Comptroller Agents Arrest Virginia Driver in I-95 Cigarette Stop

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (August 16, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that officers from his Field Enforcement Division assisted Maryland State Police from the JFK Barrack in a traffic stop on I-95 north in Baltimore County Tuesday night that netted 1,650 packs of contraband cigarettes valued at more than $10,000.

“Day or night, my agents remain vigilant in identifying criminals who try to cheat Maryland citizens and who use Maryland highways in the pursuit of their illegal acts,” Comptroller Franchot said. “Their dedication and hard work along with the Maryland State Police protects our businesses and our citizens.”

Agents said Ebrahim Mukai Mohamed Altairi, 20, of Richmond, VA., driving a rented 2019 Chevrolet Colorado SUV with Virginia tags, was stopped for a traffic violation at mile marker 70 in White Marsh. During the stop, Altairi was found to be transporting contraband cigarettes.

FED agents were contacted and responded to the scene to search the vehicle. They found 1,650 packs of contraband cigarettes valued at $10,642.50 and representing a tax loss to the State of $3,300. The cigarettes and SUV were seized and Altair was arrested.

Altairi was charged with a felony count of transporting contraband cigarettes and a misdemeanor charge of possession of contraband cigarettes. He was released from the Baltimore County Detention Center on $25,000 bond. A preliminary hearing has been set for September 14 at Baltimore County District Court.

For fiscal year 2019, which started July 1, 2018, FED agents have arrested and charged eight individuals for various tobacco violations in eight investigations. These arrests have resulted in the seizure of 1,650 packs of contraband cigarettes and the seizure of 35,938 sticks of Untaxed Other Tobacco Products (OTP). The seized items are valued at $46,580.50 and represent a tax loss to the State of $28,456.50.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Comptroller Reminds Marylanders: Tax-Free Week is August 12-18

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (August 9, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot is reminding Marylanders that Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week begins on Sunday, August 12 and runs through Saturday, August 18.

The Comptroller is once again joining with the Maryland Retailers Association (MRA) to promote a social media contest in which two winners will receive $2,500 and $1,000 scholarships, respectively, to any Maryland university, college or trade school.

To enter the contest during Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, Maryland college students simply need to:

  • Take a Maryland-themed photo or video while shopping
  • Write a catchy caption
  • Post to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and use the hashtag #shopmdtaxfree

Shoppers can like or follow the official social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more information. MRA, which is providing the scholarships, will select the two entries that best reflect the spirit of Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week.

From August 12-18, any single qualifying article of clothing or footwear priced $100 or less – regardless of how many items are purchased at the same time – will be exempt from the state’s six percent sales tax. The first $40 of any backpack or bookbag purchase is also tax-free.

Comptroller Franchot will be visiting the following local businesses this coming week to encourage shoppers to take advantage of these savings and to participate in the contest. Details about each visit will be released several days ahead of the planned stops.  

  • Monday, Aug. 13: Sassanova – 7134 Bethesda Ln., Bethesda
  • Tuesday, Aug. 14: Out of Stock MD – 218 N. Market St., Frederick
  • Wednesday, Aug. 15: The Preppy Redneck – 213A S. Talbot St., St. Michaels
  • Friday, August 17: Quiet Storm – 1 N. Division St., Ocean City

For more information on qualifying items, visit marylandtaxes.gov, email taxhelp@comp.state.md.us or call 410-260-7980 (Central Maryland) or toll-free at 1-800-MD-TAXES.  

MEDIA CONTACTS:  Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

                                        Alan Brody –  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Comptroller and MD Retailers Association Announce Tax-Free Week Scholarship Contest

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 30, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot joined with the Maryland Retailers Association (MRA) today to announce a social media contest coinciding with Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week in which two winners will receive $2,500 and $1,000 scholarships, respectively, to any Maryland university, college or trade school.

