On Wednesday, November 19, the U.S. Justice Department announced that the president and founder of Happy’s Pizza, Happy Asker, had been convicted in a multi-million dollar tax fraud scheme defrauding the IRS of more than $6.2 million dollars. Asker was convicted on 32 counts of tax crimes, according to the release.
Asker’s Farmington Hills, Michigan based pizza franchise has locations in Chicago, Michigan, and Ohio, which Asker has ownership interests in. Other individuals, some employees and some franchise owners, were also involved in the scheme to defraud the U.S. In all, there are 60 Happy’s Pizza franchise restaurants across three states. The release indicates that payroll amounts and gross sales were significantly underreported for nearly all of the franchises. More than $6.1 million was diverted from about 35 of the stores between 2008 and 2010, with the unreported income being distributed among Asker and most of the Happy’s Pizza store franchise owners.
In November and December of 2010, Asker was involved in voluntary interviews in which he is said to have purposely misled IRS – Criminal Investigation special agents. Those who investigated the case include the DEA and special agents with the IRS – CI. Asker is scheduled to be sentenced in March of next year in the Eastern District of Michigan. He faces a maximum of five years in prison for conspiring to defraud the IRS, three years for each count of filing a false income tax return/aiding or assisting in filing a false return, three years for obstruction and impeding the administration of the Internal Revenue Code. He also faces numerous fines including $250,000 for each count of filing a false income tax return, of which he was convicted on 28 counts.
The scheme went on for approximately seven years, beginning in June of 2004 and continuing through April of 2011.
As is evidenced by this case, white collar crimes are punished just as severely as those that involve violence. Defrauding the federal government is a very serious matter that is vigorously investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation special agents who are driven to uncover the truth.
Regardless of whether you have been accused of counterfeiting, embezzlement, forgery, tax fraud, or any financial crime, it is essential that you work with an experienced and dedicated Michigan criminal defense attorney. Without benefit of exceptional legal counsel, you no doubt face substantial prison time, steep fines, a criminal record, ruin of your career, and more.