Kenner Check Cashers and their Four Businesses Indicted on Money Laundering and Tax Charges
Two residents of Kenner, Louisiana, and four businesses were indicted yesterday for conspiracy to commit money laundering, announced United States Attorney Kenneth A. Polite and Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. According to the Indictment, the defendants conspired to launder money for others by cashing fraudulently obtained tax refund checks, filing misleading reports with government agencies regarding these transactions, and comingling the proceeds with their business activities, including by purchasing real estate in other businesses’ names.
The Indictment charges SUSANTHA WIJETUNGE, a/k/a VJ, age 51; MANULA WIJETUNGE, a/k/a Manu, age 47; VJ DISCOUNT, INC.; VJ AND MANU PROPERTIES, LLC; VJ AND MANU PROPERTIES, II, LLC; and VJ AND MANU PROPERTIES, III, LLC with conspiracy to commit money laundering. SUSANTHA WIJETUNGE, MANULA WIJETUNGE, and VJ DISCOUNT, INC. were further charged with filing materially false Currency Transaction Reports (“CTRs”), failing to file CTRs, and failure to file Foreign Bank Account Reports (“FBARs”). In addition, SUSANTHA WIJETUNGE and MANULA WIJETUNGE were charged with criminal tax offenses related to their individual federal income tax returns and VJ DISCOUNT, INC.’s corporate tax return.
According to the allegations in the Indictment, defendants SUSANTHA WIJETUNGE and MANULA WIJETUNGE owned VJ DISCOUNT, INC., a Louisiana corporation that operated a convenience store and check cashing business in Kenner. As part of their business, the defendants were required to maintain an Anti-Money Laundering Program and to file CTRs for any transaction or set of transactions by or on behalf of a single individual that resulted in either cash in or cash out totaling more than $10,000 during any one business day. According to the Indictment, SUSANTHA WIJETUNGE, MANULA WIJETUNGE, and VJ DISCOUNT, INC. cashed fraudulently obtained tax refund checks for multiple individuals, for which they charged an inflated check cashing fee. As alleged in the Indictment, the defendants concealed their cashing of fraudulently obtained tax refund checks by filing materially false CTRs and by failing to file CTRs as required by law.
If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum term of twenty years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy charge; a statutory maximum term of ten years in prison for each count of failure to file CTRs, filing false CTRs, and failure to file FBARs; and a statutory maximum term of three years of imprisonment for each count of filing a false tax return. They also face fines, forfeiture, and restitution if convicted.
U.S. Attorney Polite and Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo reiterated that the Indictment is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
U. S. Attorney Polite and Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo commended special agents of Homeland Security Investigation and IRS-Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, and Trial Attorneys Hayden Brockett, Michael Hatzimichalis, and Karen Quesnel of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Haller, who are prosecuting the case.