ST. PETERSBURG — Toriano Parker, the founder of a Midtown community recreation center who faced a 14-count federal tax fraud indictment, has been acquitted at trial of all charges.
Parker, 39, owns Advantage Financial Advisors, a tax preparation and financial services business at 1221 22nd St. S.
Prosecutors had charged that he claimed $46,000 in 14 tax returns his company prepared between 2004 and 2007 when those returns were only due $13,000. In two cases, Parker claimed $6,653 and $776 on returns where his clients owed money, the indictment said. Prosecutors said they had additional evidence that Parker was involved in preparing at least 35 other fraudulent returns between 2003 and 2006. Parker pleaded not guilty to all charges and said in an interview they were a misunderstanding.
The trial before U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara at the federal courthouse in Tampa lasted one week. Early on, Lazzara granted a motion to have five of the counts dismissed. In the end, the jury found Parker not guilty on the remaining nine counts.
"The outcome speaks for itself," said Parker's attorney, Jeffrey G. Brown. "I don't think the jury had any question about it. It was a fairly quick not guilty."
Jay L. Hoffer, the assistant U.S. attorney assigned to the case, declined to comment through a spokesman.
Using mostly his own money, Parker started Advantage Village Academy in 2009 in the long-abandoned Jordan Park Gym. The recreation center offers sports programs and a computer room for young people and small businesses.
Though he told the Times in August that he planned to close the center's doors, Parker has since said he intends to keep the center open and will pursue plans to purchase the building from the St. Petersburg Housing Authority.
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