A federal judge sentenced restaurateur Gholan “Tony” Kowkabi to 57 months in prison, and handed down a sentence of 24 months probation to his wife, Karen Kowkabi, for tax offenses after the Vienna couple failed to pay $1.35 million in taxes in connection with their restaurants.
The Kowkabis own several restaurants in NoVA and DC. They own three in DC — Ristorante Piccolo, Catch 15, and Tuscana West — and Divan Restaurant in McLean. In addition to the tax offenses, Gholam Kowkabi pleaded guilty in August to stealing more than $738,000 from the emergency small business relief funds Ristorante Piccolo received. Gholam Kowkabi must pay $1,351,038.51 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
Additionally, Judge Reggie B. Walton on Monday ordered him to repay the Small Business Administration $738,6757.18 and to forfeit a waterfront Ocean City, Maryland, condominium he bought with the funds, as well as interest in other ventures, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in DC. He also admitted used the money for college tuition for his adult children.
The couple admitted to evading taxes for Catch 15 and Tuscana West by concealing assets and doctoring their business books and records.
From May 2020 to July 2021, Gholam Kowkabi received $1.6 million in COVID-19 relief funds, promising that the money would be used for business-related expenses.
Instead, the money was used, according to the news release to “purchase a waterfront condo in Ocean City, Md., for more than $500,000, two joint venture investments totaling more than $250,000 for the construction of homes in Great Falls, Va., and more than $78,500 to open Divan Restaurant in McLean.”
The release also said Gholam Kowkabi spent:
- More than $11,000 on a home mortgage
- More than $14,000 on vacations
- More than $62,000 on personal legal expenses
- More than $20,000 on home improvements
- More than $5,500 on college tuition payments
When Kowkabi gets out of prison, he will be on three years of supervised release.
Feature image, stock.adobe.com
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