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State AG: Merrick auto body shop failed to pay state taxes

The owner of a Merrick auto body shop was arraigned Thursday on a multicount indictment charging him with failing to send to the state more than $570,000 in sales taxes collected from repairs and services over a nearly four-year period, state officials said.

Ronald Ustica Jr., 46, owner of R&U Auto Body at Kees Place, was arraigned in state Supreme Court in Albany as state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Ustica had stolen the tax money and filed false quarterly sales tax returns that underreported sales and tax collections.

Ustica was arraigned before acting State Supreme Court Justice Roger D. McDonough and was being held on $25,000 cash bail and $50,000 bond. He was represented at the proceeding by Tina Sodhi of the Albany County Public Defenders Office. She could not be reached for comment.

Ustica, a Suffolk resident, faces seven felony counts stemming from the alleged collection and theft of sales taxes for vehicle repairs from June 1, 2007 through March 21, 2011, officials said.

An Albany County grand jury indicted Ustica on charges that include second-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal tax fraud, fourth-degree criminal tax fraud and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.

The case is being adjudicated in Albany because state taxes are collected in that county.

Schneiderman also said that his office filed a civil forfeiture action to seize $570,963.73 in assets from Ustica and his business.

"When a business pockets sales tax revenue paid by its customers, it unfairly shifts the burden onto other hardworking New Yorkers," Schneiderman said in a news release. "Those who are already paying their fair share of taxes shouldn't have to pick up the tab for those who skip out on their bill."

State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Jerry Boone said: "Collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from customers in sales tax, then failing to pay those funds to the state as required by law, is a serious crime. We'll continue to team with the attorney general and law enforcement organizations across New York to prosecute these crimes."


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