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Businessman John D. Stanton III, accused of not paying taxes, goes to trial

TAMPA — Cast Crete Inc., a Seffner building supply company, rode a Florida construction boom to earn an astonishing $160 million in profit from 2001 to 2007.

What did Cast Crete pay Uncle Sam in taxes on that $160 million? The government says just $93,717.

The federal trial of John D. Stanton III opened Monday with prosecutors portraying Stanton, 64, as a greedy and devious Cast Crete president who "looted" his company of $43 million while failing to pay Cast Crete's and his own personal taxes.

At one time, Stanton was one of Tampa Bay's business elite who boasted of a net worth of $269 million. But after an acrimonious divorce in 2011, Stanton said he was broke. He was a fugitive for 10 months before his September arrest.

Stanton is charged with failing to file and pay both personal and corporate income taxes and obstructing the IRS. He faces up to 15 1/2 years in prison.

"Mr. Stanton is a very wealthy individual," said prosecutor Robert Monk in opening statements. "But the rules apply to him, too."

Stanton's attorney, Paul DeCailly, told jurors, "Don't jump to any quick conclusions."

DeCailly said the case was complicated and noted his client was not charged with embezzling funds or filing false tax returns.

He said Cast Crete's chief, Ralph Hughes, left behind a trust fund consisting of millions of dollars after his 2008 death.

"And that's where the trouble really began," said DeCailly, who left unclear the nature of this "trouble."

Monk told jurors Stanton fraudulently portrayed the money he got from Cast Crete as interest earned on $500 million in loans that he and Hughes made to the company.

But Monk said Stanton created fraudulent documents after Hughes death, then back-dated them to make it appear Cast Crete's debt to the men came five years earlier.

"He had to somehow create a cover story," Monk said. "There had to be a valid corporate debt."

But an analysis of Stanton's computer showed the documents supposedly signed in 2003 were actually created on the computer after Hughes' death in 2008.

Stanton, Monk said, liked the lifestyle his Cast Crete millions brought him.

DeCailly said that Cast Crete's former financial controller, Franklin Derochemont, was stealing money from the company, something the IRS failed to reveal to Stanton.

Derochemont, serving a sentence for tax evasion and mail fraud, was the first witness against Stanton and testified that it was not his responsibility to file Cast Crete's taxes. He testified while wearing his prison uniform.

Monk asked him who filed the corporate taxes. Derochemont said, "That would be Mr. Stanton."

The trial continues today and is expected to last most of the week.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

Businessman John D. Stanton III, accused of not paying taxes, goes to trial 12/10/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 12:16am]
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