Leading up to and during the annual Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, which takes place August 12 to 18, shoppers should like or follow the official social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Then snap a picture or take a video that incorporates the theme of “Maryland” (the state colors, school apparel, sports team, a crab, etc.), write a creative caption and use #shopmdtaxfree during Tax-Free Week to submit an entry on any or all of the social media platforms.

MRA, which is providing the scholarships, will select the two entries at the week’s conclusion that best reflect the spirit of Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week.

“The State of Maryland loses money during Tax-Free Week, but it’s a big win for locally-owned businesses and for shoppers,” said Comptroller Franchot. “This will be the easiest scholarship Maryland college students will ever have the chance to win. There’s no application, no essay and no interview – just shop tax-free!”

“Tax-Free Week provides a much-needed boost to brick-and-mortar retailers in our state, and we encourage all consumers to support their local businesses,” said Cailey Locklair Tolle, MRA president. “This year we are again thrilled to help promote shopping local and Tax-Free Week by offering scholarships to our contest winners.”

During Tax-Free Week, any single qualifying article of clothing or footwear priced $100 or less – regardless of how many items are purchased at the same time – will be exempt from the state’s six percent sales tax. The first $40 of any backpack or bookbag purchase is also tax-free.

In the weeks leading up to and during Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week, Comptroller Franchot will visit local businesses across the state to encourage shoppers to take advantage of these savings and to participate in the contest.

To get the latest details about Tax-Free Week and to enter the contest, like or follow the social media pages on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Resulting from legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2007, the tax-free week is held annually during the second week in August.  Businesses selling items that are not eligible for inclusion in the tax-free week can still participate in Shop Maryland. Under “Sellers Privilege,” other unqualified merchandise can be sold tax-free, but the retailer is responsible for paying the sales tax owed to the state.

For more information on qualifying items, visit marylandtaxes.gov, email taxhelp@comp.state.md.us or call 410-260-7980 (Central Maryland) or toll-free at 1-800-MD-TAXES.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Joseph Shapiro - 
 jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

Alan Brody –  abrody@comp.state.md.us
410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Comptroller Franchot Receives Honor for Financial Reporting

Comptroller Franchot Receives Honor for Financial Reporting

CAFR Awarded Highest Honor for 39 Consecutive Years

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 27, 2018) - A North-American government finance organization has awarded Comptroller Peter Franchot with the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) honored Comptroller Franchot for Maryland’s fiscal year 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Received for the last 39 years, the award is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting.

“As Maryland’s chief fiscal officer, I have been been a strong advocate for transparent government and I am proud of what my office and employees have achieved,” Comptroller Franchot said. “My goal is to keep the agency running in the most efficient and effective way possible.”

The CAFR was judged by an impartial panel to meet high standards of the program, including demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users to read the publication. For more information on the award program, visit the GFOA here.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

                                        Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Two Baltimore Area Tax Preparers Guilty of Filing False Returns

BALTIMORE, Md. (July 24, 2018) - Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that two Baltimore-area tax preparers pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns. 

Michael Anegbode, 29, of Windsor Mill, operated MK Tax Service. He pleaded guilty to three counts of filing false income tax returns and was ordered to pay $48,808 in restitution and serve three years’ probation. Uwagbale Oigbokie, 39, of Baltimore, operated Jovan Tax Service. He pleaded guilty to two counts of filing false tax returns and was ordered to pay $81,712 in restitution and serve two years’ probation.

Both Anegbode and Oigbokie prepared and filed false personal income tax returns which failed to reflect fees earned by filing false tax returns on behalf of numerous paying clients. Specifically, many of the tax returns filed on behalf of their clients included false information to fraudulently minimize the taxpayers’ Maryland tax liabilities and increase the tax refunds the taxpayers received from the Comptroller.

“These tax preparers had a responsibility to file honest returns,” said Attorney General Frosh. “They cheated twice. They falsely understated the taxes owed by their clients, and then they did not report the fees that they earned themselves. We will continue to pursue tax preparers and others who engage in this kind of fraud.”

