Pleading Greek Heritage Defense for Cheating on Taxes

The National Herald

The John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse is located at 1 Courthouse Way on Fan Pier in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo: Beyond My Ken, via Wikimedia Commons

It wasn't an insanity defense that Emanuel ‘Mike’ Panousos of North Reading, Massachusetts put up trying to explain why he cheated on his taxes as he stood in a U.S. District Court but a new one that seems to make sense to anyone living in Greece, where they do it all the time.

It's in his Greek blood and DNA not to pay taxes.

Panousos, 43, the manager of Mike’s Famous Roast Beef and Pizza asked for leniency at his sentencing for tax fraud in U.S. District Court, but Senior Judge Douglas Woodlock – whose eyebrows must have twisted in knots after hearing it – didn't buy the argument that it “simply his Greek way of doing business,” the Boston Herald reported.

“Is there a Greek family exception to income tax laws,” Judge Woodlock asked rhetorically, the paper said in a story that should have been on the funny pages except that it's not funny in Greece where only people who have taxes taken out of their checks and who pay the bulk of taxes can't escape hiding their money, as the rich do, in secret foreign bank accounts.

It's both endemic and pandemic in Greece, a natural characteristic and widespread and out of control and anyone who says it's not can use the ostrich defense in court if they bring a big bucket of sand to go with it.

It's in his family's blood too. Panousos “diverted cash receipts to himself and paid for his company’s supplies and portions of his employees’ wages with cash between 2013 and 2016, for an amount totaling approximately $1.9 million,” the paper said, adding that “he pleaded guilty in May to two false tax return charges for avoiding $387,180 in taxes.”

Well, that's chicken feed for major league tax cheats in Greece who get away with hiding millions and with apparently no one prosecuted.

Panousos is a bush leaguer compared to noted Greek fashion designer Lakis Gavalas, taken to court four times for cheating on taxes even while he was in 2013 taking part in a popular TV dance show where they should have put faces of the judges on the floor for him to tap dance on.

That was on accusation he owed 700,000 euros ($772,380), the third time that year he was charged with tax evasion with no report what happened, if anything, six years later and counting, so Panousos should have figured out the Gavalas Defense too.

The first two times, despite being a repeat offender, he was given suspended sentences, five years for tax evasion in 2012 to the sum of 1.5 million euros ($1.66 million) following a seven-year suspended sentence for another unpaid tax bill of 17 million euros ($18.76 million.)

He showed up earlier this year as an honored guest on a short-lived TV show, Lindsay Lohan's Beach Club, set in Greece and featuring American's Least Talented Twit actress, known for having helium in her head.

Lohan’s partner in Mykonos’ Lohan Beach House, introduced a VIP guest he described as “literally, like, you know, a big diva,” – Gavalas – prancing in shamelessly, with the web site Jezebel adding that he was a famous tax cheat, but that it wasn't mentioned, “so as to not distract from the fabulousness of Gavalas. He has a Yorkie named Sex, which absolutely says everything you could ever need to know about this person.” Nuff said.

Gavalas escaped jail despite being convicted of massive tax fraud when the judge, who must have been a fan or wearing something very frilly under his robes, rejected the prosecutor’s request he be jailed for violating the previous suspended sentence with more tax evasion.

Cut to Panousos whose lawyer, Richard Chambers, submitted in support of the Greek Heritage Defense strategy a letter from psychologist Daniel Kriegman blaming Panousos’ behavior on “his parents and brother, who were sentenced to probation last year for their own tax evasion scheme at their Peabody pizza restaurant,” the paper said.

Teach your children well.

His lawyer requested five years’ probation for his client instead of the 21-27 months jail time recommended by the prosecutor because that's the U.S. Prosecution Strategy for tax cheats right up the line to Wesley Snipes and celebrities whose fame can't save them.

Kriegman wrote, “Did (Emanuel) know he was cheating on his taxes? Without question, but that was simply his Greek immigrant family’s way of doing business,” citing a news article, wrote that the behavior was “probably brought overseas from Greece, ‘a country where everyone knows a thousand ways around the rules.'”

Woodlock said the letter’s inappropriate conclusions undermined the value of his letter, which also addressed Panousos’ drug use and mental health, the judge adding that, “I did not consider stereotypes of Greek families in fashioning (a) sentence,” despite the defendant trying another defense: “I really need the court’s mercy today,” he said.

He didn't get it. The judge gave a jail sentence at the low end, toward 21 months, the paper said and ordered Panousos to pay a fine of $7,500 and pay all the taxes he owed. Send him to Greece please because we need a hanging judge for tax cheats and they can't use the Greek Heritage Defense now so they'll have to find another one to save themselves from jail. They can use the Gavalas Defense. It works.