Chef Roberto Donna pleads guilty to keeping meals taxes in Arlington
Renowned restaurateur and chef Roberto Donna pleaded guilty Thursday in Arlington County to embezzlement for failing to turn over more than $150,000 in meals taxes he collected from diners at his now-defunct restaurant in Crystal City.
Donna, 49, opened Bebo Trattoria da Roberto Donna on Crystal Drive in October 2006, one of several restaurants he has overseen in the area, including Galileo, Laboratorio and Osteria. Bebo Trattoria closed last year.
Arlington officials said Bebo Trattoria was turning in required paperwork showing the restaurant was collecting meals taxes from patrons -- it just wasn't turning in the money.
Efforts to collect the money, which Arlington prosecutors said totaled $156,330.96, failed, and a criminal investigation was begun.
Rather than face indictment and arrest, Donna and his attorneys worked out a deal in which Donna would waive indictment and plead guilty to one felony count of embezzlement. Arlington Circuit Court Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick imposed a five-year prison sentence on Donna but suspended all of that time and placed him on probation for five years. Donna also must make restitution of the unpaid tax money.
In a news release from the Arlington commonwealth's attorney's office, Arlington Treasurer Frank O’Leary said, “I hope that this serves as a wake-up call to the other restaurants on our list. Not turning in meals tax revenues is not a tax matter -- it’s a crime.”
Shortly after Bebo Trattoria closed last year, area foodies were waiting for him to reopen a restaurant in the District, and some wondered whether his financial problems were causing the delay. A restaurant industry merchant told the City Paper that it would happen, commenting, “Roberto went to culinary school, not accounting school.”
-- Tom Jackman
June 3, 2010; 1:48 PM ET
Categories: Arlington , Financial Crimes , From the Courthouse , Tom Jackman
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