An Irish national, charged with helping to run a multi-million dollar tax-dodging scheme in the US, has been remanded in custody in New York.
Paul Feenan, 48, originally from Downpatrick, Co. Down. was arrested alongside two other men - Bronx pub owner, Thomas Keenan and New Jersey pawn shop owner, Ian Woloshin.
The three men have been accused of running a massive illegal check-cashing that helped Port Authority contractors avoid paying taxes. Manhattan prosecutors allege the trio illegally cashed almost $17 million in checks for at least 19 businesses between 2012 and 2014.
According to criminal and civil court papers, the associates made nearly $1m from the scheme by taking a five per cent commission on each illegally-cashed check.
The charges come following a joint investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the Port Authority into contractors underreporting payroll. Prosecutors said the three accused ran an illegal check-cashing ring out of Yonkers bar 'Tommy K's', owned by Thomas Keenan.
The Irish News reports that an affidavit from the Port Authority and the DA's office "identified various businesses that were cashing third-party checks and paying their workers in cash in order to under report payroll and avoid taxes, worker's compensation insurance premiums and other business expenses".
The publication also states that further arrests are likely.
Keenan and Feenan were both arraigned on conspiracy, bank fraud charges, felony tax fraud and
identity theft charges. Both pleaded not guilty.
Feenan, whose nickname is 'Pogo', was remanded to jail, while bail was set at $50,000.
Prosecutors claimed the scheme involved business owners dropping off commercial checks to Keenan or Feenan at the Bronx bar and other locations, including gas stations. Court documents stated that in return the men would hand the owner cash in a paper or plastic bag for the amount of the check, with a five per cent commission deducted.
Prosecutors claimed Keenan and Feenan would endorse the checks, even though they were not the named recipients.
It was alleged that the checks - some of which were reportedly for "hefty sums" - would be delivered to Woloshin, who would deposit them in a business account connected to his pawn shop, which was a licensed check-cashing operation.
Court papers also stated that on November 11 2013 the owner of a construction company gave Feenan a $149,250 check and received $141,787 in cash in return.
According to the documents, the following day a runner picked up the check from Keenan and transported it to Woloshin's pawn shop and allegedly deposited the check for cash, taking a 1.5 per cent cut and delivering $147,011 in cash to Keenan and Feenan, leaving them the remaining 3.5 per cent commission.
Prosecutors claimed the three men made at least $838,100 off the scheme.