“Protecting Marylanders from unscrupulous tax preparers is a top priority for my office,” said Comptroller Franchot. “Our Field Enforcement officers will continue to vigilantly investigate those who try to cheat our state and I want to thank the Attorney General’s Office for its partnership and its efforts prosecuting these cases.”

The case was investigated by the Comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division and prosecuted by the Criminal Investigations Division of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Caught in the Web: Comptroller Releases Names of Top Tax Evaders

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 11, 2018) – Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced the names of the top 25 businesses and 20 individuals collectively owing $12.7 million in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest to the State of Maryland. The Comptroller’s Office publishes the top scofflaws on the agency’s website in a public attempt to get those on the list to pay what they owe as part of the Caught in the Web program. View the full list here.

“My Caught in the Web program highlights a small number of individuals and businesses that make a conscious effort to not pay their taxes,” said Comptroller Franchot. “The vast majority of Marylanders pay their fair share of taxes, and my office is committed to ensuring that everyone does. These people have chosen to take advantage of the benefits of this great state while thumbing their noses at the taxpayers who fulfill their legal obligations.”

The Comptroller’s Office has collected more than $45 million from delinquent taxpayers whose names appeared on one of the agency’s lists since the program’s inception in 2000. The list of scofflaws unveiled today shows liabilities of $6.4 million in back taxes, penalties and interest from 20 individuals and $6.3 million from 25 businesses.

When an individual or business fails to pay their Maryland taxes, the Comptroller’s Office initially sends a certified letter listing any unpaid charges incurred for taxes, interest and penalties. Taxpayers who fail to contact the agency to satisfy their tax liability or enter into an agreement to do so are eligible to be included in the Caught in the Web program. These individuals and businesses, which have already had liens filed against them, are notified prior to the list’s posting that they will be included.

Visit the Comptroller’s website for more information on Caught in the Web and tax compliance.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

Alan Brody –
 abrody@comp.state.md.us
410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Franchot Announces Opening of Taxpayer Service Office in Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 3, 2018) - In his ongoing commitment to provide top flight taxpayer service, Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced the opening of a new Taxpayer Service Office at 60 West Street in downtown Annapolis.

“My office has a long-standing reputation for delivering respectful, responsive and results-oriented customer service – what I call the Three Rs,” Comptroller Franchot said. “This new location will be convenient and provide a welcoming environment for Maryland taxpayers to get assistance with tax questions while preserving strong security protocols for safeguarding sensitive information. We look forward to being a good downtown neighbor and serving taxpayers for many years to come.”

In February, the Board of Public Works unanimously approved a 10-year lease agreement for the new location. Year-round, the office will offer greater security and convenience for Marylanders to get walk-in tax help from trained professionals and to make tax payments.

Approximately 10 Comptroller employees from the nearby Revenue Administration Division building are staffing the new West Street location in Suite 102. The office will be open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

In the past year and a half, the agency has opened remote call centers in Salisbury and Hagerstown to better respond to the volume of taxpayer inquiries received during peak tax season.

Click here for a map with directions to the new office>

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Comptroller Arrests Three Men in Eastern Shore Cigarette Stop


ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 2, 2018) - 
Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that agents from his Field Enforcement Division (FED) arrested three Philadelphia men who have been charged in Maryland as a result of a surveillance operation on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

“My FED agents are dedicated to identifying criminals who try to cheat the system and use Maryland as a transportation conduit for their illegal activities,” Comptroller Franchot said. “Their vigilance protects Maryland businesses and levels the playing field for all.”

Agents said Quay Samuel Chaney, 54, was seen buying multiple quantities of cigarettes from various locations June 28 and concealing the cigarettes in the rear seat area of a 2008 Volvo. Chaney was a passenger in a car driven by Ronald Tucker, 59, and occupied by another passenger, Edward B. Johns, 65. The three then drove from Virginia into Maryland, where the car was stopped by police at Sheep House Road in Pocomoke, Worcester County.

