For the father, 18 months in prison. For the sons, two years probation apiece.
So decided federal Judge Jeffrey Helmick, who on Thursday packaged some candid words with the sentences he handed down to members of the Gonos family, a group of restaurateurs who pleaded guilty last year to financial crimes related to tax evasion and cash smuggling.
The family owns the Dianna’s Deli restaurants in Port Clinton and Sandusky, as well as the Depot Family Restaurant in Sandusky.
Helmick sentenced the family patriarch — Haralambos Gonos, 53 — to 18 months in prison on multiple counts of conspiracy to structure financial transactions to evade reporting, and one count of conspiracy to engage in bulk cash smuggling.
The three sons — Andreas Gonos 29, Kyriakos Gonos, 31, and Chris Gonos, 32 — were each sentenced to two years probation.
During Thursday’s hearing in U.S. District Court in Toledo, Helmick said Haralambos played a far bigger role in the family’s financial conspiracy, as compared to his three sons.
“(Your sons) would not have come up with this on their own,” Helmick told Haralambos. “Now all three of them are convicted felons. You failed in setting an example”
Federal prosecutors were seeking a sentence of 18 to 24 months for Haralambos, citing the complexity and thoroughness of a scheme that allowed the family to keep money that was never properly taxed.
“(Haralambos’) conduct shows sophistication,” an assistant prosecutor said. “There are 31 instances set forth in the indictment. It shows sophistication of tax laws”
Helmick described the fraudulent financial transactions as sophisticated, and entirely foolish to carry out.
Helmick said he would have been justified in handing down a harsher sentence, but he took into account Haralambos’ cooperation with investigators, and his lack of criminal history prior to the discovery of the crimes.
In April 2013, immigration agents raided the family’s $671,000 home on Crosstree Lane in Sandusky and arrested Haralambos and his three sons, as well as his wife, Sofia Skoura, 52.
A federal indictment stated the family members made $1.8 million in financial transitions from 2007 to 2009 and failed to report the transactions as required.
Earlier last year, prior to the indictment, authorities stopped Haralambos and his wife at a Detroit airport and found they had about $15,000 between them. They were supposed to let authorities know if they had more than $10,000 on them.
The four men pleaded guilty to their respective charges last fall. In Skoura’s case, however, prosecution has been postponed to February 2015, although the court order authorizing the delay has been sealed, according to federal court records.
Prior to Thursday’s hearing, Haralambos agreed to forfeit about $189,000, along with a 2005 Porsche Cayenne and a 2007 Mercedes S550 — all traceable “to the commission of the criminal activity,” according to court documents.
Haralambos has six months to pay back the money to the Internal Revenue Service and he must also properly file his income for past years.
Prior to his sentencing, Haralambos had to watch as his three sons received their fate.
Helmick was more concerned with the history of substance abuse involving two of the sons, Kyriakos and Chris, as opposed to tax evasion.
As part of their probation, Kyriakos and Chris must undergo substance abuse treatment. Andreas does not have a history of substance abuse, according to court officials.
After a long string of clean tests, Kyriakos tested positive for marijuana on March 19, Helmick said.
And while the failed test was not a formal violation, it would still fall under his probation period.
“Do I have your attention now?” Helmick asked. “Yes” Kyriakos replied. “I certainly hope so,” Helmick said. Helmick and several defense attorneys noted the family’s close ties, an attribute the judge said played a small role in the sentencing. The family of felons has a better chance of living law-abiding lives, since they’re so close-knit, he said. Andreas’ attorney commended his client for being a family man, and he pointed out the long days and weeks Andreas will have to work when his father goes to prison. “Through all of this, he is just concerned about his father,” the attorney said.
The family’s attorney has previously said the restaurants should continue to operate.