Former D.C. Tax Official Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes to Erase Millions in Tax Liability
WASHINGTON—A former official of the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) pled guilty today for participating in corruption schemes in which he accepted at least $75,000 in exchange for fraudulently erasing tax liability, inflicting more than $3 million in losses upon the District of Columbia.
The announcement was made by Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin, Special Agent in Charge James A. Dawson of FBI’s Washington Field Office, District of Columbia Inspector General Daniel W. Lucas, and District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt.
Vincent Slater, 42, of Temple Hills, MD, pled guilty before the Honorable Reggie B. Walton in the District Court for the District of Columbia. The charge of bribery carries a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Slater faces a possible range of 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
The investigation into Slater’s schemes—which, to date, has resulted in the guilty pleas of two taxpayers and the indictment of two taxpayers and another former District of Columbia government employee—began in 2017 when internal auditors from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer noticed suspicious adjustments to certain taxpayers’ accounts.
In announcing Slater’s guilty plea, Acting U.S. Attorney Sherwin stated, “Corruption at any level of government should not be tolerated. Our Office is committed to holding accountable officials who abuse the public trust to line their pockets with taxpayer dollars. We will vigorously pursue corruption at all levels of government, and especially corruption targeted at the citizens of the District of Columbia.”
According to the statement of offense, between 2012 and 2017, Slater brokered bribery agreements with various bar and nightclub owners—including Davoud Jafari, 69, of Washington, D.C., and Andre De Moya, 47, Arman Amirshahi, 49, and Charles Zhou, 47, of Maryland—through a former employee of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Anthony Merritt, 45, of Washington, D.C. Slater then used his position as a manager in OTR’s Adjustment Unit to fraudulently eliminate or reduce the tax liabilities of their businesses, or otherwise act to fraudulently benefit bribe-paying taxpayers.
As part of his guilty plea, Slater admitted to causing a total loss of more than $3 million to the District. Slater explained that typically, he and Merritt agreed to solicit bribe payments equaling approximately half of the amount the taxpayer sought to evade paying, and then to split the bribe proceeds amongst themselves. Slater further admitted that $75,000 in cash deposits he made into his bank accounts during the scheme were bribe proceeds.
Taxpayers Amirshahi and Zhou previously pled guilty for their roles in the bribery schemes and are awaiting sentencing. De Moya, Jafari, and Merritt were indicted by a grand jury in the District of Columbia in 2019 and their cases have not yet been set for trial.
Slater’s plea marked the second time in two weeks that former D.C. tax officials have pled guilty to bribery. On June 12, 2020, Bobby Tucker, 64, of Virginia, former Chief of Collections at OTR, pled guilty to a federal bribery charge stemming from a scheme in which, after departing his OTR position to pursue private business opportunities, he paid bribes to an OTR official in order to reduce the tax liabilities of a business he consulted and to take other actions to benefit Tucker’s business interests. Tucker admitted that he agreed to pay an OTR official, who was working as a confidential source, to obtain referrals of city taxpayers with outstanding tax liabilities. Tucker would then attempt to broker a bribery agreement whereby he would be paid by a business owner to facilitate a bribe to the OTR official to fraudulently reduce or eliminate tax liabilities. The Honorable Beryl A. Howell scheduled Tucker’s sentencing for September 11, 2020.
These cases are being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the District of Columbia Officer of the Inspector General, with substantial assistance by the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of Integrity and Oversight. Assistant United States Attorneys Emily Miller and Molly Gaston of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section are prosecuting the Slater case on other individuals involved in his corruption scheme, and Assistant United States Attorney Peter Lallas, also of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section, is prosecuting the Tucker case.