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.” ••