Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: PJ’s Cafe owner Jackie Norton was sentenced Friday to seven years on probation for tax fraud.
Also must pay $181,992 in restitution
By Jon Johnson
CLIFTON – The long arm of Uncle Sam came down upon PJ’s Cafe owner Jackie Norton on Friday, as she was sentenced to seven years probation for tax fraud.
Norton, 69, previously pleaded guilty on July 13 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. The plea agreement dismissed 14 other felony charges.
The case was prosecuted in Greenlee County Superior Court by Mary Harriss with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, and Andrew Marcantel – a criminal defense attorney from Chandler – represented Norton.
Marcantel argued for a sentence of four years on probation, but Judge Kenneth Fields went with a probation officer’s recommendation and sentenced Norton to seven years on probation. Norton was also ordered to pay back $181,992 in restitution, which was stipulated in her plea agreement.
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.
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 investigation cited Norton had kept $10,000 in Social Security taxes an employee paid from 2009 to 2014.
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.