Former Benefit Plan Administrator Admits to Tax Evasion and Kickback Scheme

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NEWARK, NJ — A former benefit plan administrator admitted engaging in multiple years of tax evasion and a kickback scheme related to his role as administrator of two union related employee benefit plans, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Jose Santa Maria, aka “Joe”, 64, North Haledon, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference on July 14, 2022, before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to a six-count information charging him with five counts of tax evasion and one count of paying kickbacks related to an employee benefit plan.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Santa Maria was the plan administrator for a health fund and a training fund, both related to a labor union. At the same time, he was also employed by an attorney, who was serving as counsel for the two union funds. From at least 2013 through 2019, Santa Maria misappropriated in excess of $750,000 in benefit plan funds and then failed to report any of it to the IRS or pay the associated income taxes. Santa Maria also paid at least $50,000 to the attorney to influence that attorney’s actions with the executive board for the benefit plans.

The five counts of tax evasion each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. The count of paying kickbacks related to an employee benefit plan, carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 15, 2022.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited investigators of the Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), under the direction of Regional Director of the New York Regional Office Thomas Licetti; special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Tammy Tomlins; and special agents of  the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, under the direction of John Gay, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.

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The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel V. Grady O’Malley and  Assistant U.S. Attorney Kendall Randolph of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel is Steven D. Altman Esq., New Brunswick, New Jersey.

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