Former Qualcomm Director Admits to Tax Evasion Scheme With Former Chabad of Poway Rabbi

Assistant U. S. Attorneys Michelle L. Wasserman (619) 546-8431 and Valerie Chu (619) 546-6750

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – July 29, 2021

SAN DIEGO – Jason Ellis of Poway pleaded guilty in federal court today to filing a false tax return as part of a years’ long tax-evasion scheme with former Chabad of Poway Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. 

Until around 2018, Rabbi Goldstein was the director and head rabbi at Chabad of Poway, a tax-exempt religious organization.  Goldstein also operated several non-profit entities affiliated with the Chabad, including the Friendship Circle of San Diego.  Beginning in 2008, at Rabbi Goldstein’s request, Ellis, who was at the time an employee of Qualcomm, made a $1,000 donation to Friendship Circle.  Ellis then requested that Qualcomm match that donation through the company’s corporate matching program.  Unbeknownst to Qualcomm, Goldstein met with Ellis in person and returned the entirety of his $1,000 to him in cash, and kept the falsely matched Qualcomm donation.  Ellis repeated this scheme in the same way every year through 2017.

In 2016, Ellis was promoted to the position of Director at Qualcomm, which meant that the company would match up to $5,000 in charitable donations. In 2016 and 2017, Ellis met with Goldstein and gave him a check for $5,000 for Friendship Circle and secured a $5,000 matching donation from Qualcomm.  In each of those years Goldstein gave Ellis $5,000 back in cash.  Between 2008 and 2017, Ellis made a total of 10 fraudulent charitable donations to Friendship Circle, each of which was matched by Qualcomm.  Qualcomm matched a total of $18,000 in fraudulent donations by Ellis.

According to Ellis’ plea agreement, in 2018, Goldstein sent a message to Ellis through another individual reminding Ellis to make his donation. Ellis thought that it was strange that Goldstein was communicating through an intermediary, and became suspicious that something was wrong.  That year Ellis made his annual $5,000 donation to Friendship Circle, but did not get any cash back from Goldstein.  However, in 2019, a year in which Ellis did not make a donation to Friendship Circle, Ellis received in the mail an unexpected donation receipt for $5,000 from Friendship Circle, signed by the director of the organization, thanking Ellis for his tax-deductible donation.  Ellis used this fraudulent donation receipt to falsely claim a $5,000 tax deductible donation on his 2019 tax returns, even though he knew he was not entitled to the deduction because he had not donated $5,000 to Friendship Circle in 2019.

Between 2015-2019 Ellis also falsely claimed his children’s preschool tuition at the Chabad as a charitable deduction on his taxes. During that time period Ellis wrote eight checks to Chabad of Poway, totaling $55,600 for his children’s preschool tuition.  Ellis then falsely reported to the IRS that he had made tax deductible donations to charity despite knowing that these were in fact tuition payments and therefore not tax-deductible donations.

Through these various schemes Ellis evaded over $27,000 in taxes.

In July 2020, Rabbi Goldstein pleaded guilty “Mr. Ellis victimized not only honest U.S. taxpayers, but also a local corporation trying to improve our community through a charitable corporate-matching program,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman. “Giving phony donations as a way to avoid paying taxes is not only unscrupulous and deceitful – it’s a crime. Tax cheats who game the system will be held to account for their conduct.” to fraud charges, admitting that he participated in a complex, years-long, multi-million-dollar tax-evasion scheme and other financial deceptions involving theft of public money.  Rabbi Goldstein’s plea agreement outlined the tax evasion scheme with Ellis.

Ellis is the ninth individual to plead guilty to crimes discovered in this investigation. Two additional individuals have agreed to deferred prosecution agreements as a result of the investigation.  Rabbi Goldstein has agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant on October 26, 2021.

Grossman praised prosecutors Michelle Wasserman and Valerie Chu and FBI and IRS agents for their excellent work on this case.

“In conspiring with Rabbi Goldstein in multiple tax evasion schemes, Jason Ellis showed a blatant disregard for our laws; laws designed to promote charitable giving and provide incentives for hard working Americans,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner.  “What Jason Ellis chose to do in taking advantage of his own employer and the tax system worked to degrade our collective trust in these laws.  The FBI is committed to finding and bringing to justice those who would abuse a system which encourages giving to non-profit organizations designed to help others.”

“For over ten years, Mr. Ellis participated in an illegal scheme that not only defrauded his employer but also stole tens of thousands of dollars from the United States,” said Ryan L. Korner, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Mr. Ellis’s lies and exploitation of charitable giving programs offered by both Qualcomm and the IRS is made more egregious by the length of his involvement. IRS Criminal Investigation, in partnership with its law enforcement partners, is resolute in bringing these thieves to justice.”

Jason Ellis is next scheduled to appear at a sentencing hearing on October 25, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Cynthia Ann Bashant.

SUMMARY OF CHARGES                        Case Number 21-CR-2200-BAS

Jason Ellis                                                      Age: 42           Poway, CA

Filing False Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, U.S.C. §7206(1)

Maximum Penalty: Three years in prison

PREVIOUSLY CHARGED DEFENDANTS AND SUMMARY OF CHARGES                     

Yisroel Goldstein, Case Number 20CR1916-BAS             Age: 58            Poway

Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, USC 371

Maximum Penalty: Five years in prison

Alexander Avergoon, Case Number 19CR2955-BAS       Age: 44            San Diego                  

Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, USC 1343

Maximum Penalty: Twenty years in prison

Aggravated Identity Theft, in violation of Title 18, USC 1028A

Maximum Penalty: Two years minimum consecutive term in prison

Money Laundering, in violation of Title 18, USC 1956(a)(1)(B)(i)

Maximum Penalty: Twenty years in prison

Bruce Baker, Case Number 20CR1912-BAS                     Age: 74            La Jolla

Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and file false tax returns, in violation of Title 18, USC 371

Maximum Penalty: Five years in prison

Bijan Moossazadeh, Case Number 20CR1893-BAS          Age: 63            San Diego

Filing a False Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, USC 7206(1)

Maximum Penalty: Three years in prison

Yousef Shemirani, Case Number 20CR1895-BAS            Age: 74            Poway

Filing a False Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, USC 7206(1)

Maximum Penalty: Three years in prison

Boris Shkoller, Case Number 20CR1913-BAS                  Age: 83            Del Mar

Filing a False Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, USC 7206(1)

Maximum Penalty: Three years in prison

Mendel Goldstein, Case Number 20CR2772-BAS             Age: 63            Brooklyn, NY

Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, USC 371

Maximum Penalty: Five years in prison

Stuart Weinstock, Case Number 21CR0042-BAS             Age:    64            Escondido, CA

Filing False Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, U.S.C. §7206(1)

Maximum Penalty: Three years in prison

Rotem Cooper, Case Number 20CR3968-BAS                  Age:    54            San Diego      

Deferred Prosecution Agreement

Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, USC 371

Igor Shtilkind, Case Number 20CR3955-BAS                   Age:    55            San Diego

Deferred Prosecution Agreement

Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, USC 371

INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Internal Revenue Service

 

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