The longtime leader of the Mana Contemporary arts center in New Jersey has been removed from his role after being indicted on charges of orchestrating a multimillion-dollar tax fraud scheme.
Eugene Lemay, an artist who founded the initiative and served as executive director of the Jersey City venue, has been “placed on administrative leave pending the results of the current action against him,” a spokesperson for Mana Common, the parent company of Mana Contemporary, told Artnet News. The representative declined to share additional information about the status of the arts hub, including whether or not it has put interim leadership in place.
Mana Contemporary—founded by Lemay with backing from real-estate developer Moishe Mana—is a cultural center, storage facility, studio space, and exhibition venue that immediately made waves upon its opening in 2011. Since its founding, it has expanded to locations in Miami and Chicago.
Last month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York charged Lemay and an accountant colleague, Joel Lingat, with evading more than $7.8 million in federal payroll taxes while helping to run an unidentified moving and storage company. The Jersey City Times has since confirmed the company is Moishe’s Moving Systems, owned by Mana’s eponymous backer Moishe Mana.
From 2010 to 2016, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement, Lingat and Lemay “ran a scheme that involved paying shell companies and misclassifying workers as independent contractors in order to dodge…payroll taxes.”
Now, the men each face one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Lemay also allegedly “engaged in criminal chicanery” to avoid personal income taxes in 2014 and 2015, according to the attorney’s announcement. For that, the former Mana director faces two additional charges of tax evasion, each of which comes with its own maximum five-year prison stint.
Lemay was the first employee Mana hired upon launching Moishe’s Moving Systems in 1983. The company helped catapult Mana to billionaire status, and Lemay—referred to by the New York Times as Mana’s right-hand man—remained with the company, holding the title of president during the seven years mentioned in the filing.
Lemay’s lawyer did not immediately respond to Artnet News’s request for comment.