September 25, 2015
CAPTURED: DOT-OIG Fugitive Arrested in Tel Aviv, Israel and Extradited Back to the United States Related to a Motor Fuel Tax Evasion Scheme
The six-year flight from justice for Yousef Abuteir ended on September 25, 2015, when he was apprehended in Tel Aviv, Israel, and extradited back to the United States. Abuteir was transported from Israel to Texas, where he will await sentencing for state and federal convictions related to a motor fuel tax evasion scheme.
In June 2007, the State of Texas charged Yousef Abuteir with Evading Motor Fuel Taxes and Engaging in a Motor Fuel Tax Scheme. In July 2007, the United States charged him with Conspiracy and Motor Fuel Tax Evasion and in April 2008, he pleaded guilty to the federal charges. In December of that same year he was found guilty after a jury trial on the state charges. In 2009, after failing to appear for sentencing on the state and federal charges Abuteir fled from the U.S. to Israel, where he was born.
According to court documents, from October 2001 to November 2003, Abuteir and others defrauded the United States and the State of Texas out of millions of dollars in motor fuel excise taxes by obtaining tax exempt kerosene under false pretenses. Utilizing the company Mid-Coast International, Abuteir and others purchased in excess of 13 million gallons of kerosene from a refinery in Louisiana. He and his co-conspirators falsely stated that the kerosene was purchased for export to Mexico and was not for sale within the U.S., making it exempt from motor fuel excise taxes. However, Abuteir and the others did not export the kerosene as promised.
The U.S. imposes a federal excise tax on the sale of all fuel used by cars, trucks and buses on the nation’s roadways. These excise taxes are collected by the IRS and deposited into the Highway Trust Fund, which is used by U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the construction and repair of U.S. highways and bridges. Under Abuteir’s instruction, drivers delivered the untaxed fuel to retail gas stations throughout the Houston, Texas, area where it was then sold as taxable motor fuel. Abuteir and his co-conspirators then pocketed millions of dollars in motor fuel excise taxes owed to the U.S. and the State of Texas.