RESTAURANTEUR SENTENCED TO 53 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR CONSPIRACY, BRIBERY, AND FRAUD IN OPERATION ZENITH
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced today that Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced JAMAL M. ROMAN, age 51, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to 53 months imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment of 2 years, restitution to state and local governments in the amount of $726,476, and a fine of $20,000. The sentence stems from ROMAN’s conviction on one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery; seven counts of mail fraud; and three counts of bribery involving a federally-funded entity.
ROMAN was sentenced for his role in schemes involving sales tax fraud, bribery, and payroll tax fraud. With regard to sales tax fraud, ROMAN defrauded the State of Louisiana, East Baton Rouge Parish, and Ascension Parish out of approximately $670,000 in sales tax revenue by concealing approximately $7,000,000 in sales from May 2001 until March 2006. ROMAN did so by causing fraudulent monthly reports to be submitted concerning the sales at his restaurants, including Mis Padres Restaurant (formerly Papacito’s Restaurant) in Prairieville, Louisiana, and four restaurants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, including Roman’s Café on Perkins Road, Roman’s Mediterranean Restaurant on Airline Highway, Roman’s Lebanese Greek Market on Government Street, and Mis Padres Restaurant (formerly Papacito’s Restaurant) on Bluebonnet Boulevard (collectively referred to as “the Roman Restaurants”).
In furtherance of the sales tax conspiracy, ROMAN funded multiple bribes to officials with the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditing Office in connection with an audit of his restaurants. The first bribe was paid in March 2004 to City-Parish Auditor Jerome Shore for the purpose of reducing the audit assessment from $100,000 to approximately $40,000. The second bribe was paid in October and November 2004 to the manager of the Auditing Office who, unbeknownst to ROMAN and the conspirators, was cooperating with law enforcement authorities. The purpose of the bribe was to further reduce the audit assessment to $15,000. The third and final bribe was intended for the manager of the Auditing Office and funded by ROMAN in November 2004. The purpose of the bribe was to eliminate the assessment entirely.
Also, from 2000 until 2006, ROMAN knowingly failed to pay payroll taxes on approximately half of the wages paid to employees at the Roman Restaurants. Such wages were paid by cash and corporate checks. As part of the scheme, the defendant caused a payroll processing company to submit, via the U.S. Mail, false quarterly reports to the Louisiana Department of Labor which significantly under represented the number of employees at the Roman Restaurants and the amount of wages paid to those employees.
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. In addition, the conspiracy count to which ROMAN pled guilty outlines the funneling of $700,000 to Syria as part of the conspiracy.
The status of the other Operation Zenith defendants is as follows:
• Humam S. Al-Alousi: Convicted of 1 count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, 1 count of bribery, and 1 count of making a false statement to the FBI. He was sentenced to sixty months imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, and $220,401 in restitution.
• Khoa Dinh Chau: Convicted of 1 count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud and 1 count of bribery. He was sentenced to thirty-seven months imprisonment, a $30,000 fine, and $98,695 in restitution.
• Mohamed H. Ruman: Convicted of 2 counts of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud. He was sentenced to four months imprisonment, four months in a half-way house, two years supervised release, and $56,000 in restitution.
• Rostom H. Laymon: Convicted of 1 count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, 1 count of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud, and 3 counts of bribery. Awaiting sentencing.
• Hassan S. Abousoayd: Convicted of 4 counts of bribery and 1 count of using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. He is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. on November 9, 2011.
• Jerome R. Shore: Convicted of 1 count of bribery. Awaiting sentencing.
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 Sales and Use Tax Authority, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Government of Lebanon.
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. stated, “Roman and his confederates conducted this scheme by bribing and attempting to bribe public officials to conceal millions of dollars in sales from his restaurants. His sentence is entirely appropriate when weighed against the magnitude of his crimes.”
According to FBI Special Agent-in-Charge David W. Welker, “The rule of law must apply to everyone doing business in the United States and the State of Louisiana. Today’s sentencing reflects the serious nature of the fraud and the need for businesses and individuals to comply with laws pertaining to the responsibilities of businessmen.”
This matter was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Corey R. Amundson, Alan A. Stevens, and 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