Tusha’s tax fraud case draws international connection
Called to testify in Netherlands
— The tax fraud case that enveloped a former Google executive and destroyed the successful Elk Neck wedding venue he created has now caught up a prominent Dutch developer.
Simon T. Tusha, 43, of Forest Hill, pleaded guilty in May 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. That admission in court precipitated a number of financial moves that ended with the foreclosure of the Winery at Elk Manor, located at 88 Rivers Edge Road, in August, leaving scores of couples without their wedding venue.
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.
As a consequence of Tusha’s case, Dutch prosecutors capitalized on the American investigation to charge Rudy Stroink and his wife in recent days with money laundering, fraud, forgery
and membership in a criminal organization. Stroink, who is one of the Netherlands’ richest men, a major developer and a media personality, and his wife are accused of paying 1.7 million euros — about $1.8 million — in bribes to Tusha for favorable conditions related to a Google contract for a data center in Eemshaven, Netherlands, a North Sea port city near Germany.
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. In May, 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.
Tusha recruited other cohorts, who he introduced to companies as consultants or brokers, to set up Caribbean shell companies in order to disguise the source of money from the IRS and Google, according to U.S. District Court records.
One of the people recruited by Tusha, Howard Weinberg, of Baltimore, was how the entire scheme came crashing down, according to officials.
Weinberg was caught up as a money launderer in one of western Pennsylvania’s largest drug ring investigations, which led to the indictment of two dozen people, including his son. Weinberg and his son helped drug dealers launder $1.8 million in drug proceeds through scores of bank accounts nationwide and through apartment rentals, officials reported.
Weinberg pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in 2014 for the drug-related case. He has not been sentenced, however, presumably due to his cooperation in the Google-related cases.
Tusha may also receive consideration for his cooperation with the Dutch investigation when he is sentenced Jan. 9. 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 as and was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay more than $130,000 in restitution.
Interestingly, it is Stroink’s defense team who asked a judge to hear from both Tusha and Weinberg in the Dutch case. The Stroinks have asserted their innocence and are expected to build a case attempting to prove that they did not know the roughly dozen suspicious payments made between October 2008 and March 2010 were bribes.
The Stroinks’ chief counsel, Willem Koops, has already begun to publicly attack Tusha’s truthfulness as the prosecution’s star witness, calling the former Google executive a liar and a “loud, obnoxious, intimidating criminal.”
“His penalty is lower if he blames outsiders from Google. He wants to take responsibility for themselves as far away as possible,” Koops told de Volkskrant, one of the Netherlands’ largest newspapers.
Stroink is a gregarious personality in the Dutch business community, who has called himself the “conscience of the (development) industry,” according to Tjerk Gualtherie Van Weezel, a veteran reporter at de Volkskrant, who has followed Stroink throughout his career.
During the boom of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Stroink’s European TCN proj- ects were worth an estimated $1.2 billion and he was personally worth $100 million, Van Weezel said. When the housing market crashed in 2008, however, TCN was faced with an overwhelming amount of debt and properties that were rapidly losing value.
As his once-dynamic company circled the drain, the showman turned to public opinion to help it regain value. Stroink allowed a TV documentary news crew to follow his attempts to save TCN and air its ebb and flow. In that program, viewers saw the data center at the heart of the recent charges, wth Stroink calling the Google contract “a very nice yield.”
In 2012, however, TCN eventually collapsed and entered bankruptcy. In the years after, Stroink divorced his wife and remarried Saskia, who now stands as his codefendant. He started a new company and experienced growing success, including growing stature within a Dutch political party.
Koops told Dutch business magazine Quote that his client is ready for a fight for his reputation, saying, “The case is a wonderful illustration of how a witness can turn the world on its head. Stroink grabs with both hands this opportunity to denounce the American lies at the bottom of this matter.”
Rudy Stroink is accused of paying bribes to Simon Tusha.