about their interests. Good and the bad. You know, and normal life of raising kids. LARSEN (voice-over): In 2000 the Innocence Project took his case. But for almost six years, prosecutors refused requests for new DNA testing. Finally in 2009, after a judge's order and development of new testing methods, Alan got his results. Undeniable proof that his DNA wasn't on the victim.

NORTHROP: Oh, man. I was jumping around the day room saying, I'm out of here. I'm out of here.

LARSEN: Alan was released in 2010 after serving 17 years.

(On camera): Was it hard to transition to the outside?

NORTHROP: Yes. Absolutely. I had a really hard time with that. And I still do.

LARSEN: What did they give you when you got out?

NORTHROP: Nothing.

LARSEN (voice-over): He walked out of prison with just the money he had been sent by family and the earnings from his 42-cent-an-hour prison job. A little over $2,000. But he also got something else.

NORTHROP: Yes. I got hit with a child support bill of $111,000.

LARSEN (on camera): How were you expected to pay that?

NORTHROP: Good question. I --

(LAUGHTER)

I just looked at it and went, really? There she is.

LARSEN (voice-over): Innocence Project lawyer Lara Zarowsky worked to free Alan.

LARA ZAROWSKY, INNOCENCE PROJECT: My name is Lara Zarowsky, and I'm the policy staff attorney with the Innocence --

LARSEN: Now she's working on legislation to give him and other exonerated prisoners compensation for their time wrongfully imprisoned.

ZAROWSKY: There's sort of a gut reaction that this was a horrible injustice. Under the bill they would be getting $50,000 for each year of wrongful conviction.

LARSEN: For Alan, that could mean as much as $850,000. Money he could really use. He works at a factory and lives here with friends because he can't afford his own apartment.

(On camera): If you got that money, what would that mean to you?

NORTHROP: Oh, some breathing space. Be able to, you know, help out the family. Just get started over again, you know. Something to start over a normal life again.

LARSEN (voice-over): But the bill provides more than money. Counseling, job assistance, other social services. Things that the guilty get automatically.

ZAROWSKY: Under the Department of Corrections and Department of Social and Health Services there are benefits and programs that are available for people who were guilty. And they just say flat out, they're not eligible because they weren't -- they weren't actually guilty. So they don't -- they don't fit our criteria.

LARSEN (on camera): Is it possible to put a price on the number of years that you spent inside?

NORTHROP: No. There's no price on that. At all.

LARSEN (voice-over): Coming up, will legislators pass a law to compensate Alan Northrop? And even where there is compensation, sometimes it's an empty promise.

(On camera): Imagine that Danny Brown is innocent. What should he do to clear his name?

JULIA BATES, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, LUCAS COUNTY, OHIO: Well, I don't know if he ever can.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAYE: Imagine you've been convicted of a crime you didn't commit. You've spent years behind bars. And when you're finally exonerated, you're told the state owes you nothing.

GRIFFIN: That's exactly what happens in 23 states across the country. But Kaj Larsen found even in states that do provide money to the wrongly imprisoned, former inmates can be caught in a no man's land between guilt and innocence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARSEN (voice-over): Danny Brown lives in a legal limbo. In 2001, his conviction for murder was thrown out. And ever since, he's been enjoying the life of a free man in Toledo, Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you man?

DANNY BROWN, FORMER PRISONER: All right. All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

LARSEN: But there's one thing missing from Danny's life on the outside. $700,000 he says the state owes him for the 19 years it took for him.

BROWN: The money would be a great help because it's difficult. I, like, make $8.25 an hour. I work at a book factory in Toledo. I owe some bills for college. And that's kind of steep.

LARSEN: The victim, a young mother who lived here, was sexually assaulted and killed. Danny was serving a life sentence for the murder until new DNA evidence implicated another man. A man already in prison for an eerily similar murder.

(On camera): What did you think when the DNA evidence came back?

BROWN: I was, like, ecstatic that it could happen.

LARSEN: Unlike almost half the states in the country, Ohio actually does have a law that compensates those who have been wrongfully convicted. But Danny Brown is unlikely to ever be eligible for any of that money.

Why aren't you being compensated, Danny?

