Two Texas brothers admitted in Erie County Court Thursday morning that they stole more than $1.2 million in sales tax money from the state, and they promised to pay it back.
Ilias Maredia, 52, and Latif Maredia, 50, once operated seven gas station in Erie County, and between March 1, 2008 and March 31, 2012, they collected $1,223,873.97 in sales tax from their customers – money that they kept instead of remitting. The men were indicted in May 2014 and arrested about a week later in Texas, where they live in a suburb of Houston.
Since then the case has returned to court several times while the matter of restitution was hammered out. Finally on Thursday, both men pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny, a Class B felony carrying a minimum sentence of one to three years in prison and a maximum of up to 25 years.
However, Judge Sheila A. DiTullio agreed that, if the men pay a minimum of $612,000 in restitution – about half the amount owed – by the time they are sentenced, they will be allowed to change their pleas to second-degree grand larceny. The Class C felony has a sentencing range of probation up to 15 years in prison. The brothers still would be required to repay the remainder of the amount stolen if they plea to the lesser charge.
DiTullio said proof of their commitment to pay the restitution would significantly impact her sentencing decision.
Attorneys for both men assured the court that their clients intend to turn over the required amount before they are sentenced Sept. 26.
The brothers, who have traveled from Stafford, Texas, for each court appearance since their arrest, are free on $200,000 cash bail, which they are expected to forfeit as part of the restitution.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Holly Tucker and Gary M. Ertel.