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Ex-Inflight executive to plead to tax charge

Remy Lehner, the former chief executive of defunct Inflight Newspapers & Magazines of Valley Stream, has agreed to plead guilty to a single tax conspiracy charge following a five-year federal probe of the periodical distributor, her lawyer said.

Lehner, 52, who took over Inflight after the death of her husband, Daniel Lehner, in 1997, was named in court documents last week saying she will waive her right to an indictment in the case.

In a filing with the Eastern District Court by U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell's office in Brooklyn, prosecutors said the government anticipates Lehner will plead guilty to "participation in a ... conspiracy to embezzle monies from the company she owned ... by causing fraudulent Inflight petty cash checks to be negotiated for phony business-related disbursements." It also charges her with misappropriating payments to fictitious employees, and with failing to pay taxes on the payments. Inflight went out of business in 2006.

Last year Lehner, who lives in Cedarhurst, agreed to a $1-million settlement in a related bankruptcy court case brought by Daniel Lehner's daughter, Lois Dua, and his former wife, Lorraine Lehner. The settlement awaits court approval.

"Ms. Lehner simply wants to move on with her life," said attorney Charles Ross of Manhattan, explaining the plea agreement he announced Tuesday.

Lehner's would be the third tax-charge plea deal in the Inflight probe. Last year, former Inflight vice president Joshua Joffe acknowledged in court, "I along with others ... agreed to withdraw money from the company for the personal use of the owner of the company and myself." The "owner" refers to Lehner. "We did this with the understanding that the owner of the company and I would not report this money as income on our federal income returns."

Joffe faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. At his plea hearing April 8, assistant U.S. attorney Martin Coffey estimated Joffe's back-tax liability in the case at $1.9 million, according to a transcript. It's unclear whether Lehner would face the same sentence.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment. A lawyer for Joffe, Alan Vinegrad, wasn't available.

Former Inflight controller Thomas Bracken, who last year also pleaded guilty to a tax charge, "did not orchestrate the diversion of funds from Inflight," and "did not profit" from it, said his lawyer, Patricia Pileggi.

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