SANFORD

The owner of a breakfast and lunch restaurant, Cristo’s Place, said he plans to keep the Main Street restaurant open while he serves an eight-month jail sentence on tax-related charges.

Cristo Stratos, 69, of Wells, pleaded guilty Monday to multiple counts of theft by misapplication of sales tax, intentional evasion of sales tax and failure to truthfully collect, account and pay about $244,000 in sales tax from 1999 to 2014.

He was sentenced to four years in prison, with all but eight months suspended, and three years of probation.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Stratos said the money went to rent, utilities and other overhead expenses associated with the business.

“All of the money went into the restaurant,” said Stratos. “There were a lot of extenuating circumstances.”

He said he has recently downsized the restaurant to incur less overhead.

“Not a dime went into my pocket,” he said. “I’m not the criminal I’m made out to be. By the letter of the law, yes, but it never went into my pocket.”

Attorney General Janet Mills said Stratos collected sales tax from patrons of the restaurant in south Sanford, but turned over only a fraction of it to Maine Revenue Services. Mills said Stratos significantly underreported his gross sales and the resulting sales tax.

The state has recovered about $100,000 of the tax, and Stratos will be required to hand over another $50,000 before he turns himself in to begin his sentence on Feb. 9. York County Superior Court Justice Lance Walker also ordered Stratos to pay the remaining restitution of $94,000.

According to Mills, Stratos admitted to Maine Revenue Service investigators that he thought it was “commonplace” for business owners to under-report collected sales tax.

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

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