Ocoee Fuel Dealer Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion, Fraud

By Mark Schlueb | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted March 29, 1988

A former Ocoee fuel wholesaler pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to three counts of tax evasion and two counts of mail fraud as part of an agreement that dropped 46 additional charges.

Robert Louis Szorcsik, 42, was charged with embezzling about $2 million in state and federal excise taxes on diesel fuel as president of two wholesale fuel companies in Ocoee -- Sun City Oil Co. and H.M. Bowness Inc.

The agreement he reached with state and federal prosecutors also dropped unrelated mail theft and forgery charges against Szorcsik and his daughter, Charlene, 21.

The state in 1986 indicted him twice on tax evasion charges as part of a crackdown on oil wholesalers. A federal grand jury indicted him twice this year on the tax evasion and mail fraud charges. He has been free on bond since his first federal indictment in January.

If he had been convicted of all 51 counts, Szorcsik could have been sentenced to a maximum of 225 years in prison and forced to pay as much as $4.3 million in fines, in addition to back taxes, penalties and interest. Under the agreement, he can be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years and fined up to $500,000.

Defense attorney Mark NeJame said his client is trying to reach a settlement with the Internal Revenue Service to repay $800,000 in federal excise taxes. Szorcsik also agreed to pay the state $125,000, about one-tenth of the $1.1 million he owes.

" Louis basically wants to make amends and deal with a difficult situation," NeJame said. "Fifteen years is a reality, but we're hoping once the court hears all the circumstances . . . that an alternative to jail will be strongly considered."

NeJame said there was "a lot of mismanagement" in Szorcsik's two companies. Sun City Oil's assets are being liquidated under Chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy code. Bowness is reorganizing under Chapter 11 to pay creditors, Szorcsik said.

The 1986 state charges were dismissed last month by an Orange County circuit judge. Prosecutors were appealing the judge's decision but agreed to drop the appeal as part of the plea agreement.

Szorcsik's troubles began when IRS agents raided Sun City Oil in 1985 and seized records.

Wholesalers usually collect federal and state excise taxes on diesel fuel and send it to the governments. But an IRS investigator's affidavit stated that between 1983 and 1985, Szorcsik kept most of the tax his companies collected. The affidavit also stated that the company kept two sets of books to conceal actual sales figures.

Szorcsik will be sentenced at 9 a.m. July 18.

Source: Orlando Sentinel