Ex-nightclub owner sentenced to 57 months in tax-fraud case

September 07, 1996|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

It was a bad day for Milton Tillman.

Fresh from serving a two-year sentence for trying to bribe a Baltimore zoning officer, the one-time owner of a popular nightspot was back in federal court yesterday, this time to find out how long he would spend behind bars for his convictions in a sweeping tax-fraud case.

His attorneys said Tillman learned his lesson. They said he should get credit for the time he already served. They said he didn't lie to his probation officer about a criminal conviction; a lie could increase his time in federal prison.

After nearly two hours of arguments in U.S. District Court, Senior Judge Alexander Harvey II had heard enough.

RTC "It's time you realize you can't flaunt the law with impunity," said the judge -- the same judge who sentenced Tillman to 27 months behind bars in 1993 for trying to pay a city zoning officer $30,000 in exchange for keeping his former nightclub open.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Harvey could have given Tillman, 39, 46 to 57 months in prison for the tax convictions. The judge gave him the maximum and ordered Tillman to start serving the sentence Oct. 28.

Tillman was convicted in June on three counts of tax evasion, one count of filing a false return and three counts of failure to file a tax return in a case that revolved around the activities at his former club, Odell's.

Tillman used phony companies and a fake employee to cover up hundreds of thousands of dollars he made at the club, prosecutors said during the trial. They told jurors he conducted his business affairs in cash, leaving no paper trail for the federal government to follow.

In court yesterday, prosecutors and defense attorneys quarreled over how much jail time Tillman should receive. One key issue was whether he lied to a probation officer by saying he had never been convicted of a crime in New Jersey.

Lying to a probation officer who is preparing a presentence report can be considered obstruction of justice. Harvey ruled that Tillman did lie and that there was enough evidence to show he was convicted of fleeing a police officer in New Jersey.

That finding of obstruction of justice, coupled with the bribery conviction and Tillman's criminal past, prompted Harvey to say he wanted to send Tillman away for as long as he could under the sentencing guidelines.

"It's apparent you have little regard for the law," the judge said. "You are an extremely manipulative individual."

Pub Date: 9/07/96

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