SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tom Larson, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the owner of a Taney County, Mo., restaurant pleaded guilty in federal court today to tax evasion after confessing his crimes to undercover federal agents who posed as buyers when his business was for sale.
Tony E. Cowden, 63, of Protem, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to five counts of income tax evasion.
Cowden operated Tony’s Pizza House in Protem since April 2008. By pleading guilty today, Cowden admitted that he engaged in a scheme to conceal taxable income from the IRS from April 2008 to January 2015 by skimming from cash sales at the business and not reporting the cash income to the IRS.
Cowden listed his business and property for sale in 2015. Two undercover agents from IRS-Criminal Investigation posed as potential buyers and met with Cowden. Cowden apologized to the undercover agents for not having provable income to substantiate the $599,000 sales price, but stated, “it saves me a lot of taxes.” Cowden admitted to the undercover agents that he “pockets” all the money from the sale of Keno-Lotto tickets and the cash received from the arcade games in his restaurant. Cowden maintained true and correct financials for the business in a black three-ring binder.
Cowden encouraged his customers to pay in cash by offering discounts for cash payments. Cowden concealed the cash he skimmed from the restaurant from his accountant and so evaded paying federal income taxes on that revenue. By omitting a portion of his gross receipts, Cowden falsely claimed he was entitled to the earned income credit.
In addition to $91,037 in federal income taxes for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, Cowden admitted he owes $12,474 in state income tax and $35,016 in state sales tax for the same period.
Federal and state tax losses for those five years total $138,527. Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Cowden must pay restitution to the IRS and to the state of Missouri. Cowden must also pay $29,581 to the Social Security Administration for Social Security disability payments that he was not entitled to receive.
Under federal statutes, Cowden is subject to a sentence of up to 25 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation, Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General and the Missouri Department of Revenue.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Western District of Missouri