December 5, 2021

Deal pending for tax fraud

Harry Tony's, Dark Horse Tavern, and A Pizza and more storefronts

Emily Au/contributing photographer

A Pizza & More, Hairy Tony's Pub, and Dark Horse Tavern are shown in this Cortland Standard file photo.

A Cortland City Court judge wanted more time to discuss details Friday of a plea agreement for two Cortland and Homer restaurant owners accused of failing to pay more than $479,000 in sales tax between 2010 and 2015.

Judge Lawrence J. Knickerbocker said “significant amounts” of reviewing evidence had been completed concerning defendants George Seibel of Homer and Anthony Caruso of Cortland, both 60. But Knickerbocker said he wants more discussions with defense attorney David Burch and Assistant Attorney General Andrew Tarkowski.

The plea agreement on the table, as outlined in documents from Homer Town Court, would reduce 28 felony charges against Seibel and 17 felonies against Caruso to three misdemeanors against Seibel, and two against Caruso. They would serve no jail time.

Knickerbocker adjourned the hearing to Feb. 13 in city court. Seibel, who owns Dark Horse Tavern in Cortland and Dasher’s Corner Pub in Homer, and Caruso, who owns Hairy Tony’s restaurant in Cortland, are not required to be there. The two jointly own the A Pizza and More chain of restaurants. The allegations involved all of those businesses.

Knickerbocker said both men will be required to attend a hearing following the Feb. 13 appearance.

Seibel and Caruso declined comment Friday.

Seibel was charged with one count of second-degree grand larceny, two counts of third-degree criminal tax fraud and eight counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, felonies, for his business Academy Avenue Enterprises, which owns Dark Horse Tavern, according to court documents.

He was also charged with one count of second-degree grand larceny, one count of third-degree criminal tax fraud and six counts for first-degree offering a false instrument for filing in connection with James & Main LLC, which owns Dasher’s Corner Pub.

Both men were charged with one count of second-degree grand larceny, two counts of third-degree criminal tax fraud and six counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, for the actions of APAM LLC, which owns the A Pizza and More chain.

Caruso was charged with one count of second-degree grand larceny, one count of third-degree criminal tax fraud and six counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, accused of underpaying taxes from Hairy Tony’s.

Knickerbocker did not announce a decision on whether to accept a plea agreement that would reduce the charges of third-degree criminal tax fraud to fifth-degree criminal tax fraud, a misdemeanor, in regard to Dasher’s Corner Pub, APAM LLC, Hairy Tony’s and Dark Horse Tavern, court documents show.

In return for pleading guilty, Seibel would be sentenced to a conditional discharge regarding Dark Horse, and unconditional discharges regarding APAM and Dasher’s, the town court record shows. Caruso would be sentenced to a conditional discharge regarding Hairy Tony’s and an unconditional discharge regarding APAM.

The businesses failed to pay $479,203.05 to the state Department of Taxation and Finance in sales tax from Dec. 1, 2010 to Nov. 30 , 2015, court documents show.

Caruso paid $10,000 on Aug. 26, 2015, to the Department of Taxation and Finance and Caruso and Seibel jointly paid $469,203.05 to the department on Nov. 15, 2019, though “these payments do not resolve any penalties, interest or other monies the DTF (Department of Taxation and Finance) may seek to impose against Seibel, Caruso, Dasher’s APAM, Hairy Tony’s, and/or Dark Horse related to this matter,” the plea agreement states.