TAMPA — Before he died in a helicopter crash on his Balm-area farm, Donn Goodson ruled Goodson Farms with an iron fist.
He was in charge of everything, and his wife, Janet Goodson, simply followed, her attorney, Gary Trombley, told a federal judge Tuesday. That's why she shouldn't be held responsible for false tax returns filed before his 2003 death, Trombley said.
U.S. District Judge James Moody disagreed, sentencing Goodson to three months in prison. He said she was responsible for tax returns filed from 2001 to 2004.
The Goodsons accepted unreported cash in paper bags from salesmen in the company's warehouse, before and after Donn Goodson's death, an Internal Revenue Service investigator said.
Even if Janet Goodson didn't pick up the bags of cash until after her husband died, it would have been too much of a coincidence for her not to have known about his actions and yet carry out the same scheme after his death, Moody said.
Goodson, 57, was facing up to 24 months in prison, but got off with a lighter sentence because she cooperated in an investigation that led prosecutors to conclude that the Balm-based company lied about crop damage to obtain more than $1 million in federal crop insurance payments.
Last month, the farm was ordered to pay nearly $1.1 million in restitution after pleading guilty to crop insurance fraud.
Her attorney asked the judge to also waive prison time, but Moody said that would send the wrong message to people who don't pay taxes.
Goodson's family filled half of the courtroom's public seats. Several women cried as they left the hearing. Janet Goodson held back tears as she hugged her family.
Before her sentencing, Goodson addressed the judge with a shaky voice.
"I'm very sorry for my mistakes that I have made since my husband's death in 2003," she said. "And I am sorry that I've put my family and my employees through all this."
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.