Owner of DeBlasio's restaurant gets probation on tax evasion

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Embarrassment and restriction, but not prison, are the appropriate punishments for the tax evasion committed by Donald J. DeBlasio, owner of the Mt. Lebanon restaurant that bears his last name, a federal judge decided Tuesday.

"We all read 'The Scarlet Letter,' did we not, in high school?" U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone said near the end of a sentencing hearing. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 exploration of sin and guilt, an adulteress is sentenced to wear a red A. "Don't we have a respected man, known in his community, in the federal court ... acknowledging to the world and his friends and family that he's a tax cheat?"

Instead of prison, DeBlasio, 69, of Collier faces five years of probation, including two years of home detention.

He must also pay a $10,000 fine and perform 500 hours of community service. He has already paid back the taxes he evaded, according to court filings.

DeBlasio is an Air Force veteran who went on to work for US Airways before becoming the majority owner of DeBlasio's. His attorneys, J. Alan Johnson and Meagan F. Temple, argued that he also has helped others by, among other things, raising money to support scholar-athletes who play on the University of Pittsburgh football team.

DeBlasio underpaid his taxes to the tune of $341,128 over a number of years.

The prosecution alleged that he did that so he could afford exotic vacations and gamble.

Federal sentencing guidelines suggested that he might face 18 to 24 months in prison. Assistant U.S. attorney Leo Dillon argued for prison time, saying that if people like DeBlasio didn't cheat on their taxes, the nation wouldn't be so deep in debt.

Mr. Johnson, though, said that a prison term could threaten DeBlasio's restaurant, located in the Virginia Manor Shops in Mt. Lebanon.

"The main issue in this case, I think, has to do with the employees" of the restaurant, he said.

"It happens that the livelihood of a large number of people can be affected" by a prison sentence, Judge Cercone agreed before outlining the punishment. Home detention allows DeBlasio to go to work and other approved appointments.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter: @richelord.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published December 3, 2013 12:56 PM

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