Today’s news:

Woodside painter admits tax evasion

A Woodside painter who tried to sidestep federal tax laws pleaded guilty to tax evasion last week in White Plains federal court.

Toma Tsen, 65, owned and ran Toma Painting, a company that worked in Westchester County, Manhattan and New Jersey, federal prosecutors said. Between 1996 and 1998, Tsen cashed more than $1 million in customers’ checks at check-cashing stores instead of depositing them in banks in an attempt to avoid putting the income on his books, they said.

During that time, Tsen did not tell his accountant and tax preparer about those checks, prosecutors said.

The amounts varied significantly. In 1996, Tsen did not report $41,354 in income; in 1997 it was $518,266; and in 1998 it was $460,681, resulting in more than $390,000 in unpaid taxes. By contrast, in 1998, he reported all of $29,901 in taxable income, prosecutors said.

Tsen left the country while he was being investigated for the tax fraud. He was taken into custody at John F. Kennedy International Airport Nov. 24, when he stepped off a flight from Taiwan.

He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the single tax evasion count when he next appears in court March 10. He also faces a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain from the crime.

The technique of running income through check-cashing stores appears to be somewhat common. The state Department of Taxation and Finance announced Dec. 8 that a Manhattan businessman, Steven Chang, pleaded guilty to under-reporting more than $1.3 million in income between 2006 and 2008 from his architecture and interior design business using the same technique as Tsen.

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