An accountant in Trumbull, Connecticut pleaded guilty to a federal tax charge on Thursday, July 17, 2014 after being caught defrauding a property owner in nearby Bridgeport. The accountant, Thomas Ragonese, 55, is believed to have worked alongside a construction and property management company to steal thousands of dollars from their client. The property management company and its owner also pleaded guilty.While working for ACT Builders, owned by Anthony Testo, Ragonese reportedly prepared monthly rent rolls and provided other services for the company, which was contracted to manage an apartment and several other residential units. From January 2007 to August 2010, Ragonese assisted Testo and his company in defrauding the owner by submitting false rent rolls that listed certain occupied rental units as vacant and misrepresented other rental rates as lower than what was being collected. During this period, Testo also gained money by submitting fraudulent subcontractor invoices to the property owner. Once the doctored paperwork had been submitted, Testo would deposit the excess rental income into his personal bank account and the company bank account, collecting at least $275,000 over the course of three years. Over the conspiracy, Ragonese was vital to the operation, as he prepared Testo’s federal tax returns and failed to report the fraudulently-collected rental income on the documents. This choice cost the IRS a reported $71,795 in tax loss.”New technology allows property managers to provide owners with complete visibility of their accounts online,” says Joe Ord of Amoso Properties. “When looking for a property manager, review how they provide financial updates, ask how they do their books.”
Ragonese will face sentencing on October 2, 2014 after pleading guilty to one count of aiding and assisting the preparation of a false tax return. This offense carries a maximum imprisonment of 3 years. Likewise, Testo pleaded guilty on June 20 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of assisting in the preparation and filing of a false tax return, and ACT Builders pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Both owner and company will face sentencing September 2, 2014.