WASHINGTON – Andre De Moya, 51, of Temple Hills, Maryland, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison, and Davoud Jafari, 72, of the District of Columbia, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison, for their respective roles in separate but concurrent multiyear conspiracies focused on evading their business tax obligations through bribes to a former employee of the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR).
The sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Scott of the Washington Field Office Criminal and Cyber Division, D.C. Inspector General Daniel W. Lucas, and the D.C. Chief Financial Officer Glen Lee.
In both schemes, the bribe payments and communications were facilitated by middleman Anthony Merritt. Merritt, a former employee of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs who held himself out as a permit and licensing expediter, was also primarily responsible for introducing the business owners to the scheme.
In June 2023, a federal jury found De Moya and Merritt guilty of bribery, conspiracy, and wire-fraud offenses arising from the multiyear schemes. According to the government’s evidence, the businesses that benefited from De Moya’s participation in the scheme included concert venue Echostage as well as downtown bars and nightclubs such as Eyebar (later renamed Eden), Ultrabar, L8 Lounge, and Barcode. Evidence at trial showed that De Moya also introduced additional business owners to Merritt, leading to parallel schemes by Merritt and Slater involving restaurants Café Asia and Umaya and nightclub Muse Lounge.
In September 2023, Merritt pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy, and wire-fraud for his role in passing bribes to OTR's Vincent Slater on behalf of Jafari, who owned and operated Zeba Bar in Columbia Heights through a company called Gevani, Inc. Jafari was found guilty at trial of bribery, conspiracy, and wire-fraud offenses.
Prior to both trials, Slater pleaded guilty to erasing or helping a number of D.C. business owners, including but not limited to De Moya and Jafari, evade over $3 million of dollars of tax obligations, in exchange for the bribe payments he split with Merritt. Slater is currently scheduled for sentencing on February 22, 2024.
According to court documents, De Moya and Jafari were responsible for combined losses to the District of over $925,000. The majority of the taxes they evaded through the schemes comprised a 10% sales and use tax on food and beverages that was charged to customers and held in trust by the business owners pending transfer to the District.
In addition to prison terms, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered De Moya to serve three years of supervised release and provide 200 hours of community service. Judge Walton ordered Jafari to serve 3 years of supervised release and pay fines of $1,000.
In announcing the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Graves commended the work of the agencies who investigated the case, including the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General, with substantial assistance by the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of Integrity and Oversight. U.S. Attorney Graves also expressed appreciation for the efforts of those who handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Liliana Villamizar, Amanda Rhode, and Mariela Andrade, and former paralegal specialists Aisha Keys and Michon Tart.
Finally, Graves acknowledged the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christine Macey, Emily Miller, and Timothy Visser, who prosecuted these cases through trial, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston and former AUSA Amanda Vaughn, who participated in the underlying investigations and earlier court proceedings.