Nightclub owner guilty on tax charges Judge who imprisoned Tillman for bribery will sentence him again

June 15, 1996|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

Fresh from serving a two-year sentence for bribing a Baltimore zoning officer, Milton Tillman is heading back to federal prison. A jury yesterday convicted the nightclub owner of all seven counts in a sweeping tax fraud case.

The jury convicted Tillman, 39, of three counts of tax evasion, one count of filing a false return and three counts of failure to file a return in a case that revolved around a popular nightspot he owned on North Avenue called Odell's.

With the bribery conviction in his past, coupled with the latest batch of felony and misdemeanor tax counts, Tillman could receive a long prison term when he returns to U.S. District Court in Baltimore for sentencing Sept. 5.

Prosecutors Virginia Evans and Kathleen Gavin told jurors during the trial that Tillman used phony companies and a false job to cover up hundreds of thousands of dollars he made while running Odell's, a club that closed in 1992.

Between 1989 and 1992, the prosecutors said, Tillman evaded taxes and did not file a return. When he did file a return, it was

false.

They said he did everything with cash. He managed to make $400,000 worth of home renovations without any receipts or canceled checks. He made a $6,000 mortgage payment in cash.

"Who carries $6,000 in cash in mortgage payments to their bank?" Evans asked the jury.

Tillman's defense attorney portrayed his client as a bumbling businessman who dealt in cash because he didn't understand accounting procedures. He said his client acted in good faith by hiring an accountant to figure out his finances and never meant to cheat the government.

"It's not a perfect world," Michael Marr told jurors. "He did the best he could."

Tillman was freed last year after serving a 27-month term for bribery. In 1993, he pleaded guilty to offering to pay a $30,000 bribe to then-city zoning officer Giovanna Blatterman in exchange for her vote to keep Odell's open.

Blatterman reported the offer. Federal prosecutors set up a sting and snared Tillman with wiretaps, video surveillance and an undercover federal agent. Senior Judge Alexander Harvey II exceeded the sentence prosecutors recommended.

When Tillman returned to federal court to face the tax fraud charges, he saw a familiar face on the bench. Judge Harvey presided over the tax trial, and he will sentence Tillman in September.

Pub Date: 6/15/96

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