Trumbull resident faces up to three years for part in fraud scheme

A Trumbull resident who reportedly prepared false tax returns and fraudulent rent roles that were used to swindle a Bridgeport-based property owner, now faces up to three years in prison.

The United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut today announced that Thomas Ragonese, 55, of Trumbull, pleaded guilty Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford to a federal tax offense.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Anthony Testo and business, ACT Builders, Inc., were contracted to serve as a property manager for an entity in Bridgeport that owned an apartment complex and several single and multi-family residences. Testo’s role as property manager included filling vacant rental units, setting rental amounts, collecting security deposits, collecting rent from tenants and depositing rental payments in the property owner’s bank account. Testo also was required to submit to the property owner a monthly “rent roll,” which was a spreadsheet showing the occupancy of the rental units, the rental amounts due and the rental payments collected from tenants. Ragonese provided accounting services to Testo and ACT Builders. At Testo’s instruction, Ragonese prepared the rent rolls.

From approximately January 2007 to August 2010, Testo and ACT Builders, with Ragonese’s assistance, defrauded the property owner by submitting fraudulent rent rolls that misrepresented that certain rental units were vacant with no rent due when, in fact, the apartments were occupied and rent had been collected. The rent rolls also misrepresented that the rent due and collected for certain rental units was lower than the amount that was actually collected. Testo deposited rental income that was due to the property owner into both his personal bank account and the ACT Builders bank account.

Through this scheme, and also by submitting fraudulent subcontractor invoices to the property owner, Testo defrauded the property owner of at least $275,000.

For the 2007 through 2010 tax years, Ragonese prepared Testo’s federal tax returns, which failed to report the rental income that Testo kept for his own use and benefit. This resulted in a tax loss to the Internal Revenue Service of $71,795.

Ragonese pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and assisting the preparation and filing of a false tax return, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of three years. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on Oct. 2.

On June 20, Testo pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of assisting in the preparation and filing of a false tax return. Testo also admitted that he failed to report his fraudulent income on his 2007 through 2010 personal federal income tax returns. In addition, ACT Builders pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Testo and ACT Builders are currently scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 2.

This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Felice Duffy.