Former Qualcomm director admits to tax evasion scheme with former Chabad of Poway rabbi

 

Date: July 29, 2021

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

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.

"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."

"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."

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

 
Name Case Number Charges Maximum Penalty City, State
Jason Ellis   21-CR-2200-BAS Filing False Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, U.S.C. §7206(1) Three years in prison Poway, CA

Previously Charged Defendants and Summary of Charges

Name Case Number Charges Maximum Penalty City, State
Yisroel Goldstein  20CR1916-BAS Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, USC 371 Five years in prison Poway, CA
Alexander Avergoon 19CR2955-BAS
  • Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, USC 1343
  • Aggravated Identity Theft, in violation of Title 18, USC 1028A
  • Money Laundering, in violation of Title 18, USC 1956(a)(1)(B)(i)
     
  • 20 years in prison
  • Two years minimum consecutive term in prison
  • 20 years in prison

 

San Diego, CA
Bruce Baker 20CR1912-BAS                  Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and file false tax returns, in violation of Title 18, USC 371 Five years in prison La Jolla, CA
Bijan Moossazadeh 20CR1893-BAS     Filing a False Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, USC 7206(1)
 
Three years in prison San Diego, CA
Yousef Shemirani 20CR1895-BAS Filing a False Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, USC 7206(1) Three years in prison Poway, CA
Boris Shkoller 20CR1913-BAS    Filing a False Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, USC 7206(1) Three years in prison Del Mar, CA
Mendel Goldstein 20CR2772-BAS Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, USC 371 Five years in prison Brooklyn, NY
Stuart Weinstock 21CR0042-BAS Filing False Tax Return, in violation of Title 26, U.S.C. §7206(1) Three years in prison Escondido, CA
Rotem Cooper 20CR3968-BAS Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, USC 371 Deferred Prosecution Agreement San Diego, CA
Igor Shtilkind 20CR3955-BAS Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, USC 371 Deferred Prosecution Agreement San Diego, CA

Investigating Agencies

  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation