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B’side pizzeria owner stole taxpayer $$: DA

The site of a former Bayside Papa John's was just one of six locations where Syed Mehboob allegedly pocketed taxpayer money, District Attorney Richard Brown said. Photo by Joe Anuta
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This piece of the pie was off limits.

The owner of several Papa John’s restaurants in Queens was charged with bilking the government out of more than $200,000 in taxpayer money, District Attorney Richard Brown said last week.

Syed Mehboob allegedly under-reported $4 million in profits that his six franchises in five Queens neighborhoods — Astoria, Corona, Woodside, Bayside and Sunnyside — raked in between March 2005 and November 2010, allowing the Long Islander to keep both the off-the-books dough and $217,000 in sales tax for himself, the DA said.

“When consumers pay sales taxes, they expect those funds to go into the public treasury — not into the business owner’s pockets,” Brown said in a statement. “New York state depends on the collection of taxes to operate its government. Criminal activity that cheats the government and the public will not be tolerated and will be vigorously prosecuted.”

Mehboob was arrested Aug. 7 and later delivered to Queens Criminal Court, where Judge Joel Blumenfeld arraigned the pizza pie peddler on charges, including falsifying tax returns and business records, theft and possession of stolen property, the DA said.

If convicted, Mehboob faces up to 15 years behind bars, although the six corporations he used to operate the slice shops were also charged, the DA said.

The business entities could each be forced to cough up a maximum of $10,000 in fines, but that amount could mushroom to double the suspected illegal gain, Brown said.

The state Department of Taxation and Finance uncovered the alleged recipe for graft after performing an audit on the pizza shops.

“I commend District Attorney Brown for his ongoing diligence in rooting out tax fraud,” Thomas Mattox, commissioner of the department, said in a statement. “Crimes such as the ones alleged here — stealing the public’s money — can’t be tolerated, especially since the overwhelming number of businesses voluntarily remit the sales tax they collect and do so consistently and accurately.”

Mehboob is also active in local politics. He donated a total of $750 to City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) throughout 2010 and 2011, campaign finance records show. Vallone is running for borough president.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 4:20 am, August 15, 2013
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