PORT RICHEY — Former Mayor Richard Rober and his wife, Averill, have begun serving their six-month federal prison sentences for tax fraud.
Earlier this month, Richard Rober, 52, arrived at the Estill Federal Correctional Institution in South Carolina. Averill Rober, 47, reported Wednesday to a federal prison in Coleman, a small town in north Sumter County, according to the couple's attorney, Douglas deVlaming.
Richard Rober is scheduled to be released on April 2, while a release date for his wife has not yet been set. Both are held in medium security facilities, according to U.S. Bureau of Prisons records.
"Their spirits are as good as can be expected based on what's happened in their lives. It's going to be very difficult to dig out from the ashes," deVlaming said. "But their position has been the same since the first day I met them: 'What we did is wrong and we are willing to pay for it.' So that is what they are doing."
In addition to prison, a federal judge sentenced the couple in August to six months of house arrest and three years of supervised release on a charge each of conspiracy to defraud the federal government by hiding more than $239,000 from the Internal Revenue Service.
U.S. District Judge James Moody also ordered the couple to pay $55,305 in restitution to the IRS. The Robers pleaded guilty to the federal tax fraud charge in May and faced up to five years in prison, although sentencing guidelines called for less time.
The Robers may be given jobs while in federal prison and any money earned would go toward their restitution, deVlaming said. He said he has not discussed with the couple whether they will return to live in Port Richey.
"We haven't really talked about that. They have lost everything, they're going to lose their home," deVlaming said.
Richard Rober resigned from the mayor's job during a March news conference at City Hall, saying federal authorities had told him that criminal charges were imminent.
The authorities 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. That income went unreported from 2005 to 2007.
The scheme first came to light in a 2009 lawsuit between the Robers and Florida Utility Group, the company that bought Gator Water. The Robers accused Florida Utility of not making the final payment in its purchase of Gator Water. Florida Utility 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 legal battle is pending, but the Robers have already signed over to the IRS any funds they may obtain in the civil case, deVlaming said in August.