ORLANDO — Once among Tampa Bay's business elite, John Dargan Stanton III siphoned at least $15 million from the Seffner building supplies company he headed and created a fraudulent trail of documents to thwart the IRS, a federal indictment unsealed Monday said.
Stanton, 63, of Belleair, captured at an Orlando hotel Friday after nearly 10 months on the run, was indicted on eight federal charges — one count of obstructing the IRS and seven of failing to file personal and corporate income tax returns from 2005 to 2007.
A federal grand jury in Tampa handed up the indictment Aug. 15, but it was sealed until Stanton's arrest.
Stanton, looking tired but calm, appeared Monday before a U.S. magistrate judge for a first appearance in Orlando federal court dressed in a worn blue Orange County Jail jumpsuit with his legs shackled.
He showed no expression as U.S. Magistrate Judge Karla Spaulding read the charges against him. The judge ordered Stanton held without bail and he is expected to be quickly transferred to Tampa, where he will be tried.
Stanton whispered to his attorney, Paul DeCailly, but otherwise did not speak at the hearing.
DeCailly said he would eventually ask a federal judge in Tampa for a hearing to determine if Stanton should be released on bail pending trial. But Stanton was sentenced in absentia to six months in jail by a Hillsborough County judge for failing to pay his former wife millions in support, so bail seems unlikely.
Prosecutor Carlos Perez-Irizarry said Stanton has been in the Orlando area since May. "He has been harbored by some associates and friends," Perez said.
He said Stanton's girlfriend, who was not identified, had registered the room at the Fairfield Inn where Stanton was arrested.
Stanton is the former president of the building supplies company Cast-Crete Inc., which at one point earned $1 million a week at the height of the Florida building boom in 2006. He once claimed a net worth of $269 million, but said he was broke during an acrimonious divorce finalized in July 2011.
His ex-wife, Susan Stanton, said Stanton had hidden his wealth in a complex web of companies to avoid paying support. By the terms of a marital settlement, he owes his ex-wife more than $10 million.
In 2006 and 2007, the indictment said, Stanton wrote $15 million in checks off a Cast-Crete account to Denouement Strategies, a company he controlled. The money was above and beyond his Cast-Crete salary, prosecutors said. The indictment also said Stanton wrote $11.8 million in checks to an individual identified as R.W.H.
That is an apparent reference to Ralph W. Hughes, the founder of Cast-Crete who died of a heart attack in 2008 at age 77.
Hughes also was at the heart of a controversy involving state Sen. Jim Norman, whose wife in 2006 received a $500,000 loan from Hughes to purchase a home in Arkansas while Norman was a Hillsborough County commissioner. A federal investigation into the deal ended without charges.
The indictment unsealed Monday said Stanton created two fraudulent promissory notes falsely indicating the payments by Cast-Crete were interest on loans provided to the company. The documents indicated Denouement loaned $241 million to Cast-Crete, while R.W.H. provided $261 million.
Federal prosecutors said the notes were dated June 9, 2008, less than a month before Hughes' death. But Stanton then backdated the documents to Sept. 30, 2003, the indictment said.
Stanton then directed an unidentified person to file IRS documents on his behalf that falsely indicated the payments to Denouement and R.W.H. were interest on those loans, the indictment said.
Those tax filings indicated Denouement received a total of $25.3 million in "interest" payments, while R.W.H. got $25.3 million, from 2006 to 2008.
The indictment did not explain why the "interest" payments reflected in these tax documents differ from the money paid by checks to Denouement and R.W.H.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.