The owner of a Sanford restaurant has been sentenced to eight months in jail for stealing sales tax money paid by customers that he never turned over to the government.

Christo Stratos of Wells, who owns Christo’s restaurant, pleaded guilty in York County Superior Court in Alfred to multiple charges of theft by misapplication of sales tax; intentional evasion of sales tax; and failure to truthfully collect, account and pay over sales tax.

Justice Lance Walker allowed Stratos, 69, to remain free until he is required to report to the York County Jail on Feb. 8 to begin serving the sentence.

Stratos collected sales tax from patrons of the restaurant from 1999 to 2014, but turned over only a fraction of that money to the Maine Revenue Service. He underreported his total sales and the amount of sales tax he would have owed, according to the Attorney General’s Office, which prosecuted the case.

Stratos stole a total of $243,902 in sales tax during those 15 years and told investigators from the Maine Revenue Services that he thought it was common for business owners to underreport sales tax they collected, Attorney General Janet Mills said in a written statement.

“Business owners are entrusted to collect sales tax on behalf of the state and properly pay it over to Maine Revenue Services. My office will pursue and prosecute individuals who abuse this trust and steal these taxes,” Mills said.

The judge sentenced Stratos to a total of four years, with all but eight months suspended. The remainder will hang over him during a three-year probation term to follow his release. Maine authorities have already recovered $100,000 from Stratos and expect to recover an additional $50,000 before he begins his sentence.

Walker ordered Stratos to pay the remaining $93,902 as restitution.

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