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AG James pumps brakes on Brooklyn gas station that pocketed almost $250,000 in sales tax

June 4, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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New York State Attorney General Letitia James and Acting New York Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Amanda Hiller on Thursday announced the conviction of Brooklyn-based gas station Verrazano Enterprises, Inc. for grand larceny, stemming from the theft of more than $244,000 in sales tax in connection with the sale of motor fuel. 

Gas station owner Muhammad Adrees also pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation. As part of their pleas, Verrazano and Adrees collectively paid more than $189,000 in restitution and executed a confession of judgment for the entire amount. 

“While this gas station may have stolen from New York state to fill up its own bank accounts, our prosecution pumped the brakes on Verrazano’s illegal operation,” said Attorney General James. “Any company that attempts to defraud New York state will find there’s no getaway car waiting, because our office will not hesitate to use every tool at our disposal to stop these bad actors dead in their tracks.”

“The gas station blatantly disregarded an obligation to report millions in taxable sales and to pay sales tax owed — violating the trust of customers, depriving Brooklyn of revenue for vital services, and gaining an unfair advantage over similar businesses,” said Acting Commissioner Hiller. 

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A joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau and the Department of Taxation and Finance’s (DTF) Criminal Investigations Division revealed that Verrazano systematically underreported taxable motor fuel sales and, additionally, failed to remit collected sales tax from December 2009 up to and through November 2015. 

A DTF audit of sales tax returns for the relevant time period revealed that Verrazano underreported its taxable sales by $10,552,877. As a result, after crediting sales tax of $531,913.28 that was pre-paid to DTF by the wholesale supplier, Verrazano failed to remit $244,581.85 in sales tax due to New York state.

This week, before the Hon. Abena Darkeh in Brooklyn Supreme Court, Verrazano pleaded guilty to one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a Class C felony. Also before Judge Darkeh, Adrees tendered a plea of guilty to one count of Criminal Solicitation in the Fifth Degree. 

Both Verrazano and Adrees jointly paid over $189,000 in restitution to DTF, executed a confession of judgment for the benefit of DTF for the entire amount that was stolen, and were sentenced to a conditional discharge. 

The investigation by the OAG was conducted by Detective Investigator Brian Metz, under the supervision of Supervising Detective Michael Leahy and Deputy Chief Antoine Karam. 

The case was prosecuted by Senior Counsel Gabriel Tapalaga of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, assisted by Supervising Legal Support Analyst Paul Strocko.

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