Agents searched the vehicle and found 1,650 packs of contraband cigarettes, valued at $10,642.50 and representing a tax loss to the State of $3,300. The cigarettes and car were seized and all three were arrested.

Each man was taken before a Worcester County District Court Commissioner in Snow Hill and charged with a felony count of transporting contraband cigarettes and a misdemeanor count of possession of contraband cigarettes.

Mr. Chaney is being held on a $16,500 bond at the Worcester County Detention Center. His preliminary hearing is set for July 24. Mr. Tucker and Mr. Johns were each released on personal recognizance. Both have hearings set for July 17.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Maryland Comptroller’s Office Wins Awards for Innovative Concepts


Comptroller Peter Franchot holds one of two awards from the Federation of Tax Administrators alongside Bureau of Revenue Estimates Director Andrew Schaufele and Deputy Comptroller Sharonne Bonardi, who received the awards on behalf of the agency at the FTA’s annual meeting.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (June 25, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot has announced today that his agency received two of six awards presented by the Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA) at its annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this month.

“I am very proud of my highly trained and professional staff and for the recognition the agency has garnered on behalf of Maryland’s taxpayers,” Comptroller Franchot said. “As the state’s chief fiscal officer, one of my top priorities is to make sure staff continually hones its leadership skills so the agency runs in the most efficient and effective ways possible. These two awards reflect the true meaning of my Three R’s of respect, responsiveness and results for the taxpayer.”

The awards recognized the agency’s Supervisor Enrichment Program facilitated by Sasha Vazquez and the Impact of Age Demographics on Tax Filing and Revenue Solution developed by Andrew Schaufele, Director of the Bureau of Revenue Estimates. Deputy Comptroller Sharonne Bonardi, who recently was voted to serve on the Senior Executive Board of the FTA, accepted the awards on behalf of the Comptroller.

Award nominations were judged by a panel of former FTA Board of Trustees presidents who no longer work in state tax administration. Award winners were invited to make a presentation on their winning idea, approach or program.

Winning submissions were chosen from the most innovative, transferrable, effective and usable nominations that also “have that something special.” The awards program also gives members a forum to share outstanding success stories and for their peers to learn from creative thinking in tackling tax administration challenges.

Other state winners include: the Alabama Department of Revenue, the Florida Department of Revenue, the Washington State Department of Revenue and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Comptroller Agents Charge Yacht Club Commodore in Alcohol Probe

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (June 18, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that charges have been filed against the Commodore of North Point Yacht Club, following an investigation of illegal sales of alcoholic beverages and business license violations at the Sparrows Point facility.

Bruce Stanley Martin, Jr., 44, of Rosedale, was charged on a criminal summons and release on his signature with the following charges: suffering the sale and possession of alcoholic beverages without a license; doing business without a traders license; and engaging in business without a sales and use tax license.

A trial date has been set for August 13.

“Enforcing the state’s alcohol laws to ensure all sales are legal as well as taxed appropriately is a top priority,” said Comptroller Franchot. “I am proud of the work my Field Enforcement agents do to help prevent alcohol sales to minors and to level the playing field so that the vast majority of Maryland businesses who play by the rules are not hurt by the few who choose to ignore state law.”

After verifying with the Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners that no license was issued to the club to sell alcoholic beverages, undercover agents from the Comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division visited the club on multiple occasions and bought alcoholic beverages. In addition, a search of the Comptroller’s State License Bureau revealed that the yacht club did not have the required State of Maryland Sales and Use Tax License and the State of Maryland Traders License.

On June 6, agents and inspectors of the Comptroller’s Enforcement Bureau served a search and seizure warrant at the North Point Yacht Club. A search was conducted and agents seized 1,811 containers of beer, 57 containers of distilled spirits and 21 containers of wine. Mr. Martin was present during the search.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  Joseph Shapiro -  jshapiro@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)