FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2013
NEWARK, N.J. – A Certified Public Accountant with an office in Clifton, N.J., and one of his clients were arrested this morning by federal agents for allegedly trying to bribe an IRS revenue agent to reduce the client’s tax liability of more than $900,000, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Hamed Aref, 41, of Clifton, N.J., and his client Yousef Zaben, 62, of North Bergen, N.J., are each charged in a criminal complaint with one count of conspiracy to bribe a public official and two counts of bribery of a public official. Both men are variously charged for alleged bribes related to Zaben’s tax liability. One of the bribery charges against Aref also alleges he attempted to pay an IRS revenue agent to reduce the tax liability of another client, Zaben’s son.
The men were arrested this morning at their homes by special agents of the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and are expected to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case:
An IRS revenue agent working in the Mountainside, N.J., IRS office – referred to in the complaint as “R.A.” – was assigned to conduct an audit in February 2012 of Zaben’s son, a client of Aref’s. During a meeting with Aref that month, R.A. told him that approximately $90,000 in bank discrepancies for the 2010 tax year would require additional tax payments.
Aref ran his own accounting and tax preparation firm. In a conversation begun in Aref’s office and continued outside the building, per the CPA’s request, Aref asked R.A. to reduce the tax liability by $20,000, offering approximately $2,000 to the agent in exchange. R.A. pretended he would think about the offer and set a date for another meeting with Aref, then immediately reported the bribe attempt to law enforcement officers from TIGTA.
When Aref and R.A. met again in March 2012, R.A. was outfitted with video and audio recording equipment provided by law enforcement. At that meeting, Aref asked for documentation reflecting a reduction in his client’s income of more than $32,000 for tax years 2009 and 2010, and R.A. produced a false audit report reflecting the requested numbers. Aref then asked R.A. to leave the office and placed an envelope with $3,000 cash on R.A.’s chair. When R.A. returned, Aref told the agent the money was from Zaben, and stood guard while R.A. counted the cash out on the desk.
A subsequent IRS audit of Zaben revealed a number of large, unexplained bank deposits in 2009 and 2010, totaling more than $1.6 million, on which Zaben owed the IRS approximately $904,367. During meetings in February and March 2013, Aref and R.A. met at the Clifton office to discuss the liability. Aref provided false figures to R.A. that showed a total tax liability of approximately $1,137.94 for those years, and suggested a meeting between Zaben and R.A.
At that meeting, in April 2013, R.A. showed Zaben both the correct and falsified audit reports, and Zaben paid R.A. the falsely reduced amount of $1,137.94. Zaben then produced $10,000 in cash, which both defendants said was for R.A. Zaben also said he would pay R.A. an additional $5,000, some of which he gave to R.A. at a later meeting.
Each of the meetings in which bribes were paid was recorded by law enforcement.
The conspiracy count carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison, and the bribery counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison. Each of the counts also carries a maximum $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of TIGTA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert Geary, for the investigation leading to today’s arrests.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Intrater of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.