Let this be a lesson.
A judge handed down an 18-month prison sentence Friday to the city's top debtor.
"We believe that substantial jail time is warranted for financial crimes of this magnitude," said Supervising Deputy City Attorney Richard Kraft, who prosecuted the case against Prestige Parking Inc. owner Sohrab Sahab. "It should send a clear message to other offenders that this kind of tax fraud and cheating will not be tolerated."
A jury earlier this month convicted Sahab of collecting $460,000 in parking occupancy taxes from customers in his 29 parking lots in 2005 and 2006, and never remitting the money to the city.
They also convicted him of operating the parking lots without a permit.
On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Edmund Clarke sentenced Sahab to 525 days in prison and 10 years of probation. Clarke also ordered Sahab and his company each to pay the city $25,000 in fines and penalty assessments and $10,000 in other court costs.
A restitution hearing will be held next month, during which the city will try to recover the $460,000 in taxes that Sahab allegedly pocketed.
Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the City Attorney's Office, said the case was one of the largest criminal tax fraud cases handled by the City Attorney's Office.
He claimed prosecutors were satisfied with the 18-month sentence handed down by Clarke, even though they had initially sought a 4-year sentence.
"It still sends a strong message to other companies that cheating on your taxes will not be tolerated in this city," Mateljan said.
The $460,000 is only a fraction of the taxes the city's Office of Finance claims it is owed by Prestige Parking Inc. The company is listed as the city's top debtor, with $65 million owed over various years. A civil case to recover that money is pending.
Under city law, parking lot owners and operators are obligated to collect a 10 percent parking occupancy tax on top of their parking fee. Some owners and operators either pocket the money or do not collect it so they can offer their customers more competitive rates.