Columbia Man Sentenced to Year and Half in Federal Prison for Failure to Pay Employment Withholding Taxes | USAO-SC

Columbia, South Carolina —- United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy, Jr. announced that Rafael Salas, Jr., 52, of Columbia, was sentenced to a year and a half in federal prison after pleading guilty to failing to pay to the government taxes he withheld from his employees’ paychecks. Salas spent the funds for personal expenses and entertainment, including on a boat and at a strip club.

Evidence presented in court established that, from January 2014 through August 2016, Salas owned and operated Moonshiner’s Patio Bar and Grill in Lexington, and employed approximately 20 employees during each tax period.  While failing to file Moonshiner’s quarterly tax returns and failing to fully pay the company’s employment taxes, Salas withheld trust fund taxes from his employees’ wages.  Salas used the withholdings to pay personal expenses including $36,000 for his personal dwelling, $11,000 for a boat and trailer, and expenses of roughly $10,000 at a local strip club.

Salas was also on probation for a 2016 federal conviction for conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce at the time of this offense.

“I am thankful for the partnership of the IRS and our U.S. Attorney’s Office to see justice on this case,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy.  “We stand ready to continue protecting taxpayers from criminal activity.”

“Employers have a legal obligation to withhold and pay the appropriate amount of taxes for their employees,” said Matthew D. Line, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Charlotte Field Office.  “The defendant’s federal prison sentencing is clear recognition of the serious consequences awaiting those who skirt this obligation.”

United States District Judge Mary G. Lewis sentenced Salas to 18 months in federal prison, to be followed by a three-year term of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system.

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  Assistant United States Attorney T. DeWayne Pearson of the Columbia office prosecuted the case.

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