PJ’s Cafe owner Jackie Norton avoids prison, pleads guilty to tax evasion

Walt Mares File Photo/Gila Herald: PJ’s Cafe owner Jackie Norton pleaded guilty to tax fraud.

Set to be sentenced August 

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

CLIFTON – P.J.’s Cafe owner Jackie Marie Norton, 69, avoided jail time by pleading guilty to tax fraud charges and instead will be placed on supervised probation. 

On July 13, Norton pleaded guilty to three charges in Greenlee County Superior Court: fraudulent schemes and artifices – a Class-2 felony, failure to file transaction privilege tax returns – a Class-5 felony, and filing false returns – a Class-4 felony. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 13 at 1:30 p.m.

According to the plea, Norton will be sentenced to supervised probation and will have to pay back the state the $181,922 she previously withheld, cooperate in an audit process and pay all investigative costs to the state. She was also given a $10,000 fine. 

The case was prosecuted in Greenlee County Superior Court by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, with Judge Kenneth Fields appearing via Zoom. 

In December 2020, Norton was indicted by an Arizona Grand Jury on 17 felonies. The plea agreement she accepted included the dismissal of 14 of those charges, including three counts of forgery, and 11 counts of failure to file transaction privilege tax returns. 

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Jackie Norton

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 was accused of forging W-2 tax forms and not paying the state some taxes from an employee. 

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.

 

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