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)

Comptroller Franchot Alerts Marylanders to Social Media Scam

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (June 6, 2018) - Reinforcing his commitment to protect Marylanders, Comptroller Peter Franchot today warned Maryland residents about a scam in which cyber thieves contact citizens via social media using an official-looking certificate about a large sum of money for a fee.

The scammers send messages using the Comptroller of Maryland and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) logos on an official looking “Certificate of Completion.” Recipients then are told they can access the money for a fee. Neither the Comptroller’s Office nor the IRS use social media to contact taxpayers in regard to tax matters or financial issues.

“Cyber thieves will go to any length to get taxpayers’ money, identity or financial information,” Comptroller Peter Franchot said. “This new scam is just the latest in a long line. As we investigate these cases, I want to warn everyone not to fall victim to unknown contacts who make promises that seem too good to be true. My office would never use social media to contact a taxpayer about a tax matter or financial issue. If you are contacted in this way, don’t reply, be cautious and notify my agency’s FED officers immediately.”

The Comptroller’s Office warns taxpayers to not reply to messages or emails requesting money, confidential information – especially your Social Security number – birth date, salary information or home address. If you receive a suspicious message or email, please call 1-800-MD-TAXES or email mdcomptroller@comp.state.md.us.

“Unfortunately, the availability and ease of use of technology allows criminals to convincingly deceive the public,” said Jeff Kelly, director of the Comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division.”Our agents investigate these incidents and do everything possible to bring these scammers to justice. We ask the public to contact the Comptroller’s Office before sending money or sharing personal information.”

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 Reports $5.7M Rebate In Purchasing Card Program

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (June 5, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that the State of Maryland has received a $5.7 million rebate from U.S. Bank. The rebate is the result of 77 state agencies spending approximately $285 million on small purchases through Maryland’s Corporate Purchasing Card program for the period of April 26, 2017 through April 25, 2018.

“Maryland taxpayers expect us to make sure we protect their financial best interests and look for ways to save them money,” Comptroller Franchot said. “As part of my job as the state’s fiscal watchdog, my agency is dedicated to this task. The Corporate Purchasing Card program allows state agencies to make small purchases in an efficient and effective way, to provide accountability and to allow vendors to be paid in a timely manner.”

Under this program, the Comptroller’s Office issues one payment each month to U.S. Bank for all card purchases made during the previous month. Merchants are paid directly by VISA, usually within two business days of the purchase, which is shorter than the normal 30-day payment cycle. U.S. Bank pays a rebate when the State reaches pre-set purchase volumes. This contract for Purchasing Card services was approved by the Board of Public Works in 2013, with the new vendor U.S. Bank at a higher rebate percentage than the previous contract.

The State of Maryland first began using the VISA corporate purchasing card program in March 1997. Since then, the State has purchased more than $4 billion worth of goods and services while earning $62.6 million in rebates.

 

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 Announces 6-Month Extension of Sales Tax Deadline for Ellicott City Businesses

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 29, 2018) – To assist Ellicott City-area businesses affected by this weekend’s destructive storm and extensive flooding, Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced a six-month extension for Howard County business tax returns due and has established a special flood assistance email address.

“During this time of terrible loss, this is one thing we can do to ease the burden on business owners who are just beginning to assess the damage and consider next steps,” said Comptroller Franchot. “Each time I’ve visited Ellicott City, I’m struck by the spirit of the business community, its charming storefronts and its importance to our state’s economy. My staff stands ready to help these wonderful merchants, who have shown such courage and resilience these past two years.”

The extension includes Sales & Use Tax, Withholding Tax and Admissions & Amusement Tax. Taxpayers who file and pay by the extended due date will receive a waiver of interest and penalties. The Sales and Use Tax vendor discount will apply as long as the returns are filed and the taxes are remitted by December 31, 2018.

The Comptroller’s Office also has issued a temporary waiver of International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) requirements for those providing emergency supplies and support to the areas impacted by the recent storms and flooding.

The agency has set up a special flood assistance email address –floodsupport@comp.state.md.us – to more quickly assist local businesses. For businesses in Catonsville and Oella affected by storm damage or flooding, owners should call the Comptroller’s Ombudsman Karen Scheerer or her assistant Sergio Hernandez at 410-260-4020 or email ombudsman@comp.state.md.us.

For other inquiries, businesses may call 410-260-7980 (from Central Maryland) or 1-800-638-2937 or email the Comptroller’s Office at taxhelp@comp.state.md.us.

