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Zourdos trio receives prison time for tax evasion

Sean I. Mills
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 7/13/22

All three members of the Zourdos family convicted in the multi-million tax fraud scheme at their Dippin Donuts shops in Rome and New Hartford have been sentenced to time behind bars in …

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Zourdos trio receives prison time for tax evasion

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UTICA — All three members of the Zourdos family convicted in the multi-million tax fraud scheme at their Dippin Donuts shops in Rome and New Hartford have been sentenced to time behind bars in federal prison.

The judge chose to stagger the sentences for John, Helen and Dimitrios to allow at least one family member to be able to run the family business. The judge was asked to consider the livelihoods of the at least 25 employees working for Dippin Donuts.

The family has also been ordered to pay $2 million in restitution to the U.S. Government, with all additional fines waived.

“Greed and wealth seem to be the two key mediating factors in this case,” admonished U.S. District Court Judge David N. Hurd on Wednesday.

The judge noted the family’s seeming lack of remorse, and “almost a sense of entitlement to the money” in issuing his sentence, while also factoring in that the Zourdos family members “have been good citizens in many, many respects.”

John Zourdos, 69, was sentenced by Judge Hurd to 2 1/2 years in federal prison. Helen Zourdos, 65, was sentenced to one year and eight months in prison. Dimitrios Zourdos, age 39, was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison. Each sentence will include three years of post-release supervision, and all three sentences were less than the maximum possible sentence that each defendant could have received.

John, Helen and Dimitrios were all convicted by a jury on Nov. 10 of all charges against them: one count of conspiring to defraud the United States, seven counts of tax evasion and seven counts of aiding and assisting in the filing of false corporate income tax returns.

Prosecutors argued that the family members pocketed a portion of daily cash sales from their three Dippin Donuts shops — two in Rome and one in New Hartford — and never reported this money to the IRS between the years of 2012 and 2017. Prosecutors said all three benefited from at least $2 million that should have been paid in federal taxes.

The family also avoided additional taxes by paying some of their employees under the table when they worked overtime, prosecutors stated.

John Zourdos

“I’m very sorry for this situation,” said John Zourdos, briefly.

Judge Hurd granted John Zourdos one month to get his affairs in order. He will have to report to prison on Aug. 16. One factor that went into John receiving the highest sentence of his family was that he was the only one to take the stand in his own defense at trial, and through the evidence and verdict, the court determined that John likely lied on the stand about the crime.

Defense attorney David Garvin spoke highly of Zourdos to the judge, asking for a lenient sentence.

“John, along with his wife, Helen, has been charitable to all those persons who approached them in need,” Garvin told the judge.

“His generosity, his lifetime of hard work, his law-abidingness, and his charity are exemplary and well beyond what is normally expected.” Garvin said that John Zourdos is “humiliated, humbled, disappointed and, most importantly, sorry.”

Helen Zourdos

“I can’t find the words to say how humiliating this is and how sorry I am,” Helen Zourdos said in court, as part of a prepared statement.

“I feel exhausted, battered and broken,” Helen said, adding that she could not stand hearing the government call her a criminal. “I’m very, very sorry.”

Helen Zourdos will not have to begin her sentence until June 15, 2023, according to Judge Hurd. She was given the delay in part to continuing caring for her 93-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia.

Two family friends, including a Dippin Donuts store manager, spoke on behalf of the Zourdos family at the sentencing.

“They’re kind, they’re generous, they’re respected and they’re well-loved,” said family friend Jeannine Early. She gave Judge Hurd numerous examples of how charitable the Zourdos family has been over the years, to both individuals and organizations.

“They’re the most selfless, hard-working and inspiring individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting,” said Shelbey Wheadon, manager for all three Dippin Donuts locations. She said the “thousands” of acts of kindness she has witnessed or heard about “come naturally simply because of the kinds of people they are...I know that they have a lot more good to do in this cruel world.”

Dimitrios Zourdos

“I’m very sorry for everything that has happened. All I ever wanted to do was help my parents,” Dimitrios told Judge Hurd ahead of his sentencing. He said he wanted to support his parents because of all the “sacrifices” he had seen them make over the years.

“All I’ve done is work hard and help my family with the businesses.”

Judge Hurd granted Dimitrios Zourdos one month to get his affairs in order, and he will also have to report to prison on Aug. 16. Judge Hurd agreed with the defense that Dimitrios played a lesser role in the crime than his parents, so his sentence was also lesser.

Defense attorney Gabriel Nugent told Judge Hurd that the “nuance is extremely important” in determining Dimitrios’ role in the crime.

“He’s loyal...he’s always been there and been very reliable,” Nugent said of Dimitrios. “He’s really a humble person. He does what he’s told.”

Judge Hurd

The prosecution, represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael F. Perry and Assistant Chief John N. Kane with the U.S. Department of Justice, repeatedly mentioned on Wednesday how the crime was ongoing for many years, and how the family showed an “utter lack of remorse” for their actions.

Of John Zourdos, Kane said, “He continues to put forward false narratives and false defenses that it was the accountants’ fault.”

Judge Hurd agreed with many of the prosecution’s points. He noted that John and Helen Zourdos have a net worth of over $3.4 million, and that Dimitrios has a net worth of over $1 million. Hurd said that, had they not engaged in the tax fraud, “their business still would have been very profitable,” and they would still have high net worths.

“When you steal $2 million, you can make quite a few charitable donations,” Judge Hurd noted ahead of sentencing.

All three family members have until the end of the month to file appeals.

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