A former Oklahoma City pool builder was sentenced to prison for failing to forward federal payroll taxes.
In January, Theodore Zachritz of Lifestyle Pools was charged with willfully failing to pay taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, even though he had withheld them from his employees’ wages. Zachritz collected more than $290,000 in taxes from the 2006 third quarter through the end of 2009, but did not pay them to the government, according to the United States attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. Zachritz pleaded guilty to the offense.
Though he faced up to five years in federal prison, Zachritz was sentenced to 18 months, followed by three years of supervised release. He must report to prison on July 26. In addition, he must pay more than $461,000 in restitution to the IRS.
Lifestyle Pools was forcibly closed in June 2012, after 36 years in business, when the Oklahoma Tax Commission padlocked the door after several attempts to collect the levies.
“He was given the opportunity to do a payout plan, but eventually we did have to do a close order on his business,” said Paula Ross, communications director at the Oklahoma Tax Commission. “With any business, we do give them time to try to work it out. …. We don’t want to close the business down, so we try to work with them.”
Shortly after the company closed, several customers filed complaints claiming their pools were incomplete, according to local press accounts, which also quoted a former employee as estimating the number of incomplete pools at 30 when the company closed.
In the past few years, Lifestyle Pools has been named as the defendant in several lawsuits from vendors, subcontractors, financial institutions and clients. Some of the suits were found against Lifestyle, others were dismissed, and still others are pending. At least one resulted in a contempt citation for failure to appear.
While there may not be a pattern of tax evasion among local builders, there have been press accounts of at least two other pool contractors in the area leaving customers high and dry, with one also sentenced to prison time.
“It’s a black eye [to the industry],” said Beto Garcia, president of Blue Haven Pools of Oklahoma City Inc. “It affects the clientele in the sense that instead of getting two or three bids, they’re getting five or six, trying to be extra-cautious.”