– Attorney General Anne Milgram and
Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni
announced that a Jersey City man was sentenced
to prison today for his role in a conspiracy
involving his business partner and members
of the partner’s family in which they
stole $573,383 from the state by filing fraudulent
applications for 745 Homestead Rebate checks.
According to Director Gramiccioni,
Paul Sarris, 52, of Jersey City, was sentenced
to 8 ½ years in state prison by Superior
Court Judge Darlene J. Pereksta in Mercer
County. Sarris pleaded guilty on March 31
to a second-degree charge of theft by deception.
He also was ordered to pay restitution of
$282,902, representing his share of the amount
stolen from the state plus a penalty and interest.
In pleading guilty, Sarris
admitted that he conspired with his business
partner, Achilles “Butz” Amante,
57, formerly of Jersey City, in a fraudulent
scheme in which they filed 745 false Homestead
Rebate applications with the State of New
Jersey between August 2001 and September 2003,
including multiple applications for each of
15 residential and commercial addresses they
rented in Jersey City.
Deputy Attorney General Denise
Grugan is prosecuting the case and represented
the Division of Criminal Justice at the sentencing.
The investigation was conducted by Auditors
Kevin Curry and Debra Lewaine of the Division
of Taxation - Office of Criminal Investigation.
The state’s investigation
revealed that the defendants filed the applications
using names and Social Security numbers obtained
from tax preparation clients, without permission
of the clients. The defendants laundered the
$573,383 in stolen funds by depositing the
rebate checks in various commercial bank accounts
maintained for their businesses. Sarris specifically
admitted that he deposited 371 checks totaling
more than $282,000 into six bank accounts
he maintained and controlled on behalf of
his business, Sarris Financial Services.
are pending against Butz Amante, who is a
fugitive. An arrest warrant has been issued
Three of Amante’s children
and his sister, all of Jersey City, previously
pleaded guilty and were sentenced last year
for participating in the scheme.
A. Amante, 35, and Aloysius M. Amante, 33,
were each sentenced to five years in state
prison after pleading guilty to theft by deception.
Amorito Amante was ordered to pay $80,173
in restitution, while Aloysius Amante was
ordered to pay $40,794 in restitution.
Aristides Amante, 29, also
pleaded guilty to theft by deception, and
was ordered to serve five years probation,
conditioned on serving 30 days in the sheriff’s
labor program. He was ordered to pay $78,000
in restitution. Matilda Amante Ramos, 58,
pleaded guilty to theft by deception and was
ordered to serve five years probation and
pay $35,851 in restitution.
Matilda Amante Ramos ran a travel agency,
while all of the other defendants operated
their own financial service companies offering
tax preparation services.
Attorney General Milgram credited
the Jersey City Police Department with initiating
the investigation after receiving a tip that
numerous Homestead Rebate checks addressed
to different names were sent to a Jersey City
address rented by Sarris and Butz Amante.
They referred the case to the New Jersey Division
of Taxation - Office of Criminal Investigation,
which conducted an audit that identified hundreds
of fraudulent rebate applications linked to
the defendants. The Division of Taxation brought
the Division of Criminal Justice into the