Cortland County car dealer convicted of tax fraud sentenced to five years probation

CORTLAND, N.Y. — The owner of a car dealership in Cortlandville was sentenced Thursday to five years probation for failing to file hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax returns to New York State.

Joseph Fezza, who previously owned JF Auto World at 991 Tompkins Street, pleaded guilty in March to five felony charges, including one count of second-degree grand larceny, a class C felony; two counts of third-degree criminal tax fraud, a class D felony; and two counts of repeated failure to file tax returns, a class E felony.

[do_widget id= text-6 ]

Fezza, 48, was arrested Sep. 19, 2012, for failing to remit more than $175,000 in sales taxes to the state between March 1, 2004 and September 20, 2009.

The case stemmed from an investigation initiated in 2011 by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and the New York State Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The investigation later determined that Fezza withheld more than $280,000 in sales taxes, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Prosecutors had sought between 2 to 7 years of incarceration for Fezza. Andrew Tarkowski, an attorney with the state attorney general’s office, said in court Thursday that Fezza failed to pay $50,000 in restitution prior to his scheduled sentencing, which was a condition of his plea deal.

Judge Julie Campbell expressed frustration in court Thursday that Fezza had not made any payments toward restitution.

“The taxpayers of New York State have been defrauded to the tune of almost $300,000, and I’m one of them,” Judge Campbell said. “I’ve only heard excuses.”

Fezza’s attorney, Artan Serjanej, argued that keeping Fezza out of prison would allow him to seek employment and begin paying restitution.

Prior to Judge Campbell’s ruling, Fezza expressed remorse for his crime and said he is seeking employment to help support his mother and his daughters in addition to paying back the state.

Judge Campbell sentenced Fezza to five years probation, noting that any violation of his probation would require him to return to court and face possible incarceration.

“This is with reluctance that I do this,” Judge Campbell said. “It’s probably more out of concern for your mother and daughters than it is for you. Don’t take advantage of the gift I have given you.”

Tarkowski said the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is also seeking penalties and interest fees totaling about $900,000 for Fezza’s failure to file personal income and sales tax returns.

[do_widget id= text-7 ]