YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A crew of unlicensed New Jersey auto dealers have agreed to payments that will settle charges of using a cancer charity’s tax-exempt status to buy millions of dollars’ worth of luxury cars without paying sales tax before exporting the vehicles throughout the world.
The state this week received $25,000 in certified checks from the defendants, toward a total required payment of $65,000, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs said in a joint announcement this morning.
The defendants have also agreed to pay $18,000 to the NYU Langone Medical Center – a requirement demanded by state officials who noted that the charity’s stated mission is to “supply needed funds to families or individuals battling cancer.”
“What is particularly galling is that … [they] claimed to be raising money for cancer patients,” Chiesa said.
In its lawsuit, the state Division of Law — on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs — alleged that Patrick J. Caffrey of Keansburg, president of Matawan-based Tri County Charity Center, conspired with Carl F. Monto and his wife, Denise, of Beachwood, and with I Buy Cars For You, LLC, to purchase cars in the name of the charity.
Using false identities and fraudulent driver’s licenses, Carl Monto bought 71 luxury and other motor vehicles worth more than $2.3 million on behalf of Tri County, misusing the charity’s 501(c)(3) status to evade paying sales tax, with Caffrey’s knowledge and approval, the suit says.
In exchange, it says, Caffrey donated a mere $100 per vehicle to Tri County.
Next thing anyone knew, the cars were being exported to Canada, China, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, South Korea, Sweden and elsewhere, the lawsuit says.
The Montos operated I Buy Cars For You out of their home, state officials said.
In turn, the state lawsuit accuses Caffrey, the Montos, Tri County, and I Buy Cars For You with violations of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, Charities Registration and Investigation Act, and Charities Regulations.
“Government provides legitimate charities with tax-exempt status as a way to help them perform the good works that are the purpose for the charity’s existence, not as a loophole for those who wish to help themselves to a profit at the government’s expense,” Eric T. Kanefsky, acting DCA director.
Besides payments made by certified check, along with a $3,000 donation to NYU Langone Medical Center, Caffrey agreed to provide proof that Tri County Charity Center has been fully dissolved as a charitable organization. He also agreed never to hold a leadership role in a New Jersey-based charity.
Denise Monto paid $5,000. An additional $5,000 penalty was suspended but could be reinstated if she pulls anything similar in the next year.
Carl Monto took the biggest hit: After paying the state $2,500 upfront, he must fork over $40,000 in installments. Of that, the state will give NYU Langone a $15,000 donation. An additional $60,000 penalty was been suspended.
On top of that, the defendants paid $7,500 to the state from the assets of I Buy Cars For You before dissolving the company — for which the Montos are required to provide proof.
Under the settlement, they also can never buy another vehicle using the tax exemption certificate of any charitable organization; can never act as motor vehicle dealers without being granted the appropriate license from the State Motor Vehicle Commission; and can never to serve in a leadership position in a charity operating or soliciting in New Jersey.
They also agreed that, should they go personally bankrupt, they won’t object to the State’s petition to have any pending and suspended penalties deemed non-dischargeable.
Chiesa thanked New Jersey’s DMV for uncovering the fraud, as well as for its “important assistance” in the investigation.
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