PJ’s Cafe owner indicted on tax fraud and forgery charges

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: PJ’s Cafe owner Jackie Norton has been accused of tax fraud.

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

CLIFTON – PJ’s Cafe owner Jackie Marie Norton, 78, is accused of stealing from the state of Arizona, with a Grand Jury handing down 17 indictments against her on Oct. 5. The case is being prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.  

The indictments include one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices – a Class-2 felony, 12 counts of failure to file transaction privilege tax returns – Class-5 felonies, and three counts of forgery – Class-4 felonies.  

When a business sells a product or service in Arizona, a transaction privilege tax (commonly known as sales tax) is added to the bill. The current state sales tax is 5.6 percent, and Greenlee County adds another .5 of a percent to make it 6.1 percent in Clifton where PJ’s Cafe is located. 

According to the indictment, PJ’s Cafe made $2,077,761 in taxable sales between March 2012 and December 2018, with Norton failing to pay the state $181,922 in sales tax. 

Additionally, Norton is accused of forging W-2 tax forms and not paying the state some taxes from an employee. 

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Jackie Norton holds her 2019 Gila Valley Small Business Woman of the Year Award.

The Arizona Department of Revenue initiated its investigation after an employee inquired about a tax refund. The ensuing investigation revealed Norton’s W-2 forms showed taxes were withheld from the employee but were never paid. 

Norton has run PJ’s Cafe since 1987. The flood of 1983 damaged the building of her first business, a fabric shop, and caused her to purchase the building where PJ’s is located. Four years later, she switched to making food and became the choice in Clifton for a “home-away-from-home” dining experience. 

Norton was honored in 2019 as the Gila Valley Small Business Woman of the Year for Greenlee County. She is next scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 14.     

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