A local restaurant owner has avoided jail time, but will be required to pay back tens of thousands of dollars to the government for failing to pay sales tax on his establishment’s earnings.
The restaurant owner, Manual Ochoa, 41, was granted a one-year judicial diversion by Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley on the charge of sales tax evasion and was ordered to pay the state $47,000 in back sales taxes.
The judicial diversion means Ochoa can have his criminal record erased provided he gets into no further trouble and abides by his agreement over the next year. Failure to abide by the terms would be equivalent to violating his probation and could result in jail time. The six counts of theft were dismissed as part of his plea deal.
Ochoa is the owner of La Cazona Mexican Restaurant at Northgate Center.
The indictments rendered against the businessman claim Ochoa willfully withheld payment to the state of Tennessee for sales tax proceeds from his business from December 2005 to February 2009. The amount of sales tax owed to the state was originally set at $49,275, making the theft a felony. The amounts which the state says Ochoa did not report and pay varied widely with $926 not reported in 2005 up to $20,026 not reported in 2008.
Under state law, Ochoa could have faced up to six years on the felony theft count. However, a similar situation involving a local businessman who failed to report and pay state sales tax a few years ago ended with him avoiding jail time in a similar fashion as he also had to pay back the unpaid taxes to the state, along with some stiff fines.
Ochoa had been free on $5,000 bond after his arrest. Ochoa had no comment when reached by phone concerning the indictment.