Prison on the menu for Nifty Fifty’s owners

The fifties aren’t turn­ing out so nifty for the own­ers of a pop­u­lar Phil­adelphia-area 1950s-themed ham­burger chain.

Five own­ers of the Nifty Fifty’s chain — three of whom are between the ages of 50 and 53 — were sen­tenced to fed­er­al pris­on time last week for their roles in a dec­ades-old tax eva­sion scheme that de­prived the coun­try of mil­lions of dol­lars in rev­en­ue. The chain has a North­east loc­a­tion at 2491 Grant Ave. and op­er­ated a Ben­s­alem loc­a­tion at 2555 Street Road be­fore a mul­tiple-alarm fire gut­ted the place in Ju­ly.

The pris­on sen­tences range from 12 months and a day for Elena Ruiz, 48, of Drexel Hill, to 36 months for Leo McGlynn, 53, of Swarth­more. Oth­ers in­clude 15 months for Robert Mat­tei, 75, of Del Ray Beach, Fla.; 20 months for Bri­an Welsh, 50, of Spring­field, Delaware County; and 28 months for Joseph Don­nelly, 50, also of Spring­field.

In ad­di­tion to the pris­on terms, U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Mary McLaugh­lin ordered the de­fend­ants to pay resti­tu­tion.

The fraud in­volved both busi­ness taxes and per­son­al taxes for the de­fend­ants, ac­cord­ing to pro­sec­utors.

“The res­taur­ant own­ers evaded pay­ing taxes since the res­taur­ant was es­tab­lished in 1986 by, among oth­er things, pay­ing em­ploy­ees a por­tion of their wages with un­re­por­ted cash in or­der to evade payroll taxes; pay­ing sup­pli­ers with un­re­por­ted cash; and hav­ing false tax re­turns pre­pared that un­der-re­por­ted in­come and falsely in­flated ex­penses and de­duc­tions,” the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice stated in a news re­lease.

From 2006 to 2010 alone, the de­fend­ants failed to ac­count for $15.6 mil­lion in gross re­ceipts and evaded $2.2 mil­lion in fed­er­al em­ploy­ment and per­son­al taxes, ac­cord­ing to pro­sec­utors. The IRS has already re­ceived more than $4.3 mil­lion in resti­tu­tion and $205,300 in for­feit­ure pay­ments from the de­fend­ants.

Nifty Fifty’s still op­er­ates four loc­a­tions in South­east­ern Pennsylvania and South Jer­sey. The cause of the Ju­ly 19 fire in Ben­s­alem is of­fi­cially “un­deter­mined.” ••

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