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DETROIT NATIVE SUN
DETROIT NATIVE SUN
   Michigan taxpayers with past-due tax debts should be aware of an aggressive scam that’s making the rounds through the U.S. Postal Service, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury (Treasury).
  In the scheme, taxpayers receive what appears to be a government-looking letter about an overdue tax bill, asking individuals to immediately contact a toll-free number to resolve a state tax debt. The letter aggressively threatens to seize a taxpayer’s assets ? including property and Social Security benefits ? if the state tax debt is not settled.
  “This is a tricky scam that’s been reported throughout the state over the past year,” said Deputy State Treasurer Ann Good, who oversees Treasury’s Financial and Administrative Services programs. “Taxpayers have rights. If you have questions about an outstanding state tax debt, please contact us through a verified number so we can talk about options.”
  The piece of correspondence appears credible to the taxpayer because it uses specific personal facts about their real outstanding tax debt that’s pulled directly from publicly available information. The scammer’s letter attempts to lure the taxpayer into a situation where they could make a payment to a criminal.
  The state Treasury Department corresponds with taxpayers through official letters sent through the U.S. Postal Service, providing several options to resolve an outstanding debt and information outlining taxpayer rights.
  Taxpayers who receive a letter from a scammer or have questions about their state debts should call Treasury’s Collections Service Center at 517-636-5265. A customer service representative can log the scam, verify outstanding state debts and provide flexible payment options.
  To learn more about Michigan’s taxes and the collections process, go to www.michigan.gov/taxes or follow the state Treasury Department on Twitter at @MITreasury.




Scammers use fake letters in collection scam
Taylor mayor indicted on bribery and wire fraud

By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
     Taylor Mayor Richard “Rick” Sollars, 45, was recently indicted on multiple counts of conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud.
     The Indictment also seeks to retain $205,993 in cash seized from Sollars’s home on February 10, 2019.  
     “The unearthing of allegedly blatant corruption at the top levels of government in the City of Taylor should disturb every citizen of our state,” United States Attorney Matthew Schneider said. “Federal law enforcement will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute any public officials who choose their personal greed over their public oath.”
     Contracts for several tax-foreclosed properties owned by the City of Taylor were allegedly given to Shady Awad, 39-year old owner of Realty Transition LLC, in exchange for cash, appliances and renovations to two homes owned by Sollars. Over $52,000 worth of appliances and renovations were given in addition to thousands in cash.
     Text messages contributed to revealing the scheme.
     In one text, Awad states as follows: “My relationship with Rick is worth $1 million so whatever it takes I’ll pay for it” in telling a contractor to do free work on Sollars’s lake house. In another text, the Indictment states that Awad told Sollars that Sollars was Awad’s “silent partner” in Awad’s real estate development business.  
     Taylor Community Development Manager Jeffrey Baum, 44, was also indicted for 18 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery.
  Baum is accused of accepting bribes from Awad and another developer from 2015 to 2019.
     Sollars and Baum are also accused of defrauding donors to Sollars’s campaign fund in three ways. 
     First, checks from Sollars’ campaign account were taken and were used to pay a market owner for catering at one of his events. The market owner would cash the checks and give Sollars the funds. No catering services were rendered. Second, Sollars’s supporters were told to write checks directly to the market for events that never took place. The market owner would give Sollars cash and scratch-off lottery tickets. Third, thousands of dollars in campaign donations were collected by Sollars and Baum. The funds were not deposited into a campaign account but were used for personal expenditures. 
     "Any time an allegation of corruption is brought to our attention, the FBI's Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force will investigate it thoroughly. Public corruption at any level undermines the community's faith in their elected officials and does long-term damage to government institutions," Steven D’Antuono, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said. "With that in mind, we encourage anyone who believes they have information about corruption to contact the FBI at 313-965-4545 or tips.fbi.gov."


2020 overtime payments for non-exempt workers

  PRNewswire/ -- With the new year approaching, the U.S. Department of Labor's final rule governing the earnings thresholds necessary to exempt employees from the Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA) overtime pay requirements took effect on January 1, 2020, prompting employers to take action. In order to avoid civil money penalties for each violation, employers must make changes to comply with the new requirements before January 1.  
  The final rule, which was issued in September 2019, is the first time the weekly threshold has been updated in nearly 15 years. The rule updates the standard salary levels needed for executive, administrative, and professional employees to be classified as exempt from these requirements from $455 per week to $684 per week. According to Lisa Franke, employment law analyst at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S., even if employers have not yet taken steps to comply with the new thresholds, they still have time to make the changes ahead of the January 1 deadline.
     "Back in 2004, the duties tests were completely revised, which was significantly more burdensome for employers to prepare for," said Franke. "Complying with the changes in this final rule – mostly a revision in salary levels – is relatively simple compared to that endeavor. However, communication out to affected employees is critical."
     Wolters Kluwer's experts have outlined the most important points for employers to be aware of regarding these changes ahead of 2020.
     To comply with these changes, employers must identify employees who are currently classified as exempt from overtime but do not make at least $684 per week, which equates to $35,568 on an annual basis. After these employees are identified, employers can reclassify exempt employees as nonexempt, paying these employees overtime for any hours worked over 40 per week, or maintain the exemption for these employees by raising their pay to meet or exceed the revised standard salary level. If employers choose the second option, they should ensure these employees meet the two additional tests involved in FLSA classification: the employees must be paid on a salary or fee basis, and must meet the executive, administrative or professional duties test which has not changed.
Utilizing nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments
     Under the new ruling, nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments can be used to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level. Employers can give catch up payments to employees at the end of the 52-week period if bonuses do not help to meet the standard salary level.
Handling employee status changes from exempt to nonexempt
     If an employee's status will change from exempt to nonexempt, communicating the updated status and overtime eligibility to the employee ahead of January 1 is important. "Even though employees who are reclassified from exempt to nonexempt status can earn more money due to additional overtime pay, realize that they may view the change as a sort of demotion or loss of status," says Franke. "Employers should assure the employee that the change is not a reflection of performance and that it is strictly based on job duties and compensation in relation to federal regulations."
     A similar ruling was issued under the Obama Administration in 2016 and was blocked by a federal court. This prompted some employers to implement the changes by reclassifying employees to nonexempt status or raising their salaries. Employers that made those adjustments a few years ago are likely using procedures in line with the new thresholds, but it is advisable to reevaluate processes ahead of the upcoming deadline.