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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Business owner charged in $1 million tax evasion scheme

Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea

By The Star Staff

Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea referred to the Department of Justice on Thursday a tax evasion scheme perpetrated by the owner of a commercial establishment that owes the Treasury nearly $503,348 in principal by not reporting on its income tax returns over $1.5 million generated through sales with the Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN by its Spanish acronym) card.

“Mr. Otilio Rivera Vélez, owner of the Utuado Service Station establishment in Utuado, has been selling basic food items eligible under the Nutritional Assistance Program since 2010. According to the investigation, during the years 2017 to 2019, he received income of $1,564,796 from payments received at his business with the PAN card,” Parés Alicea said at a press conference. “However, he did not report to the Treasury Department the corresponding income taxes for those sales and income generated, failing to comply with his tax responsibility.”

The official said the tax deficiency amounts to more than $1 million, including the fines and penalties imposed.

Rodney Ríos, director of the Justice Department’s Economic Crimes Division, said the new case confirms to the public that tax evasion crimes are being investigated with the same interest as other cases in the agency.

“The investigations continue, and the commitment to the Treasury Department and to citizens is to contribute to the identification of tax evaders and to demand that they comply with the law,” he said.

After the investigation, which was conducted by the Treasury Department’s Tax Fraud and Intelligence Area and prosecutor Roxanne Rivera Carrión of the Justice Department’s Economic Crimes Division, three charges were filed against Rivera Vélez, 53, for filing fraudulent returns, statements and claims in violation of Section 6030.16 (a) of the Puerto Rico Internal Revenue Code.

Judge Iraida Rodríguez Castro determined a cause for arrest for the three charges and imposed a bail of $6,000 on the accused, who faces a sentence of three to eight years in prison for each charge. The preliminary hearing will be on Nov. 17.

“At the Treasury, we are constantly investigating. Our commitment is that everyone complies with their obligations and not just a few,” Parés Alicea said. “We will continue our work against all [tax] evaders. We continue to recommend to all those who believe that they have some deficiency pending with the department to approach us to avoid public exposure and a trial in the courts.”

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