Saturday, May 26, 2018
News Roundup

Feds file tax charges against former Port Richey mayor

The U.S. Attorney's Office has filed criminal charges against former Port Richey mayor Richard Rober and his wife, Averill, alleging the couple conspired to defraud the federal government by hiding income from the IRS.

The charges came as no surprise: Rober announced his resignation March 28, citing the intensifying inquiry into his unpaid taxes. The couple's attorney said then he expected charges within a few weeks.

In documents filed Friday and released Monday, the U.S. Attorney's Office said the Robers diverted money from the water testing and treatment company they used to own, Gator Water and Wastewater Management Inc., into a separate account at SunTrust Bank. The couple under-reported more than $239,000 from 2005 to 2007, with unpaid taxes exceeding $55,000.

"They both used these proceeds for personal purposes and purposely failed to inform the accountants who prepared their tax returns of these monies," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a press release.

The alleged scheme first came to light in 2009, when a lawsuit was filed between the Robers and Florida Utility Group, the company that bought Gator Water. Florida Utility Group accused the Robers of siphoning company money into a personal fund and spending it on family finances, the couple's Hummer and repairs for their boat. The lawsuit is still pending.

Douglas de Vlaming, the Clearwater attorney representing the Robers, said the couple agreed not to fight the criminal charges. In exchange, prosecutors waived the indictment process, instead filing charges without taking the Robers into custody.

The couple will report to court for their first hearing in about two weeks and plan to plead guilty then, de Vlaming said.

"Both Mr. and Mrs. Rober are taking full responsibility for their actions," de Vlaming said Monday.

Rober, 52, declined to comment on Monday.

Once the Robers enter their plea, authorities will conduct a pre-sentencing investigation to recommend a punishment, a process that could take a couple of months, de Vlaming said.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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