Couple arrested, owes $2.6M to IRS

A Freehold couple that owes the government a total of $2.6 million in personal and business-related taxes was arrested Friday morning, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey said.

Tito Viteri, 39, and Maria Yepez, 38, of the Cream Ridge section in Freehold Township, were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service of taxes from 2008 to 2016, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office on Friday.

The statement said as of this month, Viteri — the owner and operator of numerous commercial trucking companies that all operate in New Jersey, except one — owes $1.3 million in personal income taxes. Viteri and Yepez owe another $1.3 million in business-related taxes, the statement said.

In 2008, federal authorities said an IRS audit showed Viteri owed around $875,000 in unpaid taxes for one of his companies and needed to pay an additional $315,000 in personal taxes. Viteri began to pay the IRS in August 2011 but stopped in December 2013, saying he was not "bringing enough money home," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Around the same time Viteri said he was not "bringing enough money home," the U.S. Attorney's Office said from around February 2013 to February 2016, Viteri and Yepez made approximately $110,000 in rental payments — or about $3,000 a month — for a property in Chesterfield, where they lived.

In 2016, when Viteri and Yepez still owed a substantial amount to the IRS, the U.S. Attorney's Office said the couple bought a $929,653 home in Freehold and bought the property under the name of Viteri's mother, allegedly so they could conceal the purchase from the IRS.

Federal authorities said Viteri and Yepez allegedly attempted to subvert the IRS in other ways. One way, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, was "pyramiding," or failing to pay employment taxes, with older years posing as bigger federal tax liabilities and newer years as smaller liabilities. Collectively, the liabilities can visually resemble a pyramid.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the couple also did not file timely and accurate quarterly federal tax returns which falsely said employees were independent contractors, meaning they did not have to pay employment taxes; received unreported kickback income from an employee, and allegedly hid personal income and assets. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Viteri and Yepez hid their income and assets by making deposits into their child's bank account and also by using nominees.

Viteri and Yepez were each released on $300,000 unsecured bond after they first made their appearance in Trenton federal court Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois H. Goodman, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The conspiracy charge Viteri and Yepez face carries — in addition to a fine — a maximum of five years in prison.

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