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Owner of pizza shops in CT, NY sentenced to prison for tax scheme

Bruno DiFabio, 51, and his business partner Steven Cioffi would remove money from the cash register but not deposit it into the restaurants’ operating bank account.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2014 file photo, Bruno DiFabio displays a Margherita pizza at ReNapoli Pizzeria & Chicago Italian Beef in Old Greenwich, Conn. Celebrity pizza chef Bruno DiFabio has been sentenced to 30 days in prison for tax evasion. Known as “Lord of the Pies,” DiFabio was sentenced Thursday, May 6, 2021 in federal court in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Bob Luckey/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, File)

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — A Ridgefield man owner of several pizza places across Connecticut was sentenced to 30 days in prison for withholding money from his restaurants to avoid paying taxes.

According to federal prosecutors, Bruno DiFabio, 51, and his business partner Steven Cioffi came up with a scheme to remove money from the cash register but not actually deposit it into the restaurants’ operating bank.

“The businesses’ outside bookkeeper and accountant used the bank records to determine business gross receipts,” prosecutors said in a statement. “When cash was removed from the register and not deposited into the business bank account, the cash would not be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.”

Additionally, the two business partners knew some employees’ wages were paid in cash and that some were paid in part or fully “off the books.”

“By paying various expenses in cash and 'off the books,' DiFabio, Cioffi and others facilitated the manipulation of net income reported to the IRS and the underpayment of withholding taxes to the IRS," prosecutors said.

The scheme had an estimated loss to the IRS in income taxes and employment taxes from 2013-2015 of $816,954 attributed to DiFabio.

On October 25, 2018, DiFabio pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to file false income tax returns and payroll tax returns.

DiFabio, who is released on a $100,000 bond, is required to report to prison on July 12, 2021. He has paid approximately $125,000 in restitution to date, and he has agreed to provide additional assets,

On September 24, 2018, Cioffi pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and assisting in the filing of a false tax return. The loss to the IRS in income taxes and employment taxes for the 2013 through 2015 tax years attributable to Cioffi’s conduct in this scheme was $122,177.59.

On June 4, 2019, Idalecia Lopes Santos, the businesses’ bookkeeper, pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion. On March 30, 2021, she was sentenced to three years of probation.

On January 25, 2021, James Guerra, the businesses’ accountant, pleaded guilty to one count of willful failure to collect and pay over withholding taxes. He awaits sentencing.

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