MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. - Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi announced that a former Willingboro man was sentenced today to five years in prison for filing several false tax returns that resulted in a $545,000 refund from the New Jersey Treasury Department.
Kenneth Costello, age 50, received a five-year sentence from the Hon. Jeanne T. Covert, Pr.J.Cr. in Superior Court in Mount Holly. Judge Covert indicated the sentence took into consideration the defendant’s history of psychiatric treatment and his lack of a criminal record. Costello must serve two years in New Jersey State Prison before becoming eligible for parole.
Costello, formerly of Willingboro and also Barnegat Township, pleaded guilty in September 2013 to Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity, a first degree crime more commonly known as Money Laundering.
The investigation revealed that Costello filed four fraudulent tax returns for the 2008 tax year, resulting in a refund from the State of New Jersey in the amount of $545,384.
Costello eventually diverted the funds to multiple financial institutions. He purchased a $40,000 vehicle and used some of the money for living expenses.
Costello was indicted in June 2012 and arrested in November at a train station in Washington, D.C.
“By his actions he defrauded every hard-working taxpayer of the State of New Jersey,” Prosecutor Bernardi said. “This should serve as a lesson to those who might be considering taking the same actions -- you will eventually be caught and brought to justice.”
The investigation was conducted by the New Jersey Treasury Department’s Office of Criminal Investigations & Homeland Security and the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit.
"This joint investigation between the New Jersey Treasury Department's Office of Criminal Investigation and the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office illustrates how law enforcement works together to protect the honest taxpayers of the state,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles Giblin of the Treasury Department’s Office of Criminal Investigation. “We will continue to actively pursue and prosecute with our partners, those who commit these types of crimes.”
The investigation into Costello’s actions began after he complained to the Willingboro bank where he deposited the returns that someone had withdrawn money without his permission.
The complaint resulted in criminal charges against bank teller Lisa Jarvis, age 32, of Norcross, Georgia. Jarvis acknowledged that she created an unauthorized debit card for Costello’s account in November 2009 and used it to steal nearly $100,000 over a two-year period.
Jarvis had moved from Willingboro to Georgia and made more than 100 purchases before pleading guilty in October 2012 to computer theft and related charges. She was sentenced to three years in New Jersey State Prison.
In addition to filing the returns that yielded the $545,000 payment, Costello unsuccessfully filed another return that would have given him an additional refund of $228,000 had it not been denied by the Treasury Department.
Nearly $300,000 of the funds have been recovered.
When asked by Judge Covert if he had anything to say to the court, Costello replied, “I am sorry.”