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Subject: Albert Schussler, alleged ringleader of NYC tax scam

New York
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Date Posted: January 08, 2003 9:38:31 EDT

The man accused of masterminding the largest tax scam in the city's history has died, hindering federal investigators' efforts to determine exactly how the scheme worked and who was involved.

Albert Schussler, 86, died Monday after suffering a severe stroke.

Last February, Schussler, a major property manager and former city tax assessor, was indicted on charges that he paid bribes to assessors in exchange for lower tax bills for many of his clients.

The 35-year-old scheme cost the city $160 million in taxes, officials have said.

Schussler's trial was to begin on Jan. 27. According to a person close to him, Schussler was planning to decide on Monday, the day he died, whether to go to trial or plead guilty and tell everything he knew about the scheme, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Schussler retired in 1967 after 30 years of working as an assessor. He then became a tax consultant, with a client list that included the owners of some of New York's most valuable properties.

Prosecutors said they would press forward with the case.

"The death of Albert Schussler is certainly a stunning event in this case," Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the city's Department of Investigation, said in a statement, adding that "the investigation will continue unabated."

Fifteen people have pleaded guilty in the scheme. One assessor, Joseph Marino, pleaded guilty in 2000 to accepting over $4 million in bribes from Schussler in exchange for reducing the tax assessment on properties.

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