YONKERS, N.Y. – A former city employee is facing a felony charge after being accused of collecting nearly $2,000 in bogus fees from Yonkers taxpayers, prosecutors say.
Lionel Thomas, 35, of 421 N. Broadway, was arraigned Thursday on a felony complaint charging him with first-degree scheme to defraud, Westchester Country District Attorney Janet DiFiore announced.
Prosecutors accuse Thomas, a former employee of the city's Taxation and Finance Department, of taking cash payments totaling $1,890 for fake fees from unwitting taxpayers between Oct. 31, 2012 and Nov. 29, 2012.
On six separate occasions, Thomas demanded and received "fees" for processing legitimate tax payments from Yonkers’ residents, each ranging from $220 to $380, DiFiore said. After the individual would pay, Thomas would issue an official looking receipt for the money, prosecutors said.
Thomas did not have the authority to charge these fees and withheld the money from the city of Yonkers, prosecutors said.
His scheme began to unravel when one of the victims became suspicious and called the Department of Taxation and Finance asking about the policy.
Prosecutors said Yonkers police continue to investigate the incident and expect more victims will be found.
“At a time when the city of Yonkers is cutting services to balance its budget, collecting legitimate tax revenue matters now more than ever,” said DiFiore after Thomas was arraigned. “Although no one enjoys paying taxes, citizens of Yonkers should feel confident that their hard earned money is going to finance their quality of life and services and not into the pocket of a city employee who established his own taxing authority.”
Thomas was released on his own recognizance Thursday and is scheduled to appear in court again on March 28.
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison.
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