MILLINGTON (WXYZ) - Locked away in a box are memories of a special boy-- 3-year-old Robert Schleeter--- who died last year of a rare heart condition.
“No parent should have to go through what we went through,” said Robert’s mother Krystal Schleeter.
Krystal had no plans to open the box. Her grief was still raw, it was far too soon.
But everything changed recently when the Schleeter’s filed their taxes.
The IRS didn't believe Robert was dead because someone had already claimed the boy on another tax return.
“So when I opened it to get out his death certificate, it just flooded me with those emotions,” said Krystal. “It’s like we are reliving it all over again and it is as if he died again.”
7 Action News viewers first met Robert a year ago when he was battling his heart problem and doctors thought he made a miraculous recovery.
However there was no miracle. Sadly, Robert passed away a month after our story.
The Schleeters said after burying their son, they went to great lengths to secure all of his records and information.
Even with those measures, somehow someone got the boy’s social security number and claimed Robert on their tax return.
“Heartbroken,” said Krystal. “We’re coming up to the year of his passing. It feels like he passed away again and it feels like somebody stole him, stole him out of our arms.”
Still reeling with grief, Krystal and her husband Rory set out to prove Robert was their son. They say the government was not much help.
“IRS told us there was nothing they could tell us,” said Krystal. “We had to paper mail them in which is unheard of now these days.”
They were told to send in copies of the toddler’s social security card and his death certificate to the IRS and then the case would be investigated.
The IRS refused an interview with 7 Action News but sent a statement, boasting of their ability to stop fraud.
"Since 2011, the IRS has stopped 15 million suspicious returns, and protected over $50 billion in fraudulent refunds. So we're getting better at stopping this before the money goes out the door."
That is no help to Krystal who is also holding out hope the person who stole her son's identity is caught.
“I just couldn’t believe that somebody could stoop to that level,” said Krystal. “We have learned to live as a family physically without Robert. But he is always here. But right now I want him to rest. He’s not resting… because somebody did this to him.
For more information, or if you find yourself in a similar situation, check out http://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection