Two owners of a popular Washington restaurant chain entered guilty pleas over an alleged tax evasion scheme that involved using “zapper” software. As reported by U.S. News & World Report, the accused couple pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the government, which is a serious felony offense. As part of the plea arrangement, however, the restaurant owners avoided a severe punishment. 

Federal prosecutors alleged that the couple’s conspiracy consisted of using software programmed to conceal sales income. When customers used cash to pay for meals at their restaurants, the point-of-sale software purportedly “zapped” or modified the business’s revenue records to suppress the cash transaction. After allegedly using the software to hide more than $1 million in restaurant sales, the two owners failed to report those proceeds in order to avoid paying approximately $300,000 worth of taxes to state and federal authorities. 

Tax offenses generally carry a maximum prison sentence of five years. The restaurant proprietors, however, received a sentence of four and six months of imprisonment. The judge ordered them each to pay fines, and the couple also paid the $300,000 owed in taxes. They will serve staggered prison terms so that one parent at a time can stay home to take care of their young children. 

Under certain circumstances, entering into a guilty plea arrangement with the prosecuting team may allow defendants to admit their actions in exchange for reduced sentencing. The U.S. Department of Justice’s website explains that plea bargaining may help in avoiding a trial in situations when prosecutors already have strong evidence against the accused. Even though a plea bargain waives an individual’s right to a jury trial, it may result in a more lenient outcome for the defendant.