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By Jada Loutoo Tuesday, August 13 2013

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An American owner of Island Club Casino has been charged by United States authorities with failing to pay taxes on nearly US$4 million (TT$25 million) in earnings from the casino based at Grand Bazaar, Valsayn, in Trinidad.

David Migliore, a national of the United States, appeared in federal court in New Jersey yesterday, charged with failing to pay the US Government taxes on more than US$3.9 million in income for 2009, 2010 and 2011.

He made an initial court appearance before US Magistrate Judge Mark Falk in a US District Court in Newark, wearing shackles over a gray suit and white open-collar shirt yesterday afternoon and did not enter a plea, according to an Associated Press report. Migliore was released on US$1 million bond secured by two properties and ordered to submit to electronic monitoring. He has another court appearance scheduled for next week.

Migliore’s attorney Robert Weir said Migliore owned Island Club Casino for about ten years until recently but spent most of his time in New Jersey and hasn’t been to Trinidad in years.

Weir also disclosed Migliore was scheduled to be served with an arrest warrant today for a drug possession charge in Wall Township.

US attorney Paul J Fishman said Migliore is accused of tax evasion and failing to file federal personal tax returns on income derived from his ownership of the casino in Trinidad, resulting in a US$1 million tax loss to the United States.

Newsday attempted to get information from Island Club Casino yesterday and was told by a man with a Mediterranean accent he did not want to speak of Migliore’s court appearance.

“Do not call me,” the person said.

A source confirmed to Newsday that Migliore owned Island Club Casino which was said to be 15 years old and one of the busiest casinos in Trinidad. The source also said the Grand-Bazaar based casino was “very large and well organised.” Sherry Persad, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Casinos and Members Club Association, said Island Club Casino was a member of the association and while she was aware of Migliore’s connection with the casino, she never met the 50-year-old Monmouth County businessman.

Persad admitted she was concerned about the reports that Migliore was charged with failing to pay taxes in the US, but noted that she was not aware of the charges against him.

“Of course we are concerned. We, our members, try to do the right thing always and conduct our business transparently,” she told Newsday.

The Association’s members, she noted, were all registered with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and ensured that they met with the unit’s regulations and requirements.

Earlier this month, Migliore was charged with three counts of tax evasion and three counts of willfully failing to file personal tax returns.

He was said to have surrendered to special agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-Criminal Investigation.

According to the indictment, which was unsealed yesterday, from 2009 to 2011, Migliore earned significant income from Island Club Casino, resulting in taxes due totalling more than US$1 million. He’s accused of taking a series of steps to hide his income and assets from the IRS.

According to the indictment, Migliore allegedly:

• Used unreported bank accounts in Trinidad to deposit personal income.

• Used US bank accounts in the names of his limited liability corporations and business entities to get personal income from Island Club casino in Trinidad.

• Used limited liability corporations and business entities to pay for personal expenses in New Jersey and elsewhere.

• Placed personal property in the names of limited liability corporations and business entities.

• Directed income from Island Club Casino in Trinidad to be transferred directly to vendors in the United States to pay for his personal expenses.

• Directed employees of Island Club Casino to send his income from the casino to individuals in New Jersey via Western Union for his benefit.

• Directed individuals to pick up cash, which was income attributed to him, from Western Union offices in New Jersey.

According to the indictment, Migliore owned several limited liability corporations in New Jersey, including Brielle Investment LLC, Brielle Investments and Management Company LLC and La Soufriere Maritime Inc. He also owned Island Club Casino and had authority over foreign bank accounts in Trinidad.

The document also noted that from 2009 to 2011, Migliore earned significant income from Island Club Casino, resulting in taxes due totalling more than US$1 million.

His unreported earnings for the years cited in the indictment were US$299,936 (2009); US$796,967; and US$2,819,739.

If he’s found guilty, Migliore faces jail time as well as fines. Each tax evasion count comes with a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine. Each count of failing to file tax returns is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of one year in prison and a US$100,000 fine.

The US government was represented in court by Assistant US Attorney Zahid N Quraishi of the US Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark, while Robert Weir was listed as Migliore’s defence counsel. Calls to Island Club Casino manager Abbas Khaladi were futile as Newsday was told he was not there and no one at the club was able to speak on the issue.

Dominic Hinds, communications specialist at the Ministry of Finance, which oversees the casino industry, also said they were unaware of the allegations against Migliore. Finance Minister Larry Howai is today expected to meet with members of the TT Casino and Members Club Association for a pre-Budget consultation.

According to a statement from the US Department of Justice, credited with the investigation involving the allegations against the Trinidad casino owner were special agents of the IRS-Criminal Investigation, the FBI, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, law enforcement officers from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, and police officers from Wall Township Police Department.

News of Migliore’s court appearance made international headlines across the globe yesterday. The New Zealand Herald reported, “Feds: Trinidad casino owner stiffed US on taxes,” while Trinidad was also featured in Canada’s Edmonton Journal’s headline ‘Feds: Trinidad casino owner stiffed US on taxes.”

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