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Elia, 5 other Sevenson execs plead guilty to false filings in IRS case

The management of one of Niagara Falls’ biggest companies admitted Monday to making false statements to the IRS.

President Michael A. Elia and five other executives of Sevenson Environmental Services pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of filing a false statement of wages received and taxes withheld.

The six men could face up to six months in prison when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

“We are pleased this matter is over with and they can go on with their lives,” said Robert S. Bennett, the Washington, D.C., lawyer who represented Michael Elia.

Elia and his two brothers, Laurence and Richard, were accused of conspiring with other Sevenson executives to avoid paying about $310,000 in taxes on deferred bonus compensation.

As part of their plea deals, they acknowledge some guilt, but the amounts they owe to the government are much lower.

Prosecutors said that Michael Elia owes a maximum of $53,827 and that Laurence Elia owes a maximum of $9,556.

Bennett insists they owe nothing.

“All taxes are paid,” he said in court. “The restitution should be zero.”

Sevenson, known across the country for cleaning up Love Canal and other hazardous-waste sites, is one of the biggest and oldest companies in the Falls. It employs about 650 people, 260 of them in Niagara County.

The three other Sevenson executives who were charged – Philip R. DeLuca, Alfred R. LaGreca and Frank A. Fracassi – also took plea deals Monday.

The executives are accused of receiving compensation in the form of goods and services that they purposely hid from the government.

From Day One, the executives have maintained that they never intended to cheat the Internal Revenue Service and that each of the defendants, when informed of the problem, attempted to pay the taxes they owed.

Federal prosecutors tell a far different story in their 25-page indictment. They contend that the Sevenson executives fabricated and altered documents and invoices as part of the conspiracy.

They also contend that the defendants caused Sevenson to issue false W-2 forms and file false corporate tax returns.

The indictment provides 20 examples of what the Elias and others are accused of doing wrong.

In almost every case, the government’s examples center on personal trips and services paid for by Sevenson and not reported by the defendants.

The case, which was handled by the Justice Department’s Tax Division in Washington, D.C., attracted attention because of the high-profile nature of the defendants and Bennett, one of the nation’s most prominent defense lawyers.