Fraud cheques issued under Indian American CEO headed DC Tax office

November 20th, 2007 - 5:57 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Nov 20 (ANI): The District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue issued 15 property tax refund cheques worth 2.46 million dollars without the required court order during Indian American Natwar M Gandhis tenure as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), a Washington Post analysis has revealed.
According to the daily, in mid-2000, a refund cheque of 223,000 dollars was given to a fictitious business listed as Ninja Jo Associates.

Accountants at Nina Jo Associates, an actual partnership that owns a commercial high-rise on K Street, however, denied receiving the cheque.

Five similar cheques were issued to companies that don’t exist.

The analysis further reveals that refund cheques were issued from October 1999, the oldest records available, through June 2000, when Gandhi was promoted from director of the tax office to the chief financial officer of the city.

The amounts of the cheques range from 50,000 dollars to over 350,000 dollars.

It’s almost impossible to believe this happened, the daily quoted Rory Dechowitz, comptroller for Tower Cos., a group that manages the Nina Jo Associates property, as saying.

We didn’t get this cheque, said Dechowitz, adding, And if we were expecting 200,000, dollars we’d be calling the District every day to get it.

Soon after the federal authorities filed charges November on 7, Gandhi demanded the resignations of the tax office’s director and three other managers.

Two tax office employees and four other people have been arrested on charges stemming from the alleged theft of more than 20 million dollars in property tax refunds. The two women — Harriette Walters, a mid-level manager, and Diane Gustus, a specialist — worked for the tax office while Gandhi headed it, the daily reported.

According to the law enforcement sources, the alleged fraud might wind up costing taxpayers over 30 million dollars.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who gave Gandhi a vote of confidence at a news conference last week, still continues to support him. Fenty and others have credited Gandhi with restoring the city’s financial credibility after a crisis in the 1990s

“Based on the recent briefings the mayor has received, he believes that Gandhis overall record justifies his view that it is in the best interest of the District of Columbia for him to remain as CFO,” said Fenty’s spokeswoman, Carrie Brooks.

The largest of the cheques was for 363,382 dollars in March 2000 to Quadrangle Development, a large commercial property owner and downtown developer.

But, attorneys for Quadrangle said that they could not find any records showing that their client received such a cheque or even won a tax appeal in that time frame.

Representatives from four companies with similar names and agents said they too could not find any record of receiving such cheques.

Several similar incidents took place during Gandhis tenure at DC Tax office.

On February 17, 2000, the tax office approved three refund cheques worth 296,500 dollars with none of them matching a list of court-ordered payments related to assessment appeals. (ANI)

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