|A multi-millionaire Delaware County businessman who prosecutors say chose to 'play rather than pay' his taxes was sentenced yesterday to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay almost $2 million in back taxes and penalties.|
The maximum sentence was imposed on Charles H. Ringwalt 3d who claimed he was destroyed by compulsive gambling.
US District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno rejected Ringwalt's plea for less prison time because of declining health and his teenage daughter's needs.
Robreno said prison was the only way to punish him and deter others. He compared Ringwalt's attitude to that of New York hotelier and convicted tax evader Leona Helmsley - 'only little people pay taxes'.
'Our tax system is a voluntary system of payment,' Robreno said, adding that prison is 'the only motivation for those who have some doubt.'
Ringwalt, 56, of Springfield, whose now-bankrupt Stelwagon Manufacturing Co. supplied materials to roofers, was convicted by a jury in January of tax evasion, tax fraud, and aiding preparation of false tax returns.
Ringwalt yesterday insisted he was the victim of financial advisers and never thought what he was doing was wrong: 'Everything was prepared for me, and I paid what the accountants told me... From 1983 to 1999, I was the owner of that company, and I made four decisions. I had nothing to do with running that company.'
Assistant US Attorney John J. Pease argued for the maximum sentence, telling Robreno that Ringwalt ignored his company controller's advice and siphoned money for 'six country club memberships, stretch limousines, exotic family vacations, and lavish gambling.'
From 1993 to 1995, the jury found, Ringwalt took $1.6 million out of the firm founded by his father and never reported it as income on tax returns, evading $619,000 in taxes.
Pease said Ringwalt was first confronted in a civil tax audit in 1995 but 'never paid one nickel of the tax he owes.' Instead, Pease said, Ringwalt began systematically liquidating assets to keep them out of the hands of the Internal Revenue Service.
Robreno also fined Ringwalt $6,000 and ordered him to pay back taxes - now swollen to $1,991,163 with interest and penalties - during three years of supervised release.
Robreno ordered Ringwalt to report to prison Aug. 19 but said he would consider defense attorney Jeffrey M. Kolansky's request that Ringwalt remain free on bail pending the outcome of an appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.