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Tax Department Announces Criminal Actions in Cases against Tax Cheats

For Release: Immediate,

For press inquiries only, contact: James Gazzale, 518-457-7377

Acting New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Barbara G. Billet announced today that five defendants in separate criminal tax prosecutions have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced in cases recently closed by the Tax Department. 

Among those who pleaded guilty were an Erie County legislator and two business managers of a well-known music and entertainment personality.

Acting Commissioner Billet said, "Many people feel cheating on their taxes is acceptable because the victim is the government.  The reality of the situation is tax evasion hurts their neighbors and their communities.  Valuable public programs such as infrastructure, education, health care and public safety are paid with from the funds these individuals have tried to deny the state, funds which they were legally required to pay.  There are indeed victims in these crimes -  the millions of New Yorkers who faithfully uphold their obligations while a dishonest few seek to foist their responsibilities upon someone else."

William Comiskey, Deputy Commissioner of Tax Enforcement, added, "These cases illustrate the Department's determination to aggressively investigate criminal violations of our tax laws and to work with local prosecutors to bring tax cheats to justice.  It is our goal to deter unlawful conduct by sending a message that fraud and criminal conduct by individuals who seek to avoid their tax obligations will not be tolerated.  We thank the District Attorneys in New York and Erie counties for prosecuting these cases and for bringing these taxpayers to justice." 

Named in the recently closed cases were:

George A. Holt Jr., of Clinton Street in Buffalo, the former chairman of the Erie County Legislature, charged with tax fraud. He pled guilty in State Supreme Court to two misdemeanor counts of filing fraudulent sales tax reports for his Buffalo restaurant. As a condition of the plea, Holt paid $39,237.91 in sales tax, penalties and interest to New York State and Erie County.

Holt and his wife, Mattie, own and operate Mattie's Texas Hots, located at 1410 Fillmore Ave., in Buffalo. At the onset of the investigation he was the chairman of the county legislature. As a result of his guilty plea, the county removed him from office, a job that paid $42,500.

An investigation led by the Tax Department's Revenue Crimes Bureau determined that George Holt intentionally underreported the business' taxable sales. Tax investigators executed a search warrant at the restaurant and recovered records of sales that Holt had previously claimed did not exist.  Auditors and investigators compared Holt's reported sales to the records recovered from the warrant and found that Holt had willfully underreported his sales.

In addition to paying restitution to the Department, Holt was also sentenced to 100 hours of community service and fined.

The Tax Department's case was investigated by Nancy Wilson and Kevin DiPirro.  The prosecution was conducted by Assistant District Attorney James Auricchio of the Erie County District Attorney's office.

Lorraine Barber, 57, of 109-96 201st Street in St. Albans, Queens, was sentenced in State Supreme Court on May 29, 2007 to five years probation in addition to three months time served, and was ordered to pay restitution of $69,000 to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, after having been convicted on her guilty plea to a felony charge of 3rd degree grand larceny, a class D felony

According to information from the Federal Social Security Administration, Barber committed fraud by depositing over 100 tax refund checks into an out of state bank account. She was investigated by the Tax Department's Revenue Crimes Bureau for filing 770 fraudulent state tax returns connected to some of the refund checks. She received approximately $69,000 in refund checks from New York State during a period between 1999 through 2003.  Barber obtained the information to file the fraudulent returns from welfare roles obtained during her employment with the New York City Human Resources Administration.

The Tax Department's case was investigated by James McCue and Alan Maier and was prosecuted by the Queen's County District Attorney's Office. 

Philip Sarna, 43, of 7 Woodtree Dr., Westbury, N.Y., was sentenced in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on June 13, 2007, and fined $50,000 for failing to file state income taxes for the years 2001 to 2004. Sarna pled guilty to a class E felony.

The case against Sarna, the financial manager and tax preparer for Marco Antonio Muniz, a popular entertainment personality, was investigated by the Tax Department and the District Attorney in Manhattan. Once the Tax Department determined that Sarna had sufficient income to file New York State personal income tax returns for the previously mentioned periods, the case was referred for prosecution to the New York County District Attorney's office.

Sarna had a personal income tax liability of $31,632 for the calendar years 2001 thru 2004. On April 11, 2007, Philip Sarna pled guilty to one count of failing to file his 2002, 2003 and 2004 state taxes. Sarna's plea required him to pay tax liabilities totaling $31,632 for 2001 thru 2004.

The Tax Department's case was investigated by Alan Maier and the case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Gilda Mariani of the District Attorney's Office.  For a release issued by the District Attorney's office, refer here:  http://manhattanda.client.tagonline.com/whatsnew/press/rel/2007-04-11.html

Bigram Zayas, 50, of 1385 York Ave., New York, N.Y., was sentenced June 12, 2007 in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan to a conditional discharge and fined $50,000 for repeatedly failing to file his New York State personal income taxes.

Zayas, whose case was investigated by the Tax Department and the District Attorney in Manhattan, was the general manager for Marco Antonio Muniz, a popular entertainment personality. It was determined that Zayas failed to file his state taxes for the calendar years 2000 through 2003.

Tax Department investigators determined he had sufficient income to file state personal income tax returns for the years cited and the matter was referred for prosecution to the New York County District Attorney's office. From records subpoenaed by the District Attorney's Office, it was determined that Zayas had a total tax liability of $383,223.

On April 10, 2007, Zayas pled guilty to one count, a class E felony, and paid his state tax liability.

The Tax Department's case was investigated by Alan Maier and prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Gilda Mariani of the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

Zelig Fekete, 49, of 155 Acres Road, Monroe, N.Y., and his wholly owned corporation, Millennium Floors Inc. of 60 Nostrand Ave. in Brooklyn, were charged in New York State Supreme Court with failure to file personal and corporate income taxes for the calendar years 2002 through 2005.

The case was opened by the New York County District Attorney's Office who investigated Fekete and his company for corporate checks that were cashed through a check cashing business. As a result of the investigation, Fekete was indicted on three counts of commercial bribe receiving in the first degree, one count of falsifying business records in the first degree, one count of money laundering in the second degree and one count of repeated failure to file tax returns.  It was determined Fekete's personal income tax liability was $18,209 and the corporate franchise tax liability of Millenium Floors Inc was $2,435

On March 21, 2007, Fekete pleaded guilty to failure of file his tax returns, a class E felony. As part of the plea, he and Millenium Floors Inc. made full restitution and was sentenced on May 7, 2007 to nine months in jail for the felony charge of failure to file returns.

The Tax Department's case was investigated by Alicia Ferrer and prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Kelly Donovan of the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

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