A Schenectady property owner who has had his share of run-ins with officialdom over unpaid property taxes and code violations is now facing possible prison time over nearly $100,000 in unpaid sales tax from a former Schenectady restaurant.
Frank Popolizio, 66, of Morrow Avenue, pleaded guilty Friday in Schenectady County Court to one count of third-degree criminal tax fraud, a felony.
He faces anywhere from probation, up to three years in prison at his January sentencing. That will depend on how much he pays back by his sentencing date and whether he receives a favorable presentence report, prosecutor Katie McCutcheon said.
Popolizio was arrested in May after he allegedly failed to pay to the state the sales tax he had collected at the Pentagon restaurant on Erie Boulevard between January 2010 and February 2012.
Popolizio was accused of failing to file timely sales tax returns with the state Department of Taxation and Finance for six quarters.
In August 2011, Popolizio filed returns for the six quarters, reporting at least $75,000 in sales tax collections, none of which has been paid to the state, according to papers filed previously in court. The final amount of unpaid sales tax ended up being $98,863.
Then, even after state investigators contacted Popolizio, he continued to not pay sales tax collected by the restaurant for the final two quarters it was in operation.
When investigators contacted Popolizio, he placed responsibility for failing to pay the sales tax on his accountant, according to records. The accountant, though, told investigators that he was never hired to prepare or file sales tax returns but was responsible only for the filing of corporate income tax returns.
Dennis Englert, Popolizio’s attorney, previously said the case stemmed from a 21⁄2-year-old accounting dispute that included disagreements over how much was owed. The charges, he said then, were the state’s way of putting pressure on Popolizio.
Englert could not be reached for comment on Friday.
McCutcheon, though, said that Popolizio not only stole from the state, he essentially stole from his customers by making them pay the tax that he kept. Once that money is collected, it’s never his money, she said.
“Essentially what he was doing was taking 8 percent from all his customers and not remitting that back to the state,” McCutcheon said. “At the point in which he collects that 8 percent from those customers, it’s now the state’s money.”
Friday’s arrest was the latest incident in what could be termed a bad year for Popolizio. He also has faced charges of animal cruelty, the closure of his Pentagon restaurant and the biggest fine for a city code violation in memory.
In January, his dog business in Otsego County, South Side Dogs, was raided by state police. They seized more than two dozen dogs in what investigators claimed was an animal breeding facility with dozens of malnourished dogs. Popolizio and another woman were then charged with 49 total counts of animal cruelty. Popolizio also faces charges of defrauding customers. Those cases remain pending.