Rochester jewelry business owner sentenced to prison for tax crimes

(ABC 6 News) – The owner of a Rochester jewelry business has been sentenced to six months in prison followed by one year of supervised release.

According to court documents, Bernard James Benavidez, 62, is the sole owner and operator of Master Jewelers, Inc. Because of its corporate structure, Master Jewelers was responsible for paying its own corporate taxes while Benavidez was independently responsible for reporting any salary, wages, or other compensation that Master Jewelers paid to him personally. But Benavidez regularly and intentionally diverted significant portions of Master Jewelers’ gross sales into his personal bank accounts for the purpose of lowering tax liabilities.

Court documents state Benavidez occasionally directed customers to pay him personally for work he completed on behalf of the business. Master Jewelers also sold significant amounts of scrap metal as part of its business and Benavidez deposited the proceeds into his personal bank account instead of the corporate account to avoid the funds from being captured on tax returns.

In total, between 2013 and 2017, Benavidez successfully concealed $432,373.42 in Master Jewelers’ sales, which resulted in unpaid tax liabilities of $147,006.96, according to court documents.

Benavidez pleaded guilty in Feburary, to one count of making and subscribing a false tax return.

Benavidez was sentenced Tuesday before Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright.

This case was jointly investigated by IRS – Criminal Investigations and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan L. Sing.