Local fried-chicken places face possible shutdown due to federal tax-fraud cases

New York and Crown Fried Chicken outlets on Blue Hill Avenue and Columbia Road face a possible shutdown by the Boston Licensing Board after a man the feds say secretly held ownership stakes in them pleaded guilty to federal tax-fraud charges related to their operation.

Facing a potential loss of their food-serving licenses for hiding Hazrat Khalid Khan's ownership stake and for failing to keep track of either cash payments or employees are New York Fried Chicken outlets on 442 Blue Hill Ave., 1198 Blue Hill Ave. and 531 Columbia Rd. and a Crown Fried Chicken outlet at 998 Blue Hill Ave. A Crown Fried Chicken outlet on Warren Street in Roxbury is also at risk.

Federal and Boston investigators charge that Hazrat Khalid Khan, of Middletown, NY, used local Pakistanis as fronts for a scheme to avoid up to $3 million in federal taxes by providing fake records on income and payrolls. Khan pleaded guilty to federal tax and immigration fraud charges earlier this year and is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 26. Riaz Ali Shah, listed as owner of New York Fried Chicken on River Street in Hyde Park, pleaded guilty to similar charges earlier this year and had his food-serving license stripped last month for his involvement in the scheme.

Two other men, Khurshed Iqbal and Rahman Zeb, were indicted with Khan in connection with two fried-chicken places, one in Chelsea and one at 344 Warren St. in Roxbury. They have yet to come to trial or offer a change of plea.

At a brief hearing on Tuesday, Boston Police Det. Bernard McCrevan told the Boston Licensing Board that the investigation into New York and Crown Fried Chicken operations continues, more than four years after federal and local investigators raided several of the places.

The board, suspended the hearing, on whether to revoke the eatery's food-serving license, after the attorney for listed owner Syed Hakim Shah of Dorchester demanded proof that Khan was, in fact, a hidden owner in the operation. The board then similarly postponed hearings on four other fried-chicken places in Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury.

Before the hearing was suspended, Shah's attorney, William Cintolo, started to make the case that McCrevan had no proof that Khan had anything to do with the 442 Blue Hill Ave. operation, because he had sold it all to Shah, and that there was no proof that Shah partook of any of the ill-gotten gains Khan agreed to plead guilty to taking. Cintolo also represented the owner of the now closed Hyde Park outlet; at the license revocation hearing for him, Cintolo did not deny Khan's involvement and suggested that client was simply a poor dupe.

Under hostile questioning from Cintolo - who at one point asked the veteran BPD detective if he knew what "hearsay" was - McCrevan acknowledged that Shah's name did not appear on any of the documents filed in the federal case against Khan or during Khan's plea hearing.

But McCrevan said he knows that Shah's name came up during the investigation, that the probe continues and that additional indictments could be forthcoming.

The federal documents in the Khan case list nine unindicted co-conspirators, seven of them unnamed. McCrevan added, "I find it interesting that Mr. Hazrat Khan agreed to plead guilty to crimes associated with the restaurant at 442 Blue Hill Avenue."

McCreavan said details on Khan's involvement with the New York Fried Chicken outlet on Blue Hill Avenue might be spelled out in documents held by the IRS, which he said he had no access to. An IRS investigator did attend the interrupted hearing, but did not testify.

Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini then ruled that Cintolo, who also represented at least three of the other four owners scheduled for hearings today, had proved his case that the IRS records would be key to the board's determination whether the fried-chicken outlets' owners violated state and city rules against hiding the names of people with ownership stakes.

The four are also charged with violating rules requiring a listing of cash payments and an employee list. McCreavan said that on July 27 of this year, he conducted an inspection of the Blue Hill Avenue fried-chicken place and that Shah had neither a record of the day's cash receipts nor an employee list.

In addition to the outlets facing board hearings, Khan allegedly also had a role in four other chicken and fast-food places in Brighton and Roxbury; the board has yet to hold hearings on their operations.

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