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Former Whitestone man gets 6 months in fraud plea

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After pleading guilty to charges of tax, mortgage and credit card fraud in 2008, a former Whitestone resident was sentenced in Queens Supreme Court Friday to six months in jail and forced to pay $350,000 in restitution to two banks and $65,000 in penalties to the state Department of Taxation and Finance.

After following a labyrinth of financial documents, the Queens district attorney’s office, Department of Taxation and Finance and Secret Service found Rafael Vascones, 54, now of Cranbury, Texas, defrauded Washington Mutual, P.C. Richard & Son and the Department of Taxation of more than $400,000 with the use of a false driver’s license and Social Security card, the DA said.

In addition to using a false ID, Queens DA Richard Brown said Vascones used a variety of other tactics to cheat these three organizations in three unrelated crimes by creating shell corporations, forging documents, faking employment and evading taxes.

Vascones, who formerly lived at 13-07 141st St. in Whitestone, entered his guilty plea before Justice Michael D. Aloise, who sentenced him last Thursday to five year’s probation in addition to serving time and seized his passport.

Under the name “Orlando Guerini,” the false identity Vascones obtained in 1996, he owned two Queens-based companies — Integrated Business Communications Inc. and NA Networking Group Inc. — the DA said. For four consecutive years, starting in 1999, Vascones failed to file state business tax returns for Integrated Business Communications, the DA said. In 2004, he filed false tax returns for NA Networking, according to Brown.

Vascones also committed credit card fraud at a P.C. Richard store at 35-18 Steinway St. in Astoria in 2004, Brown said.

In addition, Vascones pleaded guilty to being the architect of an elaborate mortgage fraud scheme involving a Whitestone property at 13-07 141st St., which he purchased with a $360,000 mortgage from Greenpoint Mortgage in 1999 under the name Guerini, Brown said.

Ten months after the purchase of the Queens property, Vascones transferred ownership to his brother-in-law, Celso Mora, without notifying the mortgage company, according to court reports.

In 2005, Vascones attempted to refinance the loan in Mora’s name with Washington Mutual Bank, increasing the amount of the mortgage to $850,000, in hopes of receiving a large cash payout from the bank, the DA said. To qualify for the loan, Vascones provided false information that Mora’s income was $80,000 a year, according to Brown, when in fact Mora worked as a doorman at an apartment building in Forest Hills and earned $20,000 a year.

After Washington Mutual approved the loan, Mora received a check for $330,000, which he later turned over to Vascones, the DA said.

Mora was charged with falsifying business records in 2007. He pleaded guilty to charges and was sentenced to five years probation in January, the DA said.

“These criminals force ordinary citizens to shoulder a greater share of the tax burden by denying the state legitimate revenue that supports schools, health care and transportation services,” said Department of Taxation Commissioner Jamie Woodward.

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