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 to Promote Summer Tourism in Visits Across Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 21, 2018) - With summer fast approaching and vacation plans being made, Comptroller Peter Franchot will travel across the state this week ahead of Memorial Day – the unofficial start of summer – to promote Maryland tourism and highlight some of the family-friendly destinations from the mountains to the ocean and everything in between.

“As the state’s chief fiscal officer, I see the incredible impact that the tourism industry has on our economy and our revenues,” said Comptroller Franchot. “Maryland has so much to offer this summer, regardless of where you live. Families can visit the beach and charming bayside towns on the Eastern Shore, the idyllic mountains of Western Maryland and the historic museums and terrific attractions in Baltimore City – just to name a few destinations across our great state.”

The Comptroller will make the following visits this week:

Tuesday, May 22:

  • Salisbury Zoo: 755 South Park Drive, Salisbury, MD
  • Fish Tales: 2207 Herring Way, Ocean City, MD

Wednesday, May 23:

  • Simon Pearce Factory Store and Glassblowing Workshop: 265 Glass Drive, Oakland, MD
  • Lakeside Creamery: 20282 Garrett Highway, Oakland, MD

Thursday, May 24:

  • B&O Railroad Museum: 901 W. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD
  • Baltimore Museum of Art: 10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore, MD
  • Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture: 830 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD
  • National Aquarium: 501 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD
  • Sandlot: 1000 Wills Street, Baltimore, MD

Times and additional details about each visit will be released via media advisories as the week progresses.

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’s Agents Cite Prince George’s County Stores

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 14, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that agents from the Field Enforcement Division (FED) seized other tobacco products (OTP) and cited two Prince George’s County retail operations for selling untaxed products. A total of 18,408 sticks of OTP and 300 containers of (loose tobacco) OTP were confiscated with a value of $20,829 and representing a tax loss to the state of $13,608.

“This is the fourth major seizure my Field Enforcement Division agents have completed since April, and they will continue to keep Maryland’s citizens from being ripped off by those trying to cheat them,” said Comptroller Franchot.

The following store owners were charged:

  • Discount Mart Convenience Store: 5003 A. Marlboro Pike, Capital Heights, MD 20743, owned by Mehboob-ul Haq Chowdhury, 35, of Suitland; inspected May 9 with 14,734 sticks and 300 containers of (loose tobacco) untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $17,164 and representing a tax loss of $11,043.20. Chowdhury was charged with willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products.
  • Discount Cigarettes I: 5742 Silver Hill Road, District Heights, MD 20747, owned by Jason Yongjin Chung, 39, of Stafford, VA; inspected May 10 with 3,665 sticks of untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $3,665 and representing a tax loss of $2,565. Chung was charged with willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products.

In Maryland, a retailer can only lawfully possess and sell non-premium cigars purchased from a licensed Maryland wholesaler of OTP. Retailers must possess invoices for all OTP inventory indicating that the Maryland excise tax had been paid to the state by the wholesaler.

So far for fiscal year 2018, which started July 1, 2017, FED agents have arrested and charged 150 individuals for various tobacco violations as a result of discovering 139 instances of violations of Maryland’s tobacco laws. These arrests have resulted in the seizure of 169,314 packs of contraband cigarettes and the seizure of 463,153 sticks of untaxed OTP. The seized items are valued at $1,571,785.40 and representing a tax loss to the state of $735,585.60.

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)

Your ‘Taken’ Unclaimed Property Can Be Found at Summer Fairs

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 8, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot and agency staff will demonstrate a particular set of skills this summer and fall at local fairs and festivals to help reunite Marylanders find their “Taken” Unclaimed Property, which includes abandoned bank accounts, security deposits, insurance benefits and items in safe deposit boxes.

“If I find your unclaimed property now, that will be the end of it,” Comptroller Franchot says in his latest Unclaimed Property video based on the 2008 movie starring Liam Neeson. “If you don’t claim it, I’ll keep looking for you. I will find you. And I will return your money and your property to you.”

Last summer, 3,770 people at fairs and festivals throughout the state checked out the agency’s Unclaimed Property booth looking for their property on the annually published list. Of that total, 567 people discovered and received more than $470,000 in unclaimed funds. One Baltimore County resident attending the Maryland State Fair found $71,517.

This year’s Unclaimed Property inserts, which is running in more than 30 newspapers across the state, lists 79,110 accounts worth more than $62 million. Individuals and businesses can also search the online Unclaimed Property database.

