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Published: Wednesday, 2/9/2011

Businessman gets 90 days in tax case

5 years' community control also ordered

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Accompanied by sheriff's deputies, Donald Stump leaves a Lucas County Common Pleas courtroom in handcuffs after sentencing. Accompanied by sheriff's deputies, Donald Stump leaves a Lucas County Common Pleas courtroom in handcuffs after sentencing.
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A local businessman who for years operated fitness centers for women was led from a Lucas County Common Pleas courtroom in handcuffs Tuesday after being sentenced for failure to pay more than half a million dollars in state sales tax.

Donald Stump, 58, an owner of the Lifestyles for Ladies Only chain, was sentenced to five years of community control, including 90 days' incarceration at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio.

Judge Frederick McDonald also ordered Stump to pay regular monthly amounts toward the $611,066.23 in back sales taxes that he owes and set a review hearing for Aug. 9 to monitor Stump's payment progress.

"There are several business owners who are staying current even though these are extremely difficult economic times," Judge McDonald said yesterday. "This defendant had clear intent to pay other creditors before the state of Ohio."

Stump pleaded no contest Sept. 7 to one count of failure to remit sales taxes. As part of the plea agreement, a second felony charge of aggravated theft was dismissed.

The taxes were owed from Stump's businesses at 4920 Monroe St. in toledo and 2580 Parkway Plaza in Maumee. The conviction was the result of a lengthy investigation by the Ohio Department of Taxation. According to the department, of the nearly $700,000 owed in sales tax from the two Toledo businesses, less than $75,000 had been paid in the period between June, 2005, and February, 2010.

As president of the Lifestyles corporation, Stump was listed in the investigation as the responsible party, records indicate.

Since entering his plea, Stump provided two checks totaling $45,000 through his attorney. However, Judge McDonald noted that the money wasn't quite enough to cover the taxes owed last year.

Attorney Sheldon Wittenberg noted that Stump has already faced public embarrassment and scorn, and he asked the judge to consider probation. He said that the situation evolved in part because of the economy and in part because of his client's lack of business skills.

"This is not a case of Mr. Stump enriching himself," Mr. Wittenberg said, adding that his client had not gone on trips nor made extravagant purchases. "He's lost everything but two businesses."

Mr. Wittenberg declined to comment after the sentencing.

Judge McDonald noted that Stump was the second businessman in his court for failure to pay taxes.

Local restaurateur Tom Cousino, who faced criminal charges of failing to pay sales tax on one of his restaurants, was accepted formally into the diversion program in September. The program allows him time to pay the taxes he owes in exchange for avoiding any further criminal prosecution.

Mr. Cousino -- whose family has maintained restaurants in East Toledo since 1946 -- was charged in April with one count each of grand theft and failure to remit Ohio sales tax, both fourth-degree felonies. He was accused of failing to pay thousands of dollars in sales tax to the state of Ohio.

Since entering the program, Mr. Cousino shuttered his restaurants at The Docks.

Judge McDonald noted yesterday that there were few comparisons in the two cases, pointing to the amount owed by Stump.

The judge warned that if Stump failed to make payments while under a community control sanction, he could face up to 17 months in prison.

According to the Department of Taxation, business owners are trusted to forward sales taxes, but that if they don't, opportunities are given for them to participate in plans before actions such as criminal charges are taken.



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