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Stamford Landscaper Pleads Guilty in Money Scheme

A Stamford businessman admitted Thursday to withdrawing sums of money in an illegal manner to avoid reporting income on his federal tax returns. Joseph Romanello, 45, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Hartford to one count of structuring cash withdrawals. When sentenced April 29, Romanello faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

In accordance with federal law, financial institutions must report all exchanges of currency of more than $10,000 to the government on a Currency Transaction Report. Structuring is a deliberate attempt by an individual to avoid the report. To do this, an individual will divide the $10,000 or more into a series of smaller transactions. Such an act is illegal.

Romanello earned income as a mason and landscaper. According to court documents and statements made in court, he had various bank accounts and routinely withdrew amounts at or slightly less than $10,000 from each to keep the financial institutions from filing the reports. The structured transactions, which occurred from January 2003 to March 2005, amounted to a total of about $2 million. However, Romanello did not file federal income tax returns for 2003 and 2004 and did not pay $1 million in income taxes for that period.

U.S. District Judge Christopher F. Droney will sentence Romanello. The IRS' Criminal Investigation unit and the FBI investigated the case, which was prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Richard J. Schechter.

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