United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced today that Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced the final two defendants in Operation Zenith, a long running investigation into fraud and corruption involving the payment and collection of sales and payroll taxes. The Operation resulted in the convictions of five prominent businessmen, the president of an accounting firm, and a government auditor.
ROSTOM H. LAYMON, age 53, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was sentenced to 33 months’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment of two years, restitution to state and local governments in the amount of $140,000, and a fine of $70,000. The sentence stems from LAYMON’s pleas of guilty to two counts of mail fraud and three counts of bribery based on criminal activity involving his restaurants, including Arzi’s Express in the Mall of Louisiana, Cajun Café in the Mall of Louisiana, and Arzi’s Restaurant on Government Street. Because of LAYMON’s cooperation with the government and acceptance of responsibility, his sentence was significantly reduced from what it would have otherwise been.
LAYMON’s criminal activity included (1) defrauding his customers and state and local governments as part of a sales tax scheme in which the sales from his restaurants were fraudulently under-reported by millions of dollars, resulting in $140,000 in losses to state and local governments; (2) paying multiple bribes to individuals he believed to be officials with the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office in connection with sales tax audits, including offers of prostitutes and foreign travel; and (3) defrauding the State of Louisiana of payroll tax revenue by fraudulently under-reporting the amount of wages paid and individuals employed by approximately fifty-percent, including the concealment of numerous illegal aliens employed in his restaurants.
JEROME R. SHORE, age 57, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was sentenced to two years’ probation, four months in a half-way house, and restitution to East Baton Rouge Parish in the amount of $60,000. The sentence stems from SHORE’s plea of guilty to bribery. While an auditor with the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office, SHORE took a bribe in connection with an audit of certain restaurants owned by Jamal Roman. As a result of the bribe, SHORE assessed Roman $60,000 less than he should have. SHORE faced a significant sentence, but his extensive cooperation with the government and his acceptance of responsibility resulted in a substantial lessening of his sentence.
Today’s sentences are part of Operation Zenith, which uncovered evidence that business owners and the president of an accounting firm had been under-reporting the sales from various businesses by over ten million dollars ($10,000,000) in order to avoid remitting sales tax to the state and local governments. In an attempt to conceal this massive scheme, the business owners and the accountant paid bribes to officials within the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office and agreed to bribe an auditor with the Louisiana Department of Revenue. The Operation also uncovered systemic defrauding of the State of Louisiana through the fraudulent underpayment of payroll taxes.
The status of the five other Operation Zenith defendants is as follows:
■Humam S. Al-Alousi: Convicted of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, bribery involving a federally-funded entity, and making a false statement to the FBI. He was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment, two years’ supervised release, a $100,000 fine, and $220,401 in restitution.
■Jamal M. Roman: Convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery, mail fraud, and bribery involving a federally-funded entity. He was sentenced to 53 months’ imprisonment, two years’ supervised release, a $20,000 fine, and $726,476 in restitution.
■Khoa Dinh Chau: Convicted of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud and bribery. He was sentenced to 37 months’ imprisonment, two years’ supervised release, a $30,000 fine, and $98,695 in restitution.
■Mohamed H. Ruman: Convicted of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud. He was sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment, 4 months in a half-way house, two years’ supervised release, and $56,000 in restitution.
■Hassan S. Abousoayd: Convicted of bribery and using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. He was sentenced to three years’ probation, 8 months home detention, a $20,000 fine, and $134,000 in restitution. He received a substantially reduced sentence based on his extensive cooperation with the government, including participation in covert operations, and acceptance of responsibility.
Operation Zenith is the result of the combined efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Louisiana State Police Criminal Intelligence Unit. The investigation has also been assisted by the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Louisiana State University Police Department, the Louisiana Department of Labor, the Louisiana Department of Revenue, the Ascension Parish Sales and Use Tax Authority, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Government of Lebanon.
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. stated, “Operation Zenith demonstrates the willingness of this office and our law enforcement partners to commit the resources necessary to root out fraud and corruption wherever found. Fraudsters who seek to undermine the fiscal and moral integrity of our local governments will continue to be dealt with aggressively.”
FBI Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Todd B. Cox, stated, “Today’s sentencings in this matter reflect the commitment of the FBI and our law enforcement partners to follow fraud and corruption when anyone chooses to disobey the laws and play by their own rules.”
Operation Zenith was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Corey R. Amundson, who serves as the Senior Deputy Criminal Chief, Alan A. Stevens, and Reginald Jones.