Today’s news:

LIC car dealer stole $1.2M in sales tax: DA

A Long Island City car dealer has been arrested after allegedly bilking the state out of more than $1.2 million in sales tax, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Michael Silverstein, 54, of Alpine, N.J., is the owner and president of Crest Auto Leasing and Metro Auto Leasing at 42-06, 42-08 and 42-10 27th St. in Long Island City.

Silverstein appeared in Queens Criminal Court Friday on charges including possession of stolen property, grand larceny, violation of tax law, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison, the DA said. His next court date is March 30.

“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. “This is the type of crime that makes every New Yorker a victim by cheating the government and the public out of money that is especially needed during this continuing economic downturn.”

Silverstein allegedly collected more than $1.2 million in sales tax from customers between Sept. 1, 1999, and Feb. 28, 2005, but did not forward it to the state Department of Taxation and Finance, the DA said.

Silverstein allegedly reported at least 13 sales as tax-exempt wholesale transactions that were actually retail sales, Brown said.

He is also accused of falsifying the vehicle identification numbers in his companies’ books of registry.

Investigators found that 55 of the 59 vehicles allegedly bought and sold by Silverstein between Oct. 11 and Dec. 18, 2008, had VINs that did not conform to any existing cars. The alleged owners of the other four vehicles said they had not received the vehicles or done business with Silverstein’s company, the DA said.

“Sales taxes collected by businesses and remitted to New York state help fund critical public services such as health care, education and transportation,” state Taxation and Finance Commissioner Jamie Woodward said in a statement. “When a business steals these taxes, all New Yorkers carry an extra burden to make up the difference.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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