Illinois AG, Revenue Dept. Bust Gas Tax Evaders

Enforcement effort recovers $12.7 million for state
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the state Department of Revenue have announced a sales tax fraud investigation that has resulted in the recovery of $12.7 million in unpaid gasoline sales taxes and the indictment of six gas station owners and operators for tax evasion.

The indictments, obtained last week in Cook, Peoria and Tazewell counties are the first issued in an ongoing probe of businesses that are evading the payment of the taxes that they owe to the state of Illinois, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in state revenue. Madigan's [image-nocss] office and the Revenue Department expect to seek charges against additional violators in the coming months.

"The indictments announced today, and our ongoing investigation, send a strong message to gas station owners: if you defraud the people of Illinois by not paying sales tax, you will be aggressively prosecuted," said Madigan. "In these very challenging economic times, we are committed to holding gas station owners accountable."

John Chambers, chief of Criminal Investigation for the Revenue Department, said, "Our main objective is to obtain voluntary compliance but we will not back away from aggressive criminal enforcement if it is warranted. Honest taxpayers and business owners must know the state will pursue tax cheats."

Charged in the initial wave of indictments are: Muzaffar Jameel, 47, Harwood Heights. Operates two gas stations, a Mobil in Chicago and a Phillips 66 in Cicero. He was charged with 14 counts of sales tax fraud for activity from November 2007 through December 2008. Joy Chemmachel, 47, Skokie. Operates three gas stations: Hickory Hill Gas Depot, Hickory Hills; Dempster & Ozark Shell, Morton Grove; and Fullerton & Pulaski Shell, Chicago. She was charged with 19 counts of sales tax fraud for activity from November 2007 through May 2009. John Kottoor, 54, Orland Park, and Joy Matthew Kottoor, 58, Morton Grove. Operate Stickney Shell, Stickney. Each was charged with 10 counts of sales tax fraud for activity from November 2007 through September 2008. Abdelmomen Abdallah, 33, Peoria. Operates Road Runner, Peoria. He was charged with 16 counts of sales tax fraud for activity from November 2007 through February 2009. Dineshbhai Patel, 57, Morton. Operates a Shell station in Morton. He is charged with 16 counts of sales tax fraud for activity from July 2007 through October 2009. Gasoline sales are reported to the state of Illinois on a monthly basis. The criminal charges are based on each month in which the defendants allegedly reported false sales figures. Each count of sales tax fraud is a Class 3 Felony, which can carry a prison sentence of two to five years. In addition to criminal penalties, the court can order the defendants to pay to the State the unpaid sales tax as restitution.

The investigation, which began in 2008, has collected $12.7 million from 66 station owners across the state. Much of the back sales tax was collected from station owners who had been offered an opportunity to participate in a voluntary disclosure compliance program in October 2009. The voluntary participation in the disclosure compliance program does not eliminate the state's ability to pursue criminal charges.

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