John Zelepos, the owner of Mystic Pizza — the Connecticut pizzeria featured in the eponymous coming-of-age story starring Julia Roberts — is to be sentenced on Monday, August 24 for five years of tax evasion, reports The Hartford Courant.
Last year, Zelepos was accused by the state department of paying below minimum wage and withholding overtime, though he later settled the matter privately with his employees.
Now, Zelepos faces a substantial prison term, as recommended by federal prosecutor Peter S. Jongbloed, for withholding several hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federal government between 2006 and 2011.
During that period, Zelepos is believed to have evaded an estimated $234,000 in federal taxes, as well as hiding more than $500,000 by diverting the money to other business and personal family bank accounts.
“The defendant's financial statement makes crystal clear [that] he is a financially wealthy person who has no valid financial reason for not paying all his federal taxes,” Jongbloed said. “Simply put, the defendant had the money to timely pay his full taxes.”
A lawyer for Zelepos said that his client “is committed” to paying the penalties, and that, “It would be easy, but wrong, to assume that John Zelepos’ financial success resulted from distribution of a Julia Roberts romantic comedy film entitled Mystíc Pizza. However, while it is true that the film has for some achieved iconic status, the success of John Zelepos’ Mystic Pizza restaurant results not from that notoriety but from John's strong work ethic.”