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Wisconsin restaurant owners accused of tax evasion

The Internal Revenue Service prosecutes alleged tax cheats aggressively. Tax evasion is a white collar crime punishable by up to five years of imprisonment. Individual fines can be as high as $250,000 with maximum corporate fines of $500,000.

Four members of a Franklin family were charged recently with taking $1.7 million in cash off the top of business proceeds. A married couple in their 60s, their 38-year-old son and 44-year-old son-in-law allegedly conspired to hide profits from a trio of hamburger restaurants owned by the accused husband in Franklin, Greenfield and Milwaukee.

Federal prosecutors said the family used some of the skimmed money to purchase ingots of silver weighing 3,300 ounces. The 65-year-old owner of the Omega Burger restaurants is charged with personal and professional tax evasion. Authorities said the man also defrauded Associated Bank out of $4 million in loans.

The Franklin couple's son faces 18 tax evasion counts for falsifying personal returns and returns he filed for two of his father's restaurants. Authorities also announced a fifth person, a bookkeeper for the restaurant owner, planned to plead guilty for failing to pay the IRS $50,000. Reports didn't state whether or how the bookkeeper's legal problems were linked the other defendants' charges.

Additionally, federal prosecutors brought tax evasion charges against a second Milwaukee restaurant owner. The IRS accused a 68-year-old New Berlin man of bypassing his business withholding and payroll tax obligations in 2012 by paying employees with $385,000 in cash.

Defendants may have the option to strike a deal with prosecutors in exchange for pleading guilty. In some cases, the government is willing to charge a defendant with a crime that is less serious than the original charge. In other instances, prosecutors agree to recommend a lighter sentence than guidelines suggest.

A plea deal involves negotiations between government prosecutors and the defendant, guided by the advice of a criminal defense lawyer.

Source: Journal Sentinel, "Franklin restaurant family charged with skimming cash from restaurants," Bruce Vielmetti, June 23, 2015

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