OAKDALE, Minn.-Prosecutors say the owner of an Oakdale tobacco shop in the Twin Cities suburb evaded paying $918,000 in sales tax.
Hatem Amin Younis, 47, was charged Thursday, Oct. 18, in Washington County District Court with 43 tax-related crimes. Younis, who lives in Afton, is the owner of Super Smokedale Tobacco, which also has retail locations in Anoka, Minneapolis and Big Lake, Minn.
Younis allegedly under-reported tobacco sales and knowingly filed false sales tax returns and underpaid the amount of sales tax that was actually owed, according to the criminal complaint. Younis evaded paying $918,362 in sales tax between April 2011 and December 2016, not including interest or penalties, the complaint states.
Younis was booked into the Washington County Jail on Thursday afternoon.
Investigators with the Minnesota Department of Revenue audited Younis and his business and found "hidden and/or unreported cash registers, receipt tapes not provided for the initial audit, incredulous amounts of voided transactions and taxable sales being reported as non-taxable sales in the form of cigarette sales," the complaint states.
Younis was charged with 21 felony counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false sales tax returns; 21 felony counts of willfully failing to pay sales tax that was due; and a gross misdemeanor count of operating a business without a sales tax permit. His business was charged with the same crimes.
Each tax-related felony charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine; each tax-related gross misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or $3,000 fine.
He is scheduled to have his first appearance on the charges at 10 a.m. Friday in Washington County District Court in Stillwater.
Officers searched Younis' house, truck, business and storage warehouse on April 25, 2018, according to the complaint.
More than $50,000 was found in his truck. A blue banker's bag from Alerus bank in the truck's center console had $5,600 in it; a plastic grocery bag under the rear driver's-side seat contained $45,457 "bundled with rubber bands, and most had receipts from Younis' retail stores affixed to them," the complaint states.
The revenue department's criminal investigation division received a tip about Younis from a former employee in 2014, according to the complaint. The tipster had "firsthand knowledge that Younis was evading sales tax and tobacco tax," the complaint states. "This tipster stated Younis used hidden registers, falsely voided transactions, using false books and smuggled tobacco."
Many of the department's criminal case referrals come from public tips, said Ryan Brown, a spokesman for the department, which has a 24-hour tip line for anyone who suspects that a person or business is violating Minnesota tax laws. Tipsters can call 651-297-5195 or 1-800-657-3500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tipsters may choose to remain anonymous, he said.
Younis had been audited previously by the revenue department. During that audit, which covered October 2007 through June 2011, he was found to owe $145,438 in tobacco tax, but that number was adjusted after he appealed, the complaint states. In 2016, Younis and department officials settled on the amount of $60,000 tax owed, which was paid in full by Younis, the complaint states.
The auditor in the previous audit noted that Younis "intentionally destroys records and keeps inventory off of the books," according to the complaint. That audit also noted that Younis was not handling his wholesale business correctly and that he was making exempt sales without exemption certificates.
Younis also is facing charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Washington County. Prosecutors say he raped a woman at the tobacco business' storage facility in Oakdale in November 2017. The jury trial in that case is scheduled to start Dec. 3.
Younis has a history of criminal conduct. Two years ago, he was charged with the sale and possession of hallucinogens, stimulants and synthetic cannabinoids. He also was charged with criminal sexual conduct in 2010.