Taking a creative approach to raising awareness about the Unclaimed Property program, Comptroller Franchot has appeared as “The Franchot Zone,” “Sheriff Franchot,” “Sherlock Franchot and “The Most Interesting Man in Maryland.” This year’s cover features him from the movie “Taken.”

Financial institutions, insurance companies and corporations are required by law to notify the Comptroller’s Office of any property that has gone unclaimed, or without activity, for more than three years. Once reported to the agency, staff works to locate the rightful owners to match them with their property. Funds are available to be claimed at any time, with no statute of limitations.

In Fiscal Year 2017, the Comptroller’s Office honored nearly 52,719 claims totaling more than $76 million. Since 2007, the Comptroller’s Office has returned more than $661 million in Unclaimed Property.

A list of upcoming fairs and festivals can be found 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)

FED Agents Cite Stores in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 8, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that agents from the Field Enforcement Division (FED) seized untaxed other tobacco products (OTP) and cited six retail operations in Baltimore and two in Prince George’s County in late April through early May. A total of 18,183 untaxed sticks of OTP were confiscated with a value of $18,183 and representing a tax loss of $12,847.

“The work my Field Enforcement Division agents and inspectors do each and every day helps to keep Maryland’s citizens from being ripped off by those trying to cheat them,” Comptroller Peter Franchot said.

The following store owners and clerks were charged:

  • BP Gas Station, 6019 Belair Road, Baltimore, MD 21206, owned by Asif Ayub, 47, Baltimore; inspected May 3 with 2,233 sticks of untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $2,233 and representing a tax loss of $1,563.10. Ayub was charged with willful possession, sale of offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products, and clerk Tamer Farid Abdalla, 35, of Baltimore, was charged with selling unpackaged cigarettes.
  • H&C Market, 1946 Penrose Ave., Baltimore, MD 21223, owned by Shia Ying Lin, 41, Baltimore; inspected April 30 with 1,250 sticks of untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $1,250 and representing a tax loss of $875. Lin was charged with willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products, and clerk Bao Ying Lin, 44, Baltimore, was charged with selling unpackaged cigarettes.
  • Hillen Grocery Store, 1900 E. 31st Street, Baltimore, MD 21218; inspected April 27; clerk Xiaoyon Ouyang, 32, of Baltimore, was charged with selling unpackaged cigarettes.
  • Harford Mini Mart, 4600 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21214, owned by Omar Alawgarey, 44, of Baltimore; inspected April 25 with 910 sticks of untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $910 and representing a tax loss of $637. Alawgary was charged with willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products, and clerk Mohamed Nouraldin, 40, of Baltimore, was charged with selling unpacked cigarettes.
  • A Plus Convenience Store, 3745 W. Belvedere Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215, owned by Kyoo Han, 70, of Glen Burnie; inspected April 24 with 755 sticks of untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $755 and representing a tax loss of $528.50. Han was charged with willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products.
  • Brothers Deli and Grocery, 3448 Belair Road, Baltimore, MD 21213, owned by Hamzah Nagi, 22, of Baltimore; inspected April 19 with 2,383 sticks of untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $2,383 and representing a tax loss of $1,668.10. Nagi was charged with willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products.
  • Quick Mart, 5805 Silver Hill Road, Suite 1, District Heights, Prince George’s County, MD 20747; inspected April 25 with 8,211 sticks of untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $8,686, 46 and representing a tax loss of $5,866.46. Clerk Abdul Wahab, 32, of Columbia, was charged with willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products.
  • Dollar Store Plus Food, 3512 Old Silver Hill Road, Suitland, Prince George’s County; inspected April 24 with 2,441 sticks of untaxed OTP seized with a retail value of $2,441 and representing a tax loss of $1,708.70. Store manager Erzik Adem, 46, of Arlington, VA 22206, was charged with willful possession, sale or offer to sell untaxed other tobacco products.

In Maryland, a retailer can only lawfully possess and sell non-premium cigars purchased from a licensed Maryland wholesaler of OTP. Retailers must possess invoices for all OTP inventory indicating that the Maryland excise tax had been paid to the state by the wholesaler.

So far for fiscal year 2018, which started July 1, 2017, FED agents have arrested and charged 148 individuals for various tobacco violations as a result of discovering 137 instances of violations of Maryland’s tobacco laws. These arrests have resulted in the seizure of 169,314 packs of contraband cigarettes and the seizure of 448,053 sticks of untaxed OTP. The seized items are valued at $1,550,956.40 and representing a tax loss to the state of $720,877.40.

