A Jersey Shore man was sent to federal prison for 19 months for dodging nearly $1 million in taxes at his Manhattan construction company.
Bilal Salaj, 55, of the Morganville section of Marlboro, will have to serve out nearly the entire term because there’s no parole in the federal prison system.
Salaj admitted in U.S. District Court in Manhattan last October that he avoided the payroll and personal income taxes for five years, in part, by putting the company in an associate’s name and paying workers under the table.
The cash came from $3.2 million in business checks that should’ve gone into the company account but instead were converted by the associate at check-cashing businesses in Manhattan, said Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The men “used a portion of the proceeds from the cashed checks to pay cash wages to employees of the construction business, and spent most of the rest on personal expenses,” Strauss said.
All told, Salaj stiffed the government out of $952,778, she said.
Salaj must cover that debt as part of his guilty plea to defrauding the IRS, tax evasion and failing to pay over payroll taxes. U.S. District Court Kevin Judge Castel also ordered three years of supervised release.
Strauss praised the “outstanding work” of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation in the case, which was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Olga I. Zverovich of her Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.
“Our self-assessment system of tax reporting is not synonymous with ‘forthrightness optional,” Strauss noted.
“In the competitive small business world, being dishonest and underreporting tax obligations might be tempting,” she added. “But Salaj’s sentence is a reminder that tax fraud is a serious federal crime and not worth the risk.”
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