Bernard James Benavidez, 62, owner and operator of Rochester, Minn.–based Master Jewelers, has been sentenced to six months in prison for tax evasion.
Benavidez had pleaded guilty on Feb. 3 to one count of making a false tax return.
According to court documents, as the owner of Master Jewelers, Benavidez had responsibility reporting any salary, wages, or other compensation he was paid, but he regularly diverted significant portions of Master Jewelers’ gross sales into his personal bank accounts for the purpose of paying less taxes.
Prosecutors also charged that Benavidez occasionally directed customers to pay him personally for work he completed on behalf of the store. Master Jewelers sold significant amounts of scrap metal as part of its business, and court papers said Benavidez deposited the proceeds into his personal bank account instead of the corporate account, so he could avoid paying taxes.
In total, between 2013 and 2017 Benavidez allegedly concealed $432,373.42 in Master Jewelers sales, which resulted in unpaid tax liabilities of $147,006.96.
Benavidez’s six months in prison will be followed by a year of supervised release. His attorney asked Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright for leniency, noting that he is a devoted father and husband who regularly offers services for free to military veterans. This is his first criminal offense.
His attorney could not be reached for comment.
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