Federal Fugitive Sentenced After Eight Years On the Run
HOUSTON – A 58-year-old man who conspired to evade more than $3.3 million in federal fuel excise taxes has been ordered to federal prison after eight years on the run, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Special Agent in Charge Rick Goss of IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI) and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Brooks of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criminal enforcement program.
Yousef Ishaq Abuteir was originally charged with the conspiracy on July 9, 2007. He pleaded guilty April 14, 2008. He was also charged and convicted in state court on charges related to the same scheme. However, prior to sentencing in both cases, he fled the country. Authorities issued a federal arrest warrant in February 2009, followed by an Interpol Red Notice. In 2014, Abuteir was located in Israel and subsequently extradited to the United States.
Today, U.S. District Judge David Hittner ordered he serve 60 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $3,328,459 in restitution.
Abuteir is the sixth and final defendant to be sentenced on related fuel tax investigations. The original 2007 indictment charged Abuteir, Sidney Berle Baldon II and Tracy Dale Diamond with conspiring in a multi-million dollar fuel excise scheme executed in Texas and Louisiana between October 2001 and November 2003. The indictment alleged that the fuel excise tax scheme involved the acquisition of more than 13 million gallons of kerosene from Calcasieu Refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana, without paying federal excise taxes. The defendants were able to avoid paying the excise tax by falsely stating the fuel was for export, as opposed to for on-road use. The kerosene was then allegedly trucked to Houston, where it was blended with middle distillate oil, a by-product of asphalt production. The resulting blend was eventually sold to various retail gas stations in and around the Houston area, where it was sold to consumers as diesel fuel. The retail stations collected the federal diesel fuel excise tax from their customers at the filling pump.
“The defendant and his cohorts lined their pockets and scammed the American tax payers out of millions of dollars,” said Goss. “Today, justice is served and this defendant is finally going to prison.”
Baldon and Diamond subsequently pleaded guilty and, in 2009, were sentenced to 60 months in prison and 12 months and one day in prison, respectively. Additionally, they were also ordered to pay more than $3 million in restitution to the IRS.
In a related investigation, Assad Boulos, Talaat Boulos and Youssef Georges were charged in 2011 with a similar fuel excise tax scheme involving Calcasieu Refinery. The charging instrument alleged they and others obtained tax-free kerosene from Calcasieu during 2004 by falsely claiming the fuel would be used only for agricultural and other off-road uses. Instead, the kerosene was trucked to Houston, blended with other agents and sold at stations controlled by Assad Boulos and Talaat Boulos as diesel fuel. The stations allegedly involved in the fraud included Normandy Truck Stop, Cobra Shell, Channelview Conoco and Wayside Conoco. In 2013, Assad Boulos, Talaat Boulos and Youssef Georges pleaded guilty and received probationary sentences. Assad Boulos and Talaat Boulos were ordered to pay $650,000 in restitution to the IRS.
In 2010, Abuteir had been added to the EPA’s Most Wanted List. His capture in Israel was the result of collaborative efforts on the part of the IRS-CI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Transportation, EPA, U.S. Marshals Service, Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the State of Texas Comptroller’s Agency.
“This case shows that EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to making sure that fugitives who break our environmental laws are brought to justice,” said Brooks. “The defendant’s actions jeopardized public health and the environment, and this sentence sends a strong message that those who fail to follow our clean air laws will be held accountable.”
IRS-CI and the EPA conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Magliolo prosecuted the case.