Skip to main content
Press Release

Final Defendant Sentenced in Bribery Scheme Involving District Tax Official

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia
The Co-Conspirators Deprived Washington D.C. of More Than $3 Million

            WASHINGTON – Arman Amirshahi, 46, was sentenced today to three years of probation and 200 hours of community service for paying bribes to a District tax official to evade his tax obligations. The sentencing was 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.

            Amirshahi was part of one of the several sophisticated and long-term bribery schemes helmed by co-conspirators Anthony Merritt, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, and Vincent Slater, former manager in the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR). In furtherance of the schemes, four business owners—including Amirshahi, Charles Zhou, Andre De Moya, and Davoud Jafari – paid cash bribes, through Merritt as middleman, to Slater, to evade their business taxes.

            A former employee of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Merritt held himself out as a permit and licensing expediter and introduced the business owners to the scheme. For a cut of the bribe payments, Merritt handled communications with the business owners. Merritt ferried their cash bribe payments to Slater, and allowed Slater to maintain apparent distance from them as he fraudulently reduced their liabilities or intervened on their behalf within OTR. Slater resigned from OTR in December 2017, concluding the schemes, each of which had lasted over five years. Through their actions, the co-conspirators deprived the District of Columbia of approximately $3 million.

            Each of the defendants was convicted for their roles in this conduct. Amirshahi and Zhou pleaded guilty to bribery in January 2019 and February 2019, respectively. In 2019, Slater, De Moya, and Merritt were charged in one indictment, and Slater, Jafari, and Merritt were charged in a second indictment. Slater pleaded guilty post-indictment in June 2020. 

            In June 2023, a jury convicted De Moya and Merritt of conspiracy, bribery, and wire fraud. In September 2023, Merritt pleaded guilty to the second indictment in which he was charged. In October 2023, the jury convicted Jafari of conspiracy, bribery, and wire fraud. 

            Merritt was sentenced to 110 months in prison for his central role in facilitating the separate conspiracies. For their respective roles, De Moya received a sentence of 30 months; Slater received a sentence of 27 months; and Jafari received a sentence of 24 months. Zhou, the first co-conspirator to cooperate with the government, was sentenced to five years of probation.  Each defendant also was ordered to pay restitution and forfeit their ill-gotten gains, where applicable. 

            The businesses that benefited from the scheme included the concert venue Echostage as well as downtown bars and nightclubs such as Eyebar (later renamed Eden), Ultrabar, L8 Lounge, Barcode, Café Asia, Umaya, Zeba Bar, and Muse Lounge.

            In addition to the probation and community service, Amirshahi was ordered to serve the first year of the sentence under home confinement except for employment, religious ceremony, treatment programs or medical appointments, or emergencies with notification to the probation office.

            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. He also credited the substantial assistance from the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of Integrity and Oversight. In addition, U.S. Attorney Graves expressed appreciation for the efforts of 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.


Updated April 19, 2024

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-341