A Syrian-American restaurant owner named Jamal Roman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana has been sentenced to 53 months in prison on a variety of fraud, bribery and tax evasion charges. What is also buried in the press release from the FBI below, is the fact that he also sent $700,000 to Syria, in violation of US law…
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced today that Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A.Jackson sentenced JAMAL M. ROMAN, age 51, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to 53 months’ imprisonment, aterm of supervised release following imprisonment of two years, restitution to state and local governmentsin the amount of $726,476, and a fine of $20,000. The sentence stems from ROMAN’s conviction on one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery; seven counts of mail fraud; and three counts ofbribery involving a federally funded entity.
ROMAN was sentenced for his role in schemes involving sales tax fraud, bribery, and payroll tax fraud. With regard to sales tax fraud, ROMAN defrauded the State of Louisiana, East Baton Rouge Parish, and Ascension Parish out of approximately $670,000 in sales tax revenue by concealing approximately $7,000,000 in salesfrom May 2001 until March 2006. ROMAN did so by causing fraudulent monthly reports to be submitted concerning the sales at his restaurants, including Mis Padres Restaurant (formerly Papacito’s Restaurant) inPrairieville, Louisiana, and four restaurants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, including Roman’s Café on PerkinsRoad, Roman’s Mediterranean Restaurant on Airline Highway, Roman’s Lebanese Greek Market on Government Street, and Mis Padres Restaurant (formerly Papacito’s Restaurant) on Bluebonnet Boulevard (collectively referred to as “the Roman Restaurants”).
In furtherance of the sales tax conspiracy, ROMAN funded multiple bribes to officials with the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditing Office in connection with an audit of his restaurants. The first bribe was paid inMarch 2004 to City-Parish Auditor Jerome Shore for the purpose of reducing the audit assessment from$100,000 to approximately $40,000. The second bribe was paid in October and November 2004 to themanager of the Auditing Office who, unbeknownst to ROMAN and the conspirators, was cooperating with law enforcement authorities. The purpose of the bribe was to further reduce the audit assessment to$15,000. The third and final bribe was intended for the manager of the Auditing Office and funded by ROMAN in November 2004. The purpose of the bribe was to eliminate the assessment entirely.
Also, from 2000 until 2006, ROMAN knowingly failed to pay payroll taxes on approximately half of thewages paid to employees at the Roman Restaurants. Such wages were paid by cash and corporate checks. Aspart of the scheme, the defendant caused a payroll processing company to submit, via the U.S. Mail, false quarterly reports to the Louisiana Department of Labor which significantly under represented the numberof employees at the Roman Restaurants and the amount of wages paid to those employees.
This case is part of Operation Zenith, a long-running investigation into fraud and corruption in thecollection and payment of sales and payroll taxes. With regard to the sales tax fraud, Operation Zenithuncovered evidence that business owners and the president of an accounting firm had been under-reporting the sales from various businesses by over ten million dollars ($10,000,000) in order to avoid remitting sales tax to the state and local governments. In an attempt to conceal this massive scheme, thebusiness owners and the accountant paid bribes to officials within the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’sOffice and agreed to bribe an auditor with the Louisiana Department of Revenue. In addition, theconspiracy count to which ROMAN pled guilty outlines the funneling of $700,000 to Syria as part of theconspiracy.
The status of the other Operation Zenith defendants is as follows:
- Humam S. Al-Alousi: Convicted of one count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, one count ofbribery, and one count of making a false statement to the FBI. He was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, and $220,401 in restitution.
- Khoa Dinh Chau: Convicted of one count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud and one count ofbribery. He was sentenced to 37 months’ imprisonment, a $30,000 fine, and $98,695 in restitution.
- Mohamed H. Ruman: Convicted of two counts of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud. He wassentenced to four months’ imprisonment, four months in a half-way house, two years’ supervised release, and $56,000 in restitution.
- Rostom H. Laymon: Convicted of one count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, one count of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud, and three counts of bribery. Awaiting sentencing.
- Hassan S. Abousoayd: Convicted of four counts of bribery and one count of using an interstate facilityin aid of racketeering. He is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. on November 9, 2011.
- Jerome R. Shore: Convicted of one count of bribery. Awaiting sentencing.
Operation Zenith is the result of the combined efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Louisiana State Police Criminal Intelligence Unit. The investigation hasalso been greatly assisted by the cooperation of the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office. Other governmental agencies and entities also provided assistance, including the U.S. Department of HomelandSecurity, the Louisiana State University Police Department, the Louisiana Department of Labor, theLouisiana Department of Revenue, the Ascension Parish Sales and Use Tax Authority, the Internal RevenueService, and the Government of Lebanon.
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. stated, “Roman and his confederates conducted this scheme by bribing and attempting to bribe public officials to conceal millions of dollars in sales from hisrestaurants. His sentence is entirely appropriate when weighed against the magnitude of his crimes.”
According to FBI Special Agent in Charge David W. Welker, “The rule of law must apply to everyone doing business in the United States and the State of Louisiana. Today’s sentencing reflects the serious nature ofthe fraud and the need for businesses and individuals to comply with laws pertaining to the responsibilitiesof businessmen.”
This matter was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Corey R. Amundson, Alan A. Stevens, and Reginald Jones.