Feds: Restaurant owner hid business proceeds to avoid taxes

The owner of a well-known area restaurant has admitted filing false tax returns after hiding more than $350,000 in business proceeds in her personal banking account.

Maria Pinheiro, 57, owner and operator of Dolphin’s Cove Marina in Bridgeport, waived her right to indictment and pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false tax return in Bridgeport federal court on March 26.

Dolphin’s Cove is a seafood restaurant on Seaview Avenue in Bridgeport, occupying a waterfront location in that city’s East End.

Funds in personal checking account

According to court documents and statements made in court, Pinheiro was the sole shareholder and bookkeeper for Dolphin’s Cove Marina from 2007 to 2009, handling all of the restaurant’s finances.

Pinheiro admitted that instead of depositing all of the cash receipts from Dolphin’s Cove into the Dolphin’s Cove business checking account, she deposited substantial amounts of cash from the business into her personal checking account, according to prosecutors.

She then failed to provide her personal bank records to the firms that prepared the federal income tax returns for her and Dolphin’s Cove, prosecutors said.

Kept deposits under $10,000

From 2007 to 2009, Pinheiro deposited $352,437 in cash that Dolphin’s Cove received into her personal bank account, according to court documents.

Some deposits were structured in amounts of less than $10,001 in order to evade her bank’s currency transaction reporting requirements, prosecutors said.

Pinheiro’s actions caused the filing of false personal and corporate tax returns, resulting in a tax loss of $92,251, federal officials said.

Could serve three years in jail

Pinheiro, a Trumbull resident, faces a maximum of three years in prison and $100,000 fine when she is sentenced on June 15. She also has agreed to pay $243,957 in back taxes, interest and penalties.

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, and is being prosecuted by Asst. U.S. Attorney Sarah P. Karwan from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Connecticut.