OPERATION ZENITH DEFENDANT CONVICTED OF MAIL FRAUD
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced today that MOHAMED H. RUMAN, age 38, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pled guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson to two counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, in connection with a scheme to avoid paying payroll tax to the State of Louisiana. As a result of his pleas, RUMAN faces up to forty (40) years imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, and restitution.
During the guilty plea, RUMAN admitted that, from 2000 until 2006, he and Jamal Roman knowingly failed to pay payroll taxes on approximately half of the wages paid to employees at Roman’s Café on Perkins Road, Roman’s Mediterranean Restaurant on Airline Highway, and Roman’s Lebanese Greek Market on Government Street. During that period, RUMAN, who served as general manager of the restaurants, was partially responsible for hiring and paying employees. RUMAN also oversaw the businesses during the owner’s (Jamal Roman) regular trips to Syria.
This case is part of Operation Zenith, a long-running investigation into fraud and corruption in the collection and payment of sales and payroll taxes. With regard to the sales tax fraud, Operation Zenith uncovered evidence that business owners and the president of an accounting firm had been under-reporting the sales from various businesses by over ten million dollars ($10,000,000) in order to avoid remitting sales tax to the state and local governments. In an attempt to conceal this massive scheme, the business owners and the accountant paid bribes to officials within the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office and agreed to bribe an auditor with the Louisiana Department of Revenue.
Four of the business owners, the accountant, and a City-Parish Auditor have been convicted of various felony charges, including mail fraud, bribery, use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering, and making false statements. Two of the business owners have been sentenced. Humam Al-Alousi was sentenced to sixty (60) months imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, and $220,401 in restitution. Khoa Dinh “James” Chau was sentenced to thirty-seven (37) months imprisonment, a $30,000 fine, and $98,695 in restitution. The other convicted defendants await sentencing.
Jamal Roman has pled not guilty and is awaiting trial. Mr. Roman faces charges of conspiracy, mail fraud relating to sales tax fraud, mail fraud relating to payroll tax fraud, and bribery, including allegations that he funneled $700,000 to Syria as part of the conspiracy.
Operation Zenith is the result of the combined efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Louisiana State Police Criminal Intelligence Unit. The investigation has also been greatly assisted by the cooperation of the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office. Other governmental agencies and entities also provided assistance, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Louisiana State University Police Department, the Louisiana Department of Labor, the Louisiana Department of Revenue, the Ascension Parish Department of Revenue, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Government of Lebanon.
Operation Zenith is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Criminal Chief Corey R. Amundson, Assistant United States Attorney Alan A. Stevens, and Assistant United States Attorney Reginald Jones.
If you have knowledge of fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at: (866) 720-5721 or e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org