Car dealer tax scam stopped in its tracks

A year-long investigation brought the wheeling and dealing of a criminal couple’s auto shop scheme to a screeching halt.

Hooshmand “Danny” Kohanano, 54, and his wife, Fereshteh “Jenny” Kohanano, 41, were charged with $730,000 worth of sales tax fraud in connection with their operation of the Auto Palace, Inc., a used car dealership at 53-21 Northern Boulevard in Woodside.

A Queens County grand jury also returned an indictment charging the dealership’s former finance manager, Julio Estrada, 37 — aka Jay Torres — with defrauding 23 car buyers out of a total of more than $115,000 in cash through a sham refinancing scheme.

“The defendants are accused of serious tax fraud allegations and other charges that, if proven true, could result in considerable time behind bars,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “Tax fraud 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.”

According to the criminal complaint, between September 1, 2006, and November 30, 2009, the Hooshmands and Auto Palace, Inc. allegedly swiped more than $728,844 in state and local sales taxes collected from buyers but not handed over to the State Department of Taxation and Finance as authorized.

The defendants are presently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on a criminal complaint charging each of them with three counts of second degree grand larceny, one count of second-degree criminal tax fraud, one count of third-degree grand larceny, 26 counts of first-degree falsifying business records, 26 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument, one count of first-degree scheme to defraud and one count of second-degree scheme to defraud.

If convicted, the defendants could face a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and possibly a fine of up to $10,000 or double the amount of the illegal gain.

As Auto Palace Inc.’s financial manager, Estrada was responsible for finalizing purchases. The Queens DA alleged that Estrada enticed buyers by promising them they could refinance their loans at a better rate after six months of on-time payments. When buyers returned after six months, Estrada instructed them to pay a cash fee ranging from $1,000 to $13,000 in order to refinance their loan.

The Queens DA also alleged that Estrada falsely used several corporate identities, including RoadMasters Auto Sales and P+G Enterprises, and occasionally misrepresented himself as a bank employee to give the appearance that he was able to refinance a car loan.

It is further alleged that Estrada took a total of more than $115,000 in cash from 23 car buyers whose loans he failed to refinance. In some cases, victim’s loans went into default because Estrada had allegedly instructed them to stop paying their loans because the refinanced loans would be going into effect.

Estrada is presently awaiting arraignment in Queens Supreme Court on a 95-count indictment charging him with multiple counts of grand larceny, forgery, criminal possession of stolen property and identity theft, among other misdeeds.

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