TAMPA — The thing family and friends say repeatedly about John D. Stanton III is that he has been exceedingly generous through the years — to family, to friends, to strangers in a bind.
"I know of millions of dollars he has provided to schools and charities throughout our community," Dr. Benedict Maniscalco, a friend, wrote in a letter to a judge.
But Stanton's spirit of giving never extended to the IRS.
The former president of Seffner building-supply company Cast-Crete Inc., who led the firm to rare heights that included weekly profits of $1 million at its peak, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday for failing to file personal and corporate income taxes.
Prosecutors said Stanton, 64, also convicted of obstructing an IRS investigation, cheated the IRS out of $63.1 million in personal and corporate taxes and nearly destroyed the company he led.
Stanton, who was held without bail pending sentencing, showed no emotion as U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington pronounced sentence.
"I have no doubt he was generous to his family," prosecutor Robert Monk told the judge.
Covington replied, "You just can't do that with money that belongs to the United States government. That's the bottom line."
Stanton declined to speak at the hearing.
His attorney, Paul DeCailly, asked the judge for a lenient sentence.
Prosecutors wanted 10 years. DeCailly sought three or less.
DeCailly asked the judge to consider his client's good deeds and the fact that, for most of Stanton's life, he had never been accused of a crime.
He pointed to Stanton's Purple Heart and Bronze Star with valor earned in Vietnam.
"I ask you to take into consideration the whole person in passing sentence," DeCailly said.
Stanton left Cast-Crete with an IRS tax bill, including interest and penalties, of $140 million, a debt the company's new leader has said may take more than a decade to erase.
Stanton once claimed a self-worth of $269 million and lived a lavish lifestyle. But in recent years, his life disintegrated in a very public fashion.
His acrimonious divorce with wife Susan Stanton ended in a settlement. But Stanton was then accused of refusing to pay millions in support. He insisted he was broke.
Stanton then went on the run. He fled a family court arrest warrant after he was convicted of contempt for a willful failure to pay $6 million in support to his ex-wife and their child.
But Stanton, who lived in the Pinellas County community of Belleair, was captured at an Orlando hotel in September 2012 after eight months at large. Shortly after, federal prosecutors unveiled tax charges against him.
The judge also ordered Stanton to pay $37.8 million in restitution to the IRS.
The figure is lower than the IRS' total loss of $63.1 million. That's because the larger figure includes unpaid taxes from years for which the statute of limitations barred criminal charges.
Stanton was ordered to pay $300 a month toward restitution upon his release.
At that rate, it would take more than 10,000 years to clear Stanton's tax bill.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected]