Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus stay cool in shade before greeting President Trump.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus stay cool in shade before greeting former President Trump in 2019. Photo by Ken Stone

A former Qualcomm employee pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal count of filing a false tax return as part of a wide-ranging tax evasion and donation fraud scheme.

The investigation centers around former Chabad of Poway Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who also entered a guilty plea in the case and awaits sentencing.

Jason Ellis, 42, of Poway, admitted to evading more than $27,000 in taxes by donating money to nonprofit entities associated with Chabad, funds which Goldstein returned to Ellis.

Prosecutors say that when Ellis made the payments, he requested that Qualcomm match them through the company’s corporate matching program.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Ellis first made a $1,000 donation in 2008 and Goldstein returned the entirety of the donation to him, while keeping the falsely matched Qualcomm donation.

Ellis and Goldstein carried out that arrangement through 2017, though Ellis’ donation amounts increased in 2016, as he was promoted at Qualcomm. At that point, the company would match up to $5,000 in charitable donations.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Qualcomm matched a total of $18,000 in donations.

Prosecutors also say Ellis falsely claimed his children’s preschool tuition at Chabad – which totaled $55,600 – as a charitable deduction on his taxes.

Ryan Korner, special agent in charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles field office, said, “For over 10 years, Mr. Ellis participated in an illegal scheme that not only defrauded his employer, but also stole tens of thousands of dollars from the United States. Mr. Ellis’s lies and exploitation of charitable giving programs offered by both Qualcomm and the IRS is made more egregious by the length of his involvement.”

The case against Ellis mirrors others made against defendants whose donations to Chabad and other affiliated organizations were funneled back to them.

Nine others have pleaded guilty to involvement in the scheme, including Goldstein. Two defendants have agreed to deferred prosecution agreements.

Ellis is slated to be sentenced Oct. 25, one day before Goldstein’s scheduled sentencing.