The federal courtroom in Camden was standing room only, as 100 people filed in Friday to show support for Charles Bangle, owner of Manco & Manco, a landmark chain of pizza shops on the Ocean City, N.J., boardwalk.
Two years ago, Bangle, 57, of Somers Point, N.J., admitted to evading nearly $92,000 in taxes, and now he faced up to 24 months in prison under a plea agreement.
U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler said that he was impressed by the stories of Bangle's kindness, generosity, and charitable deeds, as told by two dozen of Bangle's supporters, but that a 15-month term was warranted because of the seriousness of the crime.
Bangle's wife, Mary, received three years' probation for lying to IRS agents.
Urging Kugler to be lenient were a parade of clergy, firefighters, and police officers; the head of the Ocean City Pops orchestra; teachers; and former pizza shop employees.
Les Cahn, who worked for the ADT security firm, said he gave Charles Bangle his first job in business decades ago and is now amazed when he visits the Shore and watches him at one of the pizza shops, "tossing hundreds of pies in the air. And I wonder if he is going to collapse from exhaustion. ... He has a hands-on style, in the trenches."
Still, the judge said, deterrence was needed.
"It's important for people to comply with tax laws and pay their fair share. Otherwise the rest of you have to make it up with your taxes," Kugler said. He also said that taxes are needed to pay for schools, fire departments, police, roads, and even the courthouse in which he presides: "We would have no government, no society whatsoever, if people didn't pay their taxes."
Kugler also said that he was "mystified as to why [Bangle] was spending millions of dollars building a new restaurant at this time in his life" and had not spent "a penny to pay off the debt to the people of the U.S." after evading taxes.
Kugler said court documents showed that Bangle had collected paper bags full of cash from the business and hidden them under pizza boxes. The U.S. Attorney's Office had charged Bangle with concealing close to $1 million in income from 2007 to 2011, and said that he and his wife failed to pay more than $330,000 in taxes.
Charles Bangle was also ordered to pay $248,560 in restitution. He had also admitted to making numerous cash deposits in 2011 under $10,000 to prevent his bank from reporting them to the federal government, which could have brought quicker scrutiny.
His attorney, Laurence S. Shtasel of Philadelphia, requested that the prison term start in September so that Bangle can complete plans to open the new pizza shop on the Ocean City boardwalk and bring in income during the summer. Kugel granted the request.
When the sentence for her husband was announced, Mary Bangle, 55, gasped and began sobbing.
Her parents had operated the first of the three pizza shops on the boardwalk decades ago. The judge said Mary Bangle had a good work history, no criminal record, and a reputation for being a good member of the community.
Charles Bangle handled the daily business operations while Mary handled the cash and the payroll, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason M. Richardson had recommended Charles Bangle receive between 12 and 18 months' imprisonment, saying Bangle was a responsible, respected member of his community, but committed tax crimes "in secret" for several years while operating a cash business. Tax money is used, he said, "to support the programs of the government and to help those in need."
In remarks to the judge, Bangle said that he was "extremely apologetic over mistakes I made, and am humbled." He said that he had realized years ago that mistakes in the business were made and in 2006 was trying to find a way "to get out of a toxic situation we were in." He provided few details, but said that he and his wife acquired the company in 2011 but overpaid and took on a substantial "financial burden."
That was one reason, he said, that he is building a new pizza shop on the boardwalk, to restructure his debt and stretch it out over 20 years. "I had to grow organically to stay in business," he said.
Mary called him "her hero," and said he had shown many acts of kindness to employees in need and had supported various civic organizations in Ocean City and the area. When it came time for her sentencing, she told the court she was too distraught after her husband's sentencing to speak on her own behalf.