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Family arrested in tax record fraud scheme

A Forest Hills accountant, members of her family and a Manhattan fashion model have been charged with preparing false state tax returns in an attempt to bilk the state out of $1.1 million in refunds by falsely claiming they had earned high salaries, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and acting state Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Jamie Woodward said this week.

Diana Rabin, 28; her mother, Lyidmila Levy, 55; and her sister, Alisa Derabin, 27, all of Forest Hills, were arraigned Friday before Queens Criminal Court Judge Gene Lopez on charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, conspiracy, forgery, scheme to defraud and criminal tax fraud, the DA said.

Fashion model Nyemah Johnson and architect Merced Baumer, 30, both Manhattan residents and co-owners of Illuminatah Nyemah, which sells hand-stitched stylized journals, were also arraigned Friday on the same charges, according to Brown.

Rabin allegedly attempted to collect more than $1.1 million in state tax refunds between March 2008 and June 2010 for herself and the four other defendants whose returns she had prepared and who stole more than $275,000 before the state Tax Department discovered the fraud, according to Brown.

“In this case, by purposefully defrauding New York government of such a significant sum of revenue, money that could have been used for any number of valuable public purposes, the defendants are alleged to have made every New Yorker a victim,” Brown said. “Criminal activity that cheats the government and the public cannot be tolerated.”

Bail was set at $100,000 for Rabin; $75,000 for Derabin; and $50,000 each for Levy, Baumer and Johnson. If convicted, the individuals could face up to 15 years in prison, the DA said.

The Forest Hills accountant is accused of claiming she and the others had earned “exorbitant” amounts of fictitious income from employers, the DA said. For example, it is alleged that Rabin and her mother listed employers on their returns who had previously fired them, Baumer and Johnson listed employers for whom they had never worked and that Derabin exaggerated the per diem wages she earned as a nurse from a home care agency, the DA said.

During a Tax Department audit of the defendants’ tax returns, all but Baumer filed forged memoranda that purported to have been issued by their employers, according to Brown. In one instance, Levy allegedly filed a 2009 state personal income tax return that stated she had received $321,686 in wages and that the city Health and Hospitals Corp. had withheld $306,493 in federal, state and local income taxes. Levy had been terminated by HHC in 2003, according to Brown.

As a result of these alleged false statements, Levy claimed a tax refund of $196,256 even though she was only entitled to a tax refund of about $4,324, the DA said.

The five individuals allegedly claimed a total of about $2.6 million in fictitious wages for the tax years 2007, 2008 and 2009 and tax refunds of a little more than $1.1 million when they were entitled to a little more than $13,000 in tax refunds, according to Brown.

The investigation was conducted by the state Department of Taxation and Finance.

“These arrests demonstrate how the staff in the Tax Department who work every day to fight fraud and to prevent the payment of refunds to those who seek to cheat the system,” Woodward said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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