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Baton Rouge businessman admits bribery, fraud, conspiracy

Business owners go to great lengths to make their companies succeed. Trimming unnecessary expenses, nurturing relationships with clients and maximizing profits are second nature to them. However, when an owner sees something as a fair cost of doing business and someone else sees it differently, the matter can turn into a white collar crime charge.

A Baton Rouge businessman was accused of committing a range of offenses to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax for his five restaurants. Specifically, the 50-year-old man was accused of submitting fraudulent monthly reports concerning sales at his restaurants, thereby committing fraud against the state and East Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes.

The prosecution also claimed the defendant funded multiple bribes to officials at the East Baton Rouge Parish auditing office in an attempt to decrease or eliminate audit assessments of his restaurants.

Further, the authorities believe the defendant intentionally failed to pay payroll taxes on roughly half the wages he paid to his employees from 2000 to 2006. They claimed he convinced a payroll company to submit, though the mail, false quarterly reports to the Louisiana Department of Labor which significantly underrepresented the number of workers in his restaurants and the wages those employees were paid.

The defendant recently pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, mail fraud and conspiracy. He now faces up to 175 years behind bars, as well as a hefty $2.7 million fine.

Authorities believe this matter is part of a larger plot in which business owners have under represented their sales by more than $10 million in an effort to get around paying the full amount of sales tax due. Investigators continue to aggressively investigate any suspected unlawful activity.

Source: Times Union, "La. man pleads guilty in sales tax bribery plot," 2 April 2011

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