Local businessman under a cloud


He operates cigar stores but his questionable business dealings may leave those enterprises in ashes.

A state grand jury on Sept. 30 voted to indict Richard Yanuzzi, 52, of Belleville, on charges that he failed to pay about $442,000 in state sales taxes and tobacco product taxes owed in connection with his businesses, the N.J. Attorney General’s Office announced in a news release dated Oct. 3.

Yanuzzi is listed as the owner of Sparroween LLC, which runs two cigar shops in Lyndhurst and West Caldwell, both under the name “Cigar Emporium.”

Veteran political observers in Belleville have alleged for years that Yanuzzi – a former president of the Belleville Public Library Board and onetime overseer of the Belleville High Athletic Advisory Council – has reportedly operated behind the scenes, funding war chests for candidates for office and calling in favors for friends and associates.

Meanwhile, Yanuzzi and Sparrroween are facing second-degree charges of theft by unlawful taking and misapplication of entrusted property. Yanuzzi was also charged with a second-degree count of misconduct by a corporate official. And, Yanuzzi and Sparroween were charged with multiple third-degree counts of failure to file tax returns, failure to pay taxes and filing false returns.

According to the N.J. Attorney General’s Office, an examination of Yanuzzi’s bank accounts by the office’s Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau shows that from 2012 to 2016, Yanuzzi allegedly failed to report and pay about $442,000 in sales and tobacco product taxes while also failing to file any state income tax returns or pay any state income taxes for himself during that period.

Additionally, an examination of his business bank account deposits for 2012 to 2015 allegedly revealed nearly a $1.7 million shortfall in reported sales, resulting in a loss of about $115,000 in unremitted sales tax owed to the state.

It also showed that Yanuzzi and Sparroween allegedly filed no sales tax returns from the third quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2016 and allegedly filed false sales tax returns for the first quarter of 2012, third quarter of 2013 and second quarter of 2014, all of which under-reported sales.

It also disclosed that both allegedly filed no tobacco product tax returns from June 2015 to March 2016 and filed false tobacco product tax returns from February 2012 to May 2015, resulting in a failure to pay about $327,000 in taxes owed to the state.

Further, Yanuzzi allegedly never registered the second cigar shop he opened in West Caldwell with the Division of Taxation, for which he is charged with a fourth-degree count of engaging in conduct requiring licensure or registration without licensure or registration.

“Those who evade taxes, as Yanuzzi is alleged to have done, steal from the state and its honest taxpayers,” said Attorney General Christopher Porrino. “We’ll aggressively prosecute this criminal conduct, which is an affront to the business owners and taxpayers of New Jersey who are paying their fair share.”

The case was presented to the grand jury by Deputy Attorney General Anthony J. Robinson of the Division of Criminal Justice. Porrino credited forensic auditors in the Division of Taxation’s Office of Criminal Investigation and detectives with the N.J. State Police Official Corruption North Squad for their joint investigation.

Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000; third-degree crime convictions net a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000; and fourth-degree crimes, up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Yanuzzi is due to be arraigned before Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County. He is represented by Nutley attorney Anthony Iacullo.


Learn more about the writer ...