Ex-CFO Of ‘Soup Nazi’ Co. Gets 9 Months For Tax Evasion

By: Taylor Arluck 

The former chief financial officer of the business popularized by the “Soup Nazi” character in the sitcom “Seinfeld” received a nine-month sentence on Thursday in New York federal court for failing to pay federal income, Medicare and Social Security taxes.

Soupman Inc.’s former CFO Robert N. Bertrand, 63, received a nine-month prison sentence followed by a one-year term of supervised release after pleading guilty in December to one count of tax evasion for failing to collect and pay taxes from Soupman employees between 2010 and 2014. The Norwalk, Connecticut, native of the now-bankrupt company must also pay $78,518 in restitution to the federal government.

Prosecutors said Bertrand failed to report more than $2.85 million in cash and stock awards made to employees — despite a 2012 warning from an independent auditor — which deprived the federal government of more than $593,000. In April 2017, Bertrand was charged with 20 counts of tax evasion for allegedly not disclosing about $1.8 million in cash and $997,000 in stock awards to employees.

“Bertrand has been held to account for abusing his position as the CFO of a publicly traded company in a long-running scheme that cheated the nation’s treasury out of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” prosecutors said in a statement. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that this office, with our partners at the IRS, will pursue corporate gatekeepers like the defendant who fail to enforce their companies’ tax obligations.”

U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen issued the sentence despite a plea from Bertrand for no jail time due to his “exemplary personal history” and financial hardship, saying that after he lost his job he has been unable to pay rent and has been living with friends.

“Unlike many criminal tax prosecutions, the defendant in this case was not motivated by greed but rather was, along with his colleagues, engaged in a desperate attempt to keep a beloved small company going,” according to a letter from Bertrand this month.

Friends and family of Bertrand also pleaded for mercy on his behalf in letters filed with the court this month, citing his position as vice president of the Bronx Borough NYC Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the loss of his fourth wife to pancreatic cancer.

Prosecutors, however, rejected Bertrand’s self-characterization, and asked that he be sentenced to between 24 to 30 months for his greed and failure to uphold his corporate responsibilities.

“The yearslong scheme to make side payments to employees without paying taxes on those amounts not only robbed the public fisc, but also disguised from Soupman’s stockholders and the investing public the true extent of Soupman’s struggling financial situation,” according to a letter from prosecutors this month. “Indeed, only weeks after the indictment in this case was unsealed, Soupman declared bankruptcy.”

In June, Soupman and two subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 in Delaware after reporting more than $11 million in liabilities and a little more than $1 million in assets, just three weeks after Bertrand was charged. In December, Soupman had its bankruptcy converted to Chapter 7 after the sale of most of its assets to a creditor.

Soupman, which is based on Staten Island, licensed the name and recipes of Al Yeganeh, who was known as the “Soup Nazi” on the television sitcom “Seinfeld,” and sold soup to groceries and franchised restaurants.

An attorney for Bertrand didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Bertrand is represented by Michael D. Weil of Federal Defenders of New York Inc.

The federal government is represented by Kaitlin T. Farrell of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

The case is USA v. Bertrand, case number 1:17-cr-00186, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Written by Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL

Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL

Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL is a Miami-based law firm focused on providing comprehensive legal support to individuals and corporate entities caught up in tax controversies or charged with a criminal act. As experienced trial lawyers with a passion for justice, our firm provides clients with compelling advocacy, attorney availability, and creative solutions to your tax or criminal law matters.