Tusha’s tax fraud case draws in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tion

Called to tes­tify in Nether­lands

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

AM­S­TER­DAM

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.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF TWIT­TER

Rudy Stroink is ac­cused of pay­ing bribes to Si­mon Tusha.

TUSHA

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