Tax tes­ti­mony mud­dies den­tist’s trial for fraud

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­tri­cia Doxsey pdoxsey@free­manon­line.com pat­ti­at­free­man on Twit­ter

Jurors in Ul­ster County Court can ex­pect to hear clos­ing ar­gu­ments today in the trial of a Kingston den­tist charged with swin­dling his in­surance com­pany out of thou­sands of dol­lars.

But first, County Judge Don­ald A. Wil­liams will have to de­cide whether jurors will be al­lowed to con­sider as part of their de­lib­er­a­tions the Thurs­day tes­ti­mony of Wil­liam Ne­gron, an ac­coun­tant who pre­pared the tax re­turns for Gilberto Nunez.

Prose­cu­tors claim Nunez de­frauded his in­surance com­pany by claim­ing that, as a re­sult of a fire at a build­ing he owned at 381-385 Wash­ing­ton Ave. in Kingston, he lost $8,400 in rental in­come. Nunez, who was ac­quit­ted of mur­der in

June in the death of his ex-lover’s hus­band, has been charged with in­surance fraud, grand lar­ceny and five counts of fal­si­fy­ing busi­ness records, all felonies, in the in­surance case.

Ne­gron was called to the witness stand Thurs­day by Or­ange County Se­nior As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Maryellen Albanese, the spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor in the case, in an ef­fort to prove Nunez didn’t claim the rental in­come he con­tends he re­ceived for the Wash­ing­ton Av­enue build­ing, which was next to his den­tal of­fice, in 2013 or 2014.

Nunez claimed he re­ceived $1,200 a month in rent from Matthew Top­ple to use the first floor of the build­ing for of­fice space and stor­age of his con­struc­tion equip­ment.

On Wed­nes­day, Top­ple tes­ti­fied he signed a lease for the space, but he said he was sign­ing it as “a friend,” was un­aware of its terms and never paid Nunez for the space. Top­ple, who also rented an apart­ment from Nunez in a sep­a­rate build­ing, also tes­ti­fied that he paid his rent in cash and often would barter with Nunez for re­duced or free rent. He tes­ti­fied that he com­pleted sev­eral ma­jor con­struc­tion projects for Nunez dur­ing the roughly four years he rented from the den­tist, and said that, dur­ing that time, paid cash for only about two years worth of rent.

On Thurs­day, Albanese painstak­ingly stepped Ne­gron through tax re­turns, bal­ance sheets and work­sheets the ac­coun­tant said he pre­pared for Nunez and his cor­po­ra­tion, God­sent Prop­er­ties LLC.

On one doc­u­ment, Ne­gron high­lighted three $875 rental pay­ments for an apart­ment, $14,000 in rental in­come for Nunez’s den­tal of­fice and $15,732 that Ne­gron said were real es­tate taxes that were con­sid­ered rent.

An­other doc­u­ment in­di­cated $5,400 in rental in­come from out­side sources and $42,000 in rental in­come paid by Nunez to God­sent Prop­er­ties.

But un­der cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, Ne­gron tes­ti­fied that while he was aware that Nunez and Top­ple had a barter ar­range­ment for rental pay­ments, only the cash rental pay­ments were ac­counted for in Nunez’s tax re­turns.

When he con­ceded un­der ques­tion­ing by de­fense at­tor­ney Evan Lip­ton that not in­clud­ing the value of the barter as in­come was a “mis­take,” Wil­liams im­me­di­ately halted Ne­gron’s tes­ti­mony, cleared the court­room, warned Ne­gron that the de­fense was ask­ing ques­tions that could re­sult in crim­i­nal charges against Ne­gron and ad­vised him of his con­sti­tu­tional rights against self­in­crim­i­na­tion.

Later in the day, Ne­gron re­turned to court with at­tor­ney Rus­sell Schindler, who in­di­cated he ad­vised his client “to in­voke his Fifth Amend­ment rights not to an­swer any ques­tions.”

Un­able to pro­ceed with his cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, Lip­ton asked that Wil­liams strike all of Ne­gron’s tes­ti­mony from the record, say­ing his client was be­ing de­nied the righte to chal­lenge doc­u­ments in ev­i­dence.

While Wil­liams de­clined Lip­ton’s re­quest Thurs­day, the judge, clearly ex­as­per­ated with the pros­e­cu­tion, chas­tised Albanese for not an­tic­i­pat­ing ques­tions per­tain­ing to hand­writ­ten notes writ­ten by her witness on doc­u­ments she in­tro­duced into ev­i­dence.

“This is­sue has come in front of the this court for no le­git­i­mate rea­son that I have heard without

any ad­vance no­tice to the court,” Wil­liams said to Albanese.

“I would cer­tainly hope that the pros­e­cu­tion would look at its own ex­hibits,” the judge said, adding that “how [the de­fense’s line of ques­tion­ing] can­not be an­tic­i­pated is beyond any un­der­stand­ing of the court.”

Wil­liams said he would rule on Lip­ton’s re­quest today, after both sides had the chance to make ar­gu­ments sup­port­ing their po­si­tions.

Nunez was paid $180,000 from Pre­ferred Mu­tual for losses sus­tained in the Fe­bru­ary 2014 fire. In­cluded in that amount is the $8,400 the pros­e­cu­tion claims Nunez re­ceived by falsely claim­ing rental in­come on va­cant space.

Frank Em­merich, a spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tor for Pre­ferred Mu­tual, tes­ti­fied un­der cross-ex­am­i­na­tion Thurs­day that the in­surance com­pany didn’t ques­tion Nunez’s claim of lost rent and did not file the com­plaint al­leg­ing the den­tist re­ceived the pay­ment un­der false pre­tenses.

Nunez was ac­quit­ted in June of mur­der­ing his for­mer lover’s hus­band, Thomas Kol­man, in Novem­ber 2011, but he was found guilty of two felony counts of pos­ses­sion of a forged in­stru­ment for hav­ing a fake CIA iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card on his com­puter and for giv­ing his for­mer lover a let­ter pur­port­ing to be from a CIA agent.

Wil­liams has said he will not sen­tence Nunez for the forged in­stru­ment con­vic­tions un­til after the in­surance fraud trial, as well as an up­com­ing trial for per­jury, of­fer­ing a false in­stru­ment for fil­ing and mak­ing an ap­par­ently sworn false state­ment in con­nec­tion to al­legedly fil­ing false in­for­ma­tion while ap­ply­ing for a pis­tol per­mit.

The fraud trial is to re­con­vene at 9:30 a.m. today.

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