The former CEO of Axium International, a leading Hollywood payroll services company before it collapsed in 2008, has been sentenced to two years in federal prison.
John Visconti, 74, of Beverly Hills, was sentenced on Monday by U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal, who also ordered the defendant to pay $1.75 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. Visconti was convicted by a federal jury in October of tax evasion, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, and filing a false tax return.
Axium’s gross revenues were well over $1 billion per year and the company regularly submitted payroll tax returns to the IRS and to the taxing authorities of several states. In some cases, those tax returns generated substantial refunds, which were supposed to be held in trust by Axium.
The company collapsed in 2008 after revelations that its tax delinquencies exceeded $100 million. According to the evidence presented at trial, Visconti and Axium’s former chief operating officer – Ronald Garber, 62, of Santa Monica – used a variety of elaborate mechanisms to divert approximately $5.1 million from Axium and Visconti took $1.9 million in corporate loans that he did not repay.
Prosecutors said that Visconti used the money to finance a lavish lifestyle.
Visconti diverted tax refund checks payable to Axium and its subsidiaries into secret bank accounts that he and Garber controlled. These funds were not shown on corporate books and records. Garber and Visconti also diverted approximately $570,000 from Axium by paying invoices submitted by a sham construction company that they controlled.
“While they were entrusted with overseeing the business activities of a company that was taking in hundreds of millions of dollars every year, these defendants were stealing millions from Axium,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “In addition to harming their employer and its clients, the defendants defrauded the government by failing to pay taxes on their ill-gotten gains.”
Visconti reported none of the funds that he pocketed by him on his federal income tax returns.
“Using sham entities and secret bank accounts, Mr. Visconti drained Axium of millions of dollars in cash and assets to finance his lavish lifestyle,” stated Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony J. Orlando of IRS Criminal Investigation.
Bernal said Monday when he imposed the two-year sentence that he was balancing the seriousness of the crimes against Visconti’s recent diagnosis with a serious medical condition.
Garber previously pleaded guilty to two counts of subscribing to a false tax return and is scheduled to be sentenced later this year. Another former Axium associate – Christina Futak, 60, of Orange – pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to three years of probation.