The Edelman, Krasin & Jaye Law Firm has received a number of inquiries from people looking to recover their hard-earned money after news reports of an alleged tax rebate scam made news headlines.
So-called advisor misrepresented himself, say homeowners
Arie Gal of East Meadow sent out applications to first-time Nassau County homeowners to apply for the New York State STAR tax rebate program. Many homeowners thought they were dealing directly with someone employed by the state – until a fishy invoice arrived from “STAR Exemption Advisor.”
Anyone who signed the paperwork and sent it back without reading the fine print inadvertently appointed Gal as their “advisor”, entitled to the first year rebate as payment for services. This amount could range from $640 to nearly $4,000, depending on the age and income of the applicants.
“I can’t believe this is happening to us,” one homeowner who lost $1,180 to Star Exemption Advisor told CBS News. The application looked like an official piece of paperwork from the county. Otherwise, she would never have signed it. “I didn’t need him to put a stamp on paperwork. I don’t need anyone’s help on that,” she told reporters. “We had just bought a house, we put our entire life saving into and here this guy is taking $1,000 from us that we desperately need to survive the next month,” she added.
“He just takes advantage of people,” attorney Bill Jaye, of the Edelman, Krasin & Jaye Law Firm, told CBS News in an interview. “I’m not going to say it’s illegal what he’s doing, but it’s unfair,” he added.
There are people who act as STAR advisors and typically charge $25 or so for helping homeowners file their paperwork.
NY Attorney General pursues STAR rebate class action lawsuit
So far at least 20 people have formally complained to the Better Business Bureau, but New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman says Gal has scammed thousands of new homeowners out of at least $1.5 million. He announced a class action lawsuit against STAR Exemption Advisor and Arie Gal on January 26, 2017. The case will be heard on February 10.
Edelman, Krasin, and Jaye has received dozens of calls from homeowners looking for legal recourse to get their money back – only to find that no laws have been broken. The application contains a disclaimer stating that the form is “not official.” Furthermore, the fine print explicitly states that homeowners are appointing Arie Gal as their STAR advisor, and that upon the application approval, he is entitled to the first rebate check as payment for services rendered.
In the case of Gal v. Delgiorno, the judge dismissed the homeowner’s claim, stating that: “The uncontested evidence showed that the parties had entered into a contract pursuant to which plaintiff was to provide defendant with an application form for a STAR school tax exemption… the defendant’s obligation to pay plaintiff was contingent upon the application being granted… in such instance, plaintiff’s fee was to equal defendant’s STAR tax exemption savings for the first year of her tax exemption.” The plaintiff has appealed the January 8 decision.
How to apply for a STAR tax rebate in New York State
In the past, homeowners who wished to participate in the STAR tax rebate program needed to fill out a form and send it in to their county assessors office. Today, it’s easier than ever, with an electronic submission form available on the Nassau County government website. Homeowners needn’t pay a fee. Most homeowners are required to include copies of their deed or Certificate of Shares (for apartment owners) and proof of residence (voter ID registration, car registration, NYS income tax return, driver’s license, or state ID card). Additional forms are requested if the property has been placed in a trust, the homeowner is deceased, or if the property is considered a life estate – but it’s by no means complicated.
- CBS Local – Company Scammed Long Island Homeowners Out Of Tax Rebates; AG Schneiderman Says http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/01/26/nassau-county-star-rebate-scam/
- Nassau County – STAR Rebate Amounts https://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star/sd28.htm
- Justia – Gal v. Delgiorno http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/appellate-term-second-department/2016/2016-ny-slip-op-50046-u.html