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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
August 18, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
- Vaughn L. McKoy, Director

 

John R. Hagerty
609-984-1936
Tom Vincz
609-633-6565

 

Division of Criminal Justice Charges Essex County Tax Preparer with Stealing Thousands of $$$ in Unentitled Tax Refunds
State Grand Jury Indictment Alleges Defendant Obtained $265,000 in Fraudulent Refunds from New Jersey Earned Income Tax Credit Program

TRENTON —Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and State Treasurer John E. McCormac today announced that a joint-agency tax fraud investigation targeting the theft of tens-of-thousands of dollars from the state treasury has resulted in the indictment of an Essex County tax preparer on charges of filing hundreds of fraudulent New Jersey State Income Tax Returns which resulted in unentitled refunds being issued in the names of fictitious “taxpayers.” The investigation uncovered the filing of nearly 400 purportedly fraudulent New Jersey tax returns claiming more than $265,397 in unentitled refunds from the New Jersey Earned Income Tax Credit Program.

“This indictment charges that the defendant devised an elaborate tax fraud scheme that resulted in the theft of tens-of-thousands of dollars from the state treasury through the filing of hundreds of fraudulent tax returns. The prosecution of this defendant demonstrates the resolve and forward thinking by the Division of Criminal Justice and the Division of Taxation as they undertake concerted efforts to target those who attempt to steal or cheat the treasury,” said Attorney General Harvey.

Vaughn L. McKoy, Director, Division of Criminal Justice and Robert K. Thompson, Director, Division of Taxation, said that Ramoni Mustapha, 50, 221, Custer Ave., Newark, Essex County, Blessing Iwarimie, 35, 511 North Ave., Elizabeth, Union County, and Gladys Soto, 31, 1131 Monmouth Ave., Linden, Middlesex County, were charged in the indictment with conspiracy and theft by deception. Each defendant faces up to 20 years in state prison and fines of up to $300,000 upon conviction of the second degree charges.

The indictment alleges that Mustapha, a self-employed tax preparer and the owner/operator of Ramsalam Business and Tax Consultancy and/or The Ramsalam Group located at 105 South Day St., Orange, Essex County, fraudulently received hundreds of New Jersey Earned Income Tax Credit checks for the tax years 2001, 2002, and 2003. The Division of Taxation - Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) determined that the purported fraudulent returns were filed from Feb. 8, 2004 through March 17, 2005. As a result of the fraudulent filings, 401 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refund checks totaling $265,397 were issued to Mustapha. A review by OCI determined that all of the fraudulent returns contained identical taxpayer data.

The State Grand Jury indictment charges that Mustapha prepared and filed the fraudulent state income tax returns based on false identifying information which qualified the “taxpayer” for an unentitled refund of up to $725.00 using the EITC. The EITC gives taxpayers a New Jersey refund based on the percentage of money refunded on the federal tax return. In order to claim the EITC, individuals must meet certain criteria, including filing a federal EITC, have at least one qualifying child listed on the Federal EITC Schedule, have New Jersey gross income of $20,000 or less, and have the same filing status on both the state and federal tax returns.

The indictment further charges that Iwarimie and Soto, employed as bank tellers at The Bank of America in Raritan and Newark respectively, cashed the EITC refund checks obtained by Mustapha in exchange for a portion of the proceeds.

“I credit this indictment to the close working relationship between Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation and the Division of Criminal Justice,” said Director Thompson. “Thanks to their hard work, we are identifying and prosecuting anyone who believes they can beat the system. These joint efforts are continuing.”

Criminal Justice Director McKoy noted that Mustapha was arrested on April 15 at his Orange office by State Investigators from the Division of Criminal Justice - Financial Crimes Bureau and tax agents from the Division of Taxation - Office of Criminal Investigations. In conjunction with Mustapha’s arrest, the state law enforcement agents conducted a search of Mustapha’s office pursuant to a court authorized search warrant issued by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Charles A. Delehey. As a result of the search warrant, State Investigators confiscated and seized tax returns, various tax documents and records, computer systems, false/fraudulent credit cards and identification documents, and related evidence.

The indictment was returned to Mercer County Superior Court Judge Neil H. Shuster on Aug. 17. Each of the defendants will be issued a complaint summons to appear in Mercer County Superior Court for arraignment and bail. After arrest, Mustapha was released from the Mercer County Jail after posting $100,000 bail. An indictment represents a charge. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Chief Investigator Susan Kane of the Division of Taxation - Office of Criminal Investigation coordinated the investigation in conjunction with State Investigator Eric Ludwick, Division of Criminal Justice - Financial Crimes Bureau, Assistant Chief Bob Morris of the Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation, and OCI Auditor Thaedra F. Chebra. Supervising Deputy Attorney General Terrence Hull and Deputy Attorney Denise Grugan of the Division of Criminal Justice - Financial Crimes Bureau prosecuted the case.

Additional information is available via the Division of Criminal Justice Web site at www.njdcj.org.

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