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)

Takoma Park Man Charged with Cigarette Smuggling

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 4, 2018) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that officers from his Field Enforcement Division (FED) assisted Maryland State Police (MSP) JFK Barrack PACE Team Wednesday evening with a traffic stop on Interstate 95 North in Cecil County. Agents seized 12,370 packs of unstamped cigarettes valued at nearly $80,000 and a vehicle.

At 6:24 p.m., MSP Cpl. Brian Hinsch stopped a 2018 Dodge Ram pick-up truck registered in Virginia for a traffic violation. Hinsch discovered the contraband cigarettes and notified the Comptroller’s Office’s FED agents.

The driver, Jermaine Shabazz Grant, 44, of Takoma Park, was arrested and charged with a felony count of transporting unstamped cigarettes and a misdemeanor count of possession of unstamped cigarettes.

Agents seized 12,370 packs of unstamped cigarettes and the vehicle used in transportation. The seized cigarettes are valued at $79,786.50 and represent a tax loss to the state of $24,740.

Grant posted a $3,000 unsecured bond and was released on Thursday.

To date for fiscal year 2018, which started July, 1, 2017, FED agents have arrested and charged 148 individuals for various tobacco violations as a result of discovering 137 instances of violations of Maryland’s tobacco laws.  These arrests have resulted in the seizure of 169,314 packs of contraband cigarettes and the seizure of 448,053 sticks of Untaxed Other Tobacco Products (OTP).  The seized items are valued at $1,550,956.40 and represents a tax loss to the State of Maryland $720,877.40.

Photos available upon request.

 

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)

Has Your Unclaimed Property Been Taken?

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 1, 2018) - Do you think your property has been Taken? Comptroller Peter Franchot is continuing his quest to reunite Marylanders with their unclaimed property. He knows who you are. He knows what you want. He doesn’t have money for everyone, but he will return property to those who do.

“I have a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a dream for people like you,” Comptroller Franchot says in his latest Unclaimed Property video based on the 2008 movie starring Liam Neeson.

This year’s Unclaimed Property inserts, which will run in more than 30 newspapers across the state, lists 79,110 accounts worth more than $62 million. Individuals and businesses can also search the online Unclaimed Property database. Comptroller Franchot made this vow:

“If I find your unclaimed property now, that will be the end of it. If you don’t claim it, I’ll keep looking for you. I will find you. And I will return your money and your property to you.”

In fiscal year 2017, the Comptroller’s Office honored nearly 52,719 claimed totaling more than $76 million. Since 2007, the Comptroller’s Office has returned more than $661 million in unclaimed property to the proper owners.

The Unclaimed Property list is full of possessions and financial payoffs that banks, insurance companies and financial institutions were unable to return to the rightful owners. Any of the goods not claimed by their owners eventually go to the State.

The Comptroller’s Unclaimed Property division will help you to find the items among the old bank accounts, stocks and bonds, jewelry and other contents of safe deposit boxes. The belongings of value – be they monetary, sentimental or a little of both – will be returned to their rightful claimants.

The Comptroller appears on the cover of the 192-page insert that will begin appearing in some newspapers today. The annual Unclaimed Property video is a complementary effort to draw attention to the campaign. In previous years, Comptroller Franchot appeared as “The Franchot Zone,” “Sheriff Franchot,” “Sherlock Franchot” and “The Most Interesting Man in Maryland.”

Along with the Unclaimed Property list, which is published annually as required by law, the Comptroller’s Office searches tax records and Motor Vehicle Administration files to try and locate property owners. The agency also has a booth at the Maryland State Fair and other events throughout the year to allow people to check the Unclaimed Property database.

Financial institutions, insurance companies and corporations are required to notify the Comptroller’s Office of any property that has gone unclaimed or without activity for more than three years. This is usually wages, bank accounts, stocks or dividends, life insurance policies or from safe deposit boxes. When the Comptroller’s Office receives property that isn’t monetary, as required by state law, the items are appraised and then auctioned off on eBay. The proceeds are held for the owner in perpetuity. Funds are available to be claimed at any time with no statute of limitations, and are not subject to taxes.

Franchot urges anyone who finds their name on the list to contact his office at 410-767-1700 (Central Maryland) or toll-free at 1-800-782-7383, to find out how to reclaim their lost property.

In total, the agency has more than 1.3 million accounts worth more than $1.6 billion in its Unclaimed Property accounts.

View the Unclaimed Property Spring 2018 advertising schedule 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)