Disgraced ex-DOC head Joseph Ponte may have committed tax return fraudMay 13, 2019
The city’s former jails chief, who resigned under fire in 2017 after he was caught using a government vehicle for personal jaunts, may have broken the law again over related tax filings, The Post has learned.
Former Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte didn’t report having any automobile fringe benefits in 2017. But he had been on the job nearly seven months that year — and had round-the-clock use of a take-home government car and another city vehicle with security detail, records show.
Ponte, a Mayor Bill de Blasio appointee, stepped down from his $226,366-a-year post June 28, 2017, two months after the Department of Investigation released a scathing report exposing how he and 20 other correction officials used city take-home cars for private trips in 2016.
And records now show that on top of the debacle, Ponte failed to report his noncash car perk to the DOC.
City employees are required to self-report their benefits, and each agency then uses this information to calculate taxable fringe benefits included in workers’ W-2 forms.
The DOC refused to explain how Ponte’s failure to report noncash car perks went unnoticed by it.
After questioned by The Post, it only said in a statement that it would correct “this oversight” by amending Ponte’s W-2 form for 2017 to include auto benefits totaling $11,795.14 that he must now pay taxes on.
Councilmen Keith Powers and Justin Brannan said it is mind-boggling that the DOC didn’t catch Ponte’s omission, especially considering the ex-commissioner’s shady history with take-home vehicles.
“The issue is particularly concerning because of the historic issues of vehicle usage at the agency,” said Powers (D-Manhattan), who chairs the council’s Criminal Justice Committee, which oversees the DOC.
“But [it] also raises a larger question of how city agencies are accounting for fringe benefits and ensuring that the employees are in compliance. Public employees have to follow the rules just like everyone else,’’ he said.
Brannan (D-Brooklyn) said he believes “a full audit needs to be conducted in order to find out just how rampant” the practice of omitting car perks to score better tax returns “is within the Department of Correction.”
This isn’t the first time Ponte has had IRS issues with his take-home car usage.
He initially reported $580 in auto fringe benefits for 2016 but was later forced to amend the total to $17,144 after admitting to DOI that he drove 18,500 miles that year on personal trips to Maine.
The DOI probe only covered correction officials’ car usage in 2016, so investigators never looked at misuse for 2017 or other years. Ponte reported $538 in fringe benefits for 2015 and a mere $213 for 2014 — despite also having access to two city cars both years.
Ponte did not return messages from The Post.
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