Owner of Pittsfield Township party store accused of being part of tax refund check scheme
The owner of the Express Mart liquor store in Pittsfield Township is under federal investigation for being a part of a year-long scheme to cash other people’s tax refund checks.
An affidavit filed Friday in U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan Friday named Waad Jameel Karana as the man who received 29 United States Treasury tax refund checks worth $141,951 from a local man, who had been sent the checks by a man in Florida.
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
On Thursday, agents arrested Karana at the store, following a short investigation into a scheme that federal authorities report went on for about one year.
The man gave agents the cash before investigators entered the store and arrested Karana on suspicion of conspiring to transfer in interstate commerce more than $5,000 of securities taken by fraud, according to the affidavit. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the charge.
The Secret Service declined to comment Friday afternoon because the investigation is ongoing.
According to the affidavit, the scheme unraveled when the local man — who is not currently facing any charges in the case — was arrested by the Ypsilanti Police Department on outstanding warrants Wednesday.
During that arrest, police found 29 U.S. Treasury tax refund checks, all made out to different people and containing Florida addresses, according to the affidavit.
The man told Burks he was on a trip to Florida when he had contact with a person who operated an income tax preparation business. The affidavit stated the man recruited the local man to receive tax refund checks from him in the mail and take them to Karana at the Express Mart, 5490 W. Michigan Ave., to cash them.
The man told the local man he would send a percentage of each check back to Florida and he could keep $100 for each check cashed, the affidavit stated. The local man contacted Karana on Thursday, while working under the direction of agents, and was told to bring the checks to the store where Karana would give him money.
On Thursday afternoon, the local man went to the Express Mart and exchanged $141,951 in U.S. Treasury checks for $105,200 in cash, the affidavit stated. He was under constant visual surveillance by agents while entering and exiting the store and had nothing on him but the checks and the cash.
After receiving the $105,200, agents went into the store and asked to see the manager. Karana identified himself as the manager and led agents to a backroom. The affidavit states Karana admitted he had received the treasury checks, which were still sitting on his desk.
Karana admitted to receiving checks from the local man twice a week for about a year, the affidavit revealed.
The store still had a police presence in front of it Friday morning and the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
A message left at a phone number listed for Karana was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.