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Press Release

Taney County Restaurant Owner Sentenced for Tax Evasion

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Timothy A. Garrison, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that the owner of a Taney County, Mo., restaurant has been sentenced in federal court for tax evasion after confessing his crimes to undercover federal agents who posed as buyers when his business was for sale.


Tony E. Cowden, 63, of Protem, Mo., was sentenced on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, by U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips to 18 months in federal prison without parole.


Cowden operated Tony’s Pizza House in Protem. On Aug. 22, 2017, Cowden pleaded guilty to five counts of income tax evasion. Cowden admitted that he engaged in a scheme to conceal taxable income from the IRS from April 2008 to January 2015 by skimming from cash sales at the business and not reporting the cash income to the IRS.


Cowden listed his business and property for sale in 2015. Two undercover agents from IRS-Criminal Investigation posed as potential buyers and met with Cowden. Cowden apologized to the undercover agents for not having provable income to substantiate the $599,000 sales price, but stated, “it saves me a lot of taxes.” Cowden admitted to the undercover agents that he “pockets” all the money from the sale of Keno-Lotto tickets and the cash received from the arcade games in his restaurant. Cowden maintained true and correct financials for the business in a black three-ring binder.


Cowden encouraged his customers to pay in cash by offering discounts for cash payments. Cowden concealed the cash he skimmed from the restaurant from his accountant and so evaded paying federal income taxes on that revenue. By omitting a portion of his gross receipts, Cowden falsely claimed he was entitled to the earned income credit.


In addition to $91,037 in federal income taxes for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, Cowden admitted he owes $12,474 in state income tax and $35,016 in state sales tax for the same period.


Federal and state tax losses for those five years total $138,527. Cowden must pay restitution to the IRS and to the state of Missouri. Cowden must also pay $29,581 to the Social Security Administration for Social Security disability payments that he was not entitled to receive.


This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation, Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General and the Missouri Department of Revenue.

Updated January 9, 2018