County busi­ness­man pleads guilty to tax fraud

Con­nected to tech kick­back scheme, feds say

Cecil Whig - - REGIONAL - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— A wealthy lo­cal busi­ness­man re­cently pleaded guilty to tax fraud as part of a kick­back scheme that spanned the globe dur­ing his days as an ex­ec­u­tive at Google, fed­eral prose­cu­tors re­ported.

Si­mon T. Tusha, 43, of For­est Hill, pleaded guilty May 20 to con­spir­acy to ob­struct and im­pede the IRS, de­fraud­ing the gov­ern­ment of nearly $1 mil­lion in tax re­turns, ac­cord­ing to the Western Dis­trict of Penn­syl­va­nia U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice.

Tusha, who pur­chased the 162-acre, water­front Elk Manor horse farm in

PITTS­BURGH, PA.

July 2011 and turned it into a vi­able wed­ding venue, has been known to stir con­tro­versy here. He first en­vi­sioned open­ing a wed­ding venue with a bed and break­fast at his Elk Neck prop­erty, but the project was not prop­erly zoned for the largely res­i­den­tial area. Neigh­bors even or­ga­nized protests at­tempt­ing to dis­suade po­ten­tial wed­ding cus­tomers and clients.

Af­ter the Ce­cil County Board of Zon­ing Ap­peals de­nied a spe­cial ex­cep­tion for the prop­erty, Tusha in­stead filed for the prop­erty to be­come a win­ery, plant­ing grapes and skirt­ing other po­ten­tially prob­lem­atic zon­ing re­stric­tions. Since then, his prop­erty has hosted scores of wed­dings and be­come an event site for other fundrais­ers.

In his lat­est con­tro­versy, how­ever, Tusha ad­mit­ted in fed­eral court in Pitts­burgh that he re­ceived some $3.2 mil­lion in kick­backs from com­pa­nies in the United King­dom and the Nether­lands who were ne­go­ti­at­ing con­tracts for data cen­ters with Google and then hid the money from the IRS through a se­ries of shell com­pa­nies he and his co-con­spir­a­tors cre­ated, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Dis­trict Court records.

While serv­ing as Google’s strate­gic ne­go­tia­tor for its global in­fra­struc­ture group in 2008 and 2009, Tusha ne­go­ti­ated con­tracts with data cen­ters around the world. As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Jim Wil­son re­ported that Tusha con­spired with TCN As­sets in the Nether­lands to help the com­pany gain an ad­van­tage with Google and also de­manded pay­ments from Evolved IT in the U.K., now de­funct, for sim­i­lar fa­vor­able treat­ment over its com­peti­tors.

“His ac­tions, which ben­e­fited TCN and Evolved IT, were clearly in dero­ga­tion of his du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to his em­ployer,” Wil­son read into court records. “In the process of ex­ploit­ing his re­la­tion­ship with his em­ployer for per­sonal ad­van­tage, Tusha re­cruited in­di­vid­u­als to por­tray them­selves as ‘bro­kers and/or con­sul­tants’ for his in­ter­ac­tions with TCN and Evolved IT in or­der to con­ceal the il­licit na­ture of his agree­ments with TCN and Evolved IT from both his em­ployer and the IRS.”

Wil­son said Tusha and other co­horts set up shell com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing M.V. Busi­ness Group in Do­minica and All­rom Con­sult­ing in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, which they held out to be bro­kers for TCN As­sets and Evolved IT re­spec­tively. In re­al­ity, how­ever, those com­pa­nies were only es­tab­lished to dis­guise from the IRS and from Google the source of money flow­ing to Tusha’s ac­counts, some of which he used to buy prop­erty in Mary­land, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Dis­trict Court records.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors re­ported that Tusha re­cruited two peo­ple, one be­ing Howard Wein­berg, of Mary­land, to pose as bro­kers and set up bank ac­counts for the shell com­pa­nies in or­der to trans­fer the money. Wein­berg set up M.V. Busi­ness and wired $300,000 from its Bank of Amer­ica ac­count to an ac­count at PNC con­trolled by Tusha. He later trans­ferred an­other $315,000 from MV’s Bank of Ber­muda ac­count to that same ac­count, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Dis­trict Court records.

Tusha did not re­port any of the il­le­gal in­come on three years of tax re­turns from 2008 to 2010, de­fraud­ing the gov­ern­ment of some $960,000 in taxes, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Dis­trict Court records.

Af­ter Tusha and Wein­berg be­gan fight­ing over how to split the bribe money from TCN, Tusha switched to an­other “bro­ker” iden­ti­fied only as “Per­son 2” in court pa­pers. In 2009, that per­son set up a PNC ac­count for All­rom and trans­ferred nearly $1 mil­lion to Tusha, much of which went to pur­chas­ing his For­est Hill home, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Dis­trict Court records.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Ter­rance F. McVerry has sched­uled sen­tenc­ing for Sept. 16. Un­til then, Tusha re­mains free on a $10,000 bond.

On Tues­day, Tusha dis­puted the facts of the case. De­spite plead­ing guilty to and agree­ing to the facts in court, he told the Whig that the case was sim­ply a mat­ter of not pay­ing taxes, which he blamed on the poor fi­nan­cial ad­vise­ment of Wein­berg. He also claimed that the projects did not have any­thing to do with Google, and were in­stead per­sonal projects — an as­ser­tion that a spokes­woman for the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice Tues­day.

“My at­tor­neys are ac­tively work­ing with the IRS for a res­o­lu­tion to the mat­ter,” Tusha told the Whig.

Tusha also said that his wife is cur­rently the owner/ op­er­a­tor of their wed­ding venue and that this re­cent plea agree­ment would have no ef­fect on booked or fu­ture wed­dings at the Elk Neck venue.

The law pro­vides for a to­tal sen­tence of not more than five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Un­der the fed­eral sen­tenc­ing guide­lines, the ac­tual sen­tence im­posed is based upon the se­ri­ous­ness of the of­fense and the prior crim­i­nal his­tory of the de­fen­dant.

This lat­est case isn’t Tusha’s first brush with fed­eral prose­cu­tors though. Ac­cord­ing to U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Delaware records, Tusha was in­dicted for in­ter­state trans­porta­tion of stolen checks in 1999. He pleaded guilty in that case as well and was sen­tenced to 10 months im­pris­on­ment, three years of su­per­vised re­lease and was or­dered to pay more than $130,000 in resti­tu­tion.

On Tues­day, Tusha con­firmed his plea in that case but called it “a dis­pute with his ex-wife over their fam­ily busi­ness.” de­nied

TUSHA

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