Mohanbhai Ramchandani was about as well known as a tailor could be in New York. He’s cut cloth for Rudy Giuliani, Ed Koch, Ricky Henderson, Patrick Ewing, and Walt Frazier, who once praised Ramchandani by reminding the New York Post that “I’ve been voted best-dressed athlete a lot of times.”
But in March, the story of his business, Mohan’s Custom Tailors, jumped from the fashion pages to the crime pages. He pleaded guilty to tax evasion in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. “Over a decade,” the Times reported, “his revered little studio near Grand Central Terminal brought in $28 million–but reported only $5.6 million on tax returns.”
He stood before a judge again this week, in a federal courthouse in Central Islip, to plead guilty to filing false tax returns in order to hide more the $3.2 million he kept in overseas banks from 2007 to 2009, the Department of Justice announced.
According to federal investigators, Ramchandani sent checks to the Bank of India in Hong Kong. He moved that money to banks in India, Canada, and accounts in his son’s name. He didn’t report any of that money to the IRS and, as a result, saved $736,002 over that three year stretch.
That’s on top of the $1.7 million in sales tax, $864,000 in corporate income tax, and $256,000 in personal income tax that, state investigators calculated, Ramchandani avoided paying since 2007.
That he was able to dodge paying so many digits speaks to the success of his business, which he opened after immigrating to America in 1972. He became known as the go-to tailor for star athletes, including Darryl Strawberry, Manute Bol, Jose Reyes, Charles Oakley.
In a 1993 profile, the Times explained how Ramchandani first blew up:
In 1984, he was doing conservatively cut suits for bankers and accountants. One day he picked up the phone, and it was the mother of Patrick Ewing, who was then playing basketball at Georgetown University in Washington. Her son was having the worst time finding a suit to fit his excessive frame at a decent price.
Mr. Ramchandani parted with $29 to take People Express down to Washington to measure Mr. Ewing in his dorm room. The tailor stood on a chair. In short order, Mr. Ewing had a gray herringbone suit for $250. He wore it over the summer while he worked for Senator Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas.
Then a truly good thing happened. Mr. Ewing was drafted by the New York Knicks. Mr. Ramchandani asked him if he could put his picture in an ad. He agreed.
His downfall seemed just as serendipitous. After a former employee tipped off the state Attorney General’s office, tax investigators checked out his books. They were convinced something was wrong when they spotted his belief in numerology: the digits in each of store’s sales figures always added up to multiple of 10.
Ramchandani faces up to five years in prison for the federal charges. He’ll also have to pay a $1.6 million penalty in addition to the money he already owes.