BROWN: Because the prosecutor say I'm a suspect. The problem with the law is it's got, like, seven criteria. And one of them is you can't be a suspect. I fill all the criteria except for the one where you can't be a suspect.

LARSEN: In 2001 Danny was released from prison when a judge overruled his conviction saying that there wasn't sufficient evidence to keep him locked up. But the court did not make a determination as to whether Danny was actually innocent. That's the $700,000 question.

If he's innocent enough or if there's enough doubt to release him after 18 1/2 years in prison, is he then innocent enough to be compensated for that time?

BATES: Well, obviously not. The courts have said no. The reason? He has got to prove he is actually innocent and he cannot do that.

LARSEN (voice-over): Julia Bates, the county's chief prosecutor, believes Danny doesn't deserve compensation because, to her, he's still a suspect.

(On camera): How does a man prove that he's innocent?

BATES: You know, it's a difficult, difficult burden. Unless, perhaps, the law enforcement side of the equation would agree. And if there would be any way that I would be able to say he is innocent, I would say that.

LARSEN (voice-over): But Bates insists she can't say that.

BATES: Well, one of the main reasons is the fact that there still lives and breathes a person who was a 6-year-old boy at the time of this crime who still maintains with every breath in his body that this is the man that killed his mother. And it's very difficult to ignore that.

MICHELLE BARRY, DANNY BROWN'S LAWYER: Eyewitness identification is a leading cause of wrongful conviction.

LARSEN: Michelle Barry represents Danny Brown.

BARRY: Seventy-five percent of the DNA exonerations involves a mistaken eyewitness identification. And that phenomenon is all the more so when you have an eyewitness such as Jeffrey Russell, who was a very young child at the time. And a very traumatic situation.

LARSEN: Danny and his lawyers have tried to take his case for innocence to court. Where they were denied when Prosecutor Bates' office made the case that Danny was still a suspect.

BARRY: If Danny is still considered a suspect, then, you know, let's move on this case one way or the other. You know, let's have a retrial.

LARSEN (on camera): Why not retry Danny Brown today?

BATES: I'm not convinced that we have the necessary evidence to go forward. If and when we had sufficient provable, credible, beyond a reasonable doubt evidence, we would retry him. And if we never find good, provable, beyond a reasonable doubt evidence, then we won't ever retry him. He'll remain free. He'll remain out. But, of course, he won't recover money. It's an open case. It's a pending investigation.

LARSEN (voice-over): An investigation that's been pending for more than 10 years.

BROWN: When do you say, you know what? Maybe this guy didn't do this. When do you take a serious look and say, you know what, let's look at this little (INAUDIBLE), let's do the right thing?

LARSEN (on camera): I guess it grates on your notion of fairness that somebody has to live in this legal limbo. Is this a failure point of the system?

BATES: Well, I don't know. I can't -- it's very difficult to answer. This is about recovering money. This isn't about your freedom. He got his freedom. We didn't fight that. We didn't fight that. We embraced that. When it's about money there are certain rules. And the rules in Ohio say you have to be innocent. You have to prove you're innocent. And you can never be prosecuted. Or you don't get any money.

If that's not fair, they should change the rules. In the meantime, I mean, this might sound trite, but Danny is free. He's free to breathe the air and, you know, walk the street and feel the sun. And he's not in a cell.

BARRY: In a sense, Danny is still a prisoner to this crime. And though he's not imprisoned, he's in the prison of that suspicion.

LARSEN (voice-over): After 19 years behind bars, Danny waits. Not guilty. Not innocent. And without any compensation. And, perhaps, without something even more important.

BROWN: To say, oh, you got your freedom. Go on with your life. No, it's not free until you get this total exoneration. You're not free if you've got this hanging over your head. You're not free if people suspect this is what you did. And I feel like I deserve more than that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: According to the Innocence Project, Danny Brown is among 40 percent of those wrongly convicted across the nation who haven't received compensation for their time behind bars. And back in Washington state, so is Alan Northrop.

KAYE: Just weeks after we interviewed him, the Washington state legislature, facing a huge budget deficit, killed the bill that would have given him money for the 17 years he spent innocent behind bars.

GRIFFIN: That's it for tonight's show. I'm Drew Griffin.

KAYE: And I'm Randi Kaye. Thanks for joining us.