Two Florida regional Toyota officials and a Chicago tax attorney have been indicted for allegedly failing to report $5.5 million in income. The indictments are the latest installment of a controversial investigation of offshore tax havens and money laundering.
Project Haven, a decade-long investigation by the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service's intelligence division, appeared to have ended when a top official in Justice's tax division, Cono Namorato, left last month to enter private practice.
Namorato had been known to tax division staffers as the "Godfather" of the complex probe, which has resulted in several indictments and some convictions.
The indictments announced yesterday represent the first significant activity in the probe in nearly a year.
Sources said they were handed down months ago by a Miami grand jury, but were kept sealed until this week, following a favorable ruling from an appellate court concerning the future of that grand jury.
Named in yesterday's 15-count indictment were James Moran of Pompano Beach, Fla., president and majority stockholder of Lisa Enterprises Inc., the parent company of Southeast Toyota Distributors Inc., Jack Weiss, Southeast Toyota's comptroller, from Hollywood, Fla.; and Roger Baskes, a Chicago attorney who worked as tax counsel to Southeast and Moran.
The indictment charges that Moran diverted about $5.5 million from Southeast Toyota to trust accounts at Castle Bank and Trust Co. in the Cayman Islands for his own and his family's benefit.
Moran was also accused of assisting in the preparation of false corporate tax returns for Lisa Enterprises for 1971 through 1974, allegedly claiming deductions for franchise insurance and freight forwarding services that the corporation did not receive.
Baskes, who has been indicted and convicted in other Haven-related cases involving Castle Bank, and Weiss were charged with aiding in the preparation of the returns.
The allegedly false deductions resulted in corporate funds being diverted to trust accounts at Castle Bank, the government alleges.
A previous Haven case led to indictments of Toyota officials in Southern California for taking kickbacks from potential dealers and laundering the money through Castle Bank.