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Published: Tuesday, 5/11/2010

Owner of fitness clubs slated for arraignment

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Donald Stump, an owner of the Lifestyles for Ladies Only chain, will be arraigned in Lucas County Common Pleas Court next week on criminal charges that he failed to submit thousands of dollars in sales taxes.

Mr. Stump, 57, of Temperance, was indicted Friday on one count each of aggravated theft and failure to remit by allegedly not paying $628,701.01 in sales tax for his businesses.

If convicted, he faces up to 9 1/2 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Yesterday, Mr. Stump's attorney, Sheldon Wittenberg, acknowledged the charges but declined to comment on the case.

Mr. Stump is scheduled to be arraigned by Judge Frederick McDonald on May 18.

According to the indictment, Mr. Stump failed to remit sales tax between June, 2005, and December, 2009. Department of Taxation records indicate that the charges relate to his health-club businesses at 4920 Monroe St. and 2584 Parkway

Plaza in Maumee.

Although Mr. Stump is also involved in health clubs in Michigan, the allegations are only for the Toledo addresses.

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

The charges were the result of an investigation by the Ohio Department of Taxation.

It indicated that of the nearly $700,000 owed in sales tax from the two Toledo businesses, less than $75,000 had been paid in the past 4 1/2 years.

Because the amount owed was between $500,000 and $1 million, the theft charge is a second-degree felony.

Mr. Stump declined to comment yesterday, referring all questions to his attorney.

Mike McKinney, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Taxation, said yesterday that he could not comment on specific cases because of "taxpayer confidentiality law."

He added that several steps are taken before criminal charges are presented to the local county prosecutor's offices for review.

"We take it very, very seriously," he said. "The reason it's taken seriously is that the sales tax is a trust tax and the trust is placed in merchants to remit money to the state after they collect it from consumers."

Mr. McKinney said often businesses are put on payment plans and have three chances after its enrollment in the program to make regular payments before action is taken.

"When you're talking about someone getting to the felony stage, mostly likely there has been a series of infractions usually over a number of years," he said.

"Once a business is charged, that's an absolute last resort after an investigation likely has gone on for more than a year."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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