Two New Jersey construction company owners plead guilty to tax crimes

Salvatore Caravella and Zeki Donuk to be sentenced in separate cases

(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)
(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Two New Jersey construction company owners pleaded guilty last week in federal court to tax crimes.

In the first case, Salvatore Caravella, Jr. of Kinnelon, pleaded guilty to failing to report nearly $700,000 in income he received from his construction and real estate companies, including 2-C Construction Company Inc., Bella Construction of North Jersey LLC and 203 Harrison Street LLC, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice

Caravella’s conduct resulted in a tax loss of about $236,000. He faces a maximum of five years in prison, as well as restitution and penalties.

No date was set for his sentencing.

In the second case, Zeki Donuk, of Landing, pleaded guilty to tax evasion, employment tax crimes, aiding the filing of false tax returns and making false statements in bankruptcy related to his business, Titan Builders, which later became Titan Steel Construction, according to a DOJ press release.

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Between 2016 and 2019,  Donuk personally cashed checks made out to Titan instead of depositing them into business’ bank accounts. Donuk hid the cashed checks and did not report them on either Titan’s corporate tax returns or as income on his or his wife’s personal returns.

As part of his plea, Donuk admitted that from the third quarter of 2016 through the third quarter of 2017, he also did not collect, account for or pay over to the IRS employment taxes withheld from employees’ wages. For those quarters, Donuk also did not file employment tax returns on behalf of the businesses, the release said.

In 2019, Donuk made false statements on documents he filed in a personal bankruptcy case. Specifically, he concealed from the bankruptcy court that he owned a vacation property in Pennsylvania, had signatory authority over certain bank accounts, owed tax debts to the IRS and operated his construction business as Titan Builders and Titan Steel.

Donuk’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 4, when he faces a maximum of five years in prison for each count of tax evasion, failure to account for and pay employment taxes and bankruptcy fraud, and a maximum penalty of three years in prison for each false return. He also faces restitution, and monetary penalties. 

It’s been a busy couple of months for real estate crime in New Jersey.

Earlier in September, Cabral Simpson, a 46-year-old resident of Orange, New Jersey, admitted to collaborating with co-conspirators in fabricating bank statements and fake employee verification records for prospective property buyers, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release.