Federal Authorities Seize Part of Personal Shopper's House Down Payment in D.C. Tax Scam Probe
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Federal authorities have seized houses, jewelry, plasma TVs and fancy cars in their hunt to recover funds tied to the massive D.C. tax scandal.
Add down payments to the list.
In court papers made public this week, an FBI agent wrote that the bureau recently seized $411,368.25 that was used in an attempt to purchase a home in Northern Virginia.
Authorities traced the funds to Ainna Ojo, 38, a Saks Fifth Avenue personal shopper and a friend of the plan's mastermind, Harriette Walters, according to an FBI affidavit.
Ojo has not been charged with any crimes. She could not be reached yesterday.
Ojo and Walters, 52, a mid-level manager in the D.C. tax office, met in 2005 and became friends, FBI agent Debra LaPrevotte wrote in the court papers.
In July 2006, Ojo got a $628,000 cashier's check from either Walters or Jayrece Turnbull, another member of the scam, LaPrevotte wrote, and authorities traced that money to funds stolen in the D.C. tax scam.
Ojo used the money for a down payment on a $1.4 million house being built by Toll Brothers in Ashburn, the agent wrote.
Walters told investigators that she agreed to give Ojo the money but that the shopper was supposed to repay her after finishing graduate school, according to LaPrevotte.
LaPrevotte wrote that Ojo told agents she accepted some money from Walters but not a large amount.
Early this year, Ojo filed a civil suit in Fairfax County Circuit Court demanding that Toll Brothers repay her $750,000 deposit. Her attorney, Julian Karpoff, declined to comment.
Ojo couldn't come up with the rest of the financing, the FBI agent wrote. Toll Brothers kept the funds and sold the house in July for $1.1 million, records show.
Overall, authorities have recovered about $10 million in money and property linked to the D.C. tax scam. Eleven people have pleaded guilty in the scandal. Five await sentencing.
Walters has pleaded guilty to stealing almost $50 million from the D.C. government. She is set to be sentenced May 14 and faces 15 to 18 years in prison under a plea deal.
Staff writer Tom Jackman and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.