Attorney General Cuomo Announces Arrests And Convictions Of Income Tax Preparers For Filiing Fraudulent Returns

NEW YORK, NY (March 6, 2009) Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrests and convictions of seven paid tax preparers for filing fraudulent returns.

According to court papers, these preparers assisted their clients in filing false personal or corporate tax returns, prepared false sales tax returns for undercover investigators posing as business owners, or filed their own false income tax returns.

“Corrupt tax prepares are ultimately costing every honest, law abiding New Yorker who dutifully pays their fair share year in and year out,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Those who cheat the system risk prosecution and my office will continue to partner with all government agencies to uncover possible fraudulent practices.”

New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Robert Megna said, “Today’s announcement results from a continuing undercover operation being conducted by the Tax Department, which the Department has successfully used to expose and bring to justice tax preparers who cheat the State as part of their professional practice. I wish to thank Attorney General Cuomo for his invaluable leadership in attacking the all too prevalent problem of cheating by tax preparers.”

Those charged or convicted in the investigation include:

Lawrence Hecht, 71 of New City, operated a business located on Route 304 in New City. Hecht pleaded guilty in the Town of Clarkstown Justice Court to Aiding or Assisting in the Giving of Fraudulent Returns (Class A Misdemeanor). According to court papers from 2001 to 2007 Hecht prepared fraudulent New York state personal income tax returns for one of his clients by inflating the cost of the goods that were sold by the client’s business. The client, who declared his business income on his personal income tax returns, thereby decreased his personal income tax liability. Hecht will be sentenced on March 18 and the charge carries a maximum of 1 year in jail.

Ainul Haque, 62 of Astoria, Queens operates Crescent Accounting and Tax Services, Inc. on Hoyt Avenue, Queens. Haque pleaded guilty in Queens County Supreme Court to Aiding or Assisting in the Giving of Fraudulent Corporate Income Tax Returns (Class E Felony), and Crescent Accounting and Tax Services, Inc, pleaded guilty to Assisting in the Giving of Fraudulent Personal Income Tax Returns (Class E Felony).  Court papers reflect that Haque personally prepared fraudulent New York state personal and corporate tax returns for clients who owned restaurants and newsstands.  Haque would under-report the client’s gross sales by not including cash sales, and in addition, he created fictitious expenses causing an understatement of the clients’ tax liability of more than $1,500. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

 Robert Romoff, 67 of New City, operated a business on Route 304 in New City. Romoff pleaded guilty in Rockland County Court to Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (Class E Felony).  Court papers reflect that Romoff, who worked for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for thirty seven years, filed a false personal income tax return on which he did not include income that he received from the preparation of tax returns.  As part of his guilty plea, Romoff has filed amended returns, and paid penalties and interest.

Muhammad Asif Ghori, 52 of East Northport, runs a business located on 28th Avenue in Queens. Ghori pleaded guilty in Queens County Supreme Court to Aiding or Assisting in the Giving of Fraudulent Returns (Class E Felony). According to court papers Ghori prepared fraudulent New York state personal income tax returns for clients who reported their corporate income on their personal income tax returns. Ghori inflated his clients’ business expenses by overstating the cost of goods sold, or the mileage and tolls paid by the businesses. The resulting understated tax liability exceeded $1,500. Ghori is scheduled for sentencing on April 20 and the charge carries a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison.

Qazi Ahmed, 57 of Astoria operates a business on 30th Avenue in Queens. Ahmed is charged with Aiding or Assisting in the Giving of Fraudulent Returns, Offering A False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and Filing a False Personal Income Tax Return (Class E Felonies). According to court papers Ahmed owns Abacus One, a company that offers accounting, payroll, income tax, electronic filing, fast fund and business services. It is alleged that Ahmed prepared a New York State Corporate Tax return for a client that he knew understated the amount of gross receipts received by the corporation. As a result, the client collected additional sales taxes which were never remitted to New York state; and the understated tax liability exceeded $1,500. In addition, it is alleged that Ahmed understated his own 2007 New York state personal income tax liability by failing to report income that he derived from an Internet business. He is scheduled back in court on April 24, and the charge carries a maximum of 4 years in prison.

Felix Robles, 57 of Plattekill, operates a business on Broadway in Newburgh. Robles is charged with Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (Class E Felony). It is alleged that Robles prepared two tax returns for undercover New York State Department of Taxation and Finance investigator posing as a restaurant owner. According to court papers Robles knowingly understated the fictitious restaurant’s sales by over $301,000 which would allow the investigator to evade more than $17,000 in New York state sales tax payments. It is further alleged that Robles admitted that he prepared the sales tax returns by only reporting the cash that had been deposited in the restaurant’s bank account.  In addition, Robles advised the investigator to keep two sets of books, and advised him that the one with the real figures should not be kept at the restaurant. Robles is scheduled to appear in court on May 1 and the charge carries a maximum of 4 years in prison.

Martin S. Nowak, Jr., 46 of Walkill, runs a business located on Ingrassia Road in Walkill. Nowak is charged with Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (Class E Felony).  It is alleged that Nowak prepared two false New York state income tax returns for a New York State Department of Taxation and Finance investigator posing as a restaurant owner. According to court papers, Nowak was presented with a ledger showing what was alleged to be all of the sales made by the restaurant for the two sales periods, as well as bank records showing the restaurant’s bank deposits. Nowak allegedly prepared, and gave to the undercover investigator to file sales tax returns that collectively understated the fictitious restaurant’s sales by over $281,702, which would allow the investigator to evade more than $17,000 in New York state sales tax payments. In addition, Nowak advised the investigator that he prepared the sales tax returns by only reporting the cash that had been deposited in the restaurant’s bank account, and that the investigator should “get rid of” his ledger showing the actual sales.  Nowak is scheduled to appear in court in May. The charge carries a maximum of 4 years in prison.

Many of the defendants are cooperating with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance’s investigation into which of the defendants’ clients filed false tax returns with the State of New York.

These cases are being prosecuted by New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Attorney Christopher Borek, acting as an Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Richard Ernst and Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly.

The charges against Ahmed, Robles, and Nowak are merely accusations, and these defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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