SPRINGFIELD, Mo.(2/16/2017) – A Taney County restaurant owner has been indicted for tax evasion and Social Security fraud.
Tony E. Cowden, 62, of Protem, Mo., was charged in a six-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. That indictment was unsealed and made public today upon Cowden’s arrest and initial court appearance.
Cowden operated Tony’s Pizza House in Protem since April 2008. The federal indictment alleges that Cowden engaged in a scheme to conceal taxable income from the IRS from April 2008 to January 2015 by not depositing all of the proceeds of his restaurant’s cash sales into the restaurant’s checking account, and not reporting that cash income to the IRS.
Cowden encouraged his customers to pay in cash by offering discounts for cash payments. Cowden allegedly concealed the cash he skimmed from the restaurant from his accountant and so evaded paying federal income taxes on that revenue.
The federal indictment charges Cowden with five counts of tax evasion for taxes filed from 2010 to 2014, for a total tax loss of $80,689.
The federal indictment also alleges that Cowden received Social Security disability benefits while he continued to work and earn income from Tony’s Pizza House. Cowden allegedly concealed his work activity from the Social Security Administration by falsely claiming that he was not working, by transferring ownership of his business into his wife’s name, and by reporting all income from the business as self-employment income under his wife’s name and Social Security number.
Cowden also had three minor children who were eligible to receive Social Security auxiliary benefits contingent on his eligibility to receive disability benefits. Cowden served as the representative payee for his three minor children and as such, received their auxiliary Social Security payments. Because Cowden was not eligible to receive disability benefits, the indictment says, his minor children were also ineligible to receive the auxiliary payments.
As a result of Cowden’s scheme to fraudulently obtain Social Security disability payments from January 2014 through December 2015, the indictment says, the government incurred a loss of $70,176.