IRS Blows the Whistle on Referee Tax Evader
Life + Money

IRS Blows the Whistle on Referee Tax Evader

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

Peter Lulo, 54, a former basketball referee from Brooklyn, New York, has pled guilty to tax fraud and has admitted not filing any returns from 2005 to 2008 – all while raking in more than $63,000 from his time spent officiating games. Lulo worked at Chelsea Piers, the popular sports and entertainment complex on the West Side of Manhattan near the Hudson River, both as a referee and as a supervisor of the adult basketball program there.

It turns out that Lulo didn’t “play” alone. According to the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, the restless referee’s tax evasion scheme was part of a much bigger team effort. Several refs who worked at Chelsea Piers in the adult basketball leagues used stolen IDs to avoid reporting income and paying taxes on it. And Lulo kept the “list.”

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Basketball referees are paid about $40 per game by Chelsea Piers. In any year in which a ref is paid more than $600, Chelsea Piers must report that income payment to the IRS, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. But Lulo, who worked there as a ref from 1996 to 2008, “used stolen identification information to ensure that referees were rarely, if ever, paid more than $600 per year in their own names,” said the U.S. Attorney’s office late last week. 

As part of the scheme, Lulo and others “provided Chelsea Piers with false IRS forms that contained the stolen identification information. When Chelsea Piers issued checks payable to the stolen identities, Lulo and others fraudulently endorsed the checks for the purpose of depositing or cashing them.”  

Lulo pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., to evade taxes, and to file false tax returns – and guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft as well. He also pled guilty to four counts of tax evasion.

For these crimes combined, the former game official – who once blew the whistle on any number of players as they raced up and down the courts, trying to dribble, pass, score and win – now faces a maximum of 40 godforsaken years behind bars.

He’ll be sentenced in October. And he’ll need to cough up as much as $400,000 in restitution, as well as pay a maximum of $75,000 in fines under the terms of his plea deal, according to the New York Post. Talk about a really bad bounce.