A federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of New York returned an indictment yesterday, which was unsealed today, charging the owner of a wholesale food distributor with obstructing the internal revenue laws, aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns, and structuring currency transactions, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
According to the indictment, Jose Cerritos resided in Brentwood, New York, and owned La Centro American Corp. (La Centro), a wholesale food distributor in Bayshore that sold to retail customers in the New York metropolitan area. The indictment alleges that Cerritos caused the filing of false individual and corporate income tax returns for 2011 and 2012 that did not report all of his income or all of La Centro’s gross receipts. Cerritos allegedly did not deposit all of La Centro’s receipts into its business bank accounts and did not inform his tax return preparer of the cash receipts that were not deposited into the business bank accounts. The indictment further alleges that Cerritos attempted to structure La Centro’s cash receipts in amounts less than $10,000 on the same or consecutive days, to evade bank-reporting requirements, and that he did so in a pattern of illegal activity involving more than $100,000 within a 12-month period.
The indictment also charges that in 2012 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) seized funds from La Centro’s bank accounts due to the alleged structuring activity. According to the indictment, the United States then filed a civil action to forfeit the funds. Cerritos appeared as a claimant in the lawsuit. During the discovery phase of the litigation, he and the other claimants allegedly provided documents to the United States purporting to be sales reports for La Centro for 2011 and 2012, but which allegedly omitted millions of dollars of La Centro’s gross receipts.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. Individuals charged in indictments are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, Cerritos faces a statutory maximum sentence of three years in prison for each count of obstructing the internal revenue laws and aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns and ten years in prison for structuring. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg thanked special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorneys Sarah Ranney and Mark Kotila of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.
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