Bookkeeper of Lee’s Kitchen Pleads Guilty in State Tax Case

Raleigh, NC

A Raleigh businesswoman pleaded guilty Tuesday in Wake County District Court to a tax charge filed by the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

Paula Pierce, 53, of Raleigh, pleaded guilty on November 24, 2020 to one count of Conspiracy to Commit Willful Failure to Pay Over Sales Tax to the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

District Court Judge Dan Nagle sentenced Pierce to a 30-day prison term.  The sentence was suspended and Pierce was placed on supervised probation for 12 months.  As a condition of probation, Pierce was ordered to serve 20 hours of community service.   

Information presented in court showed that Pierce, bookkeeper of Lee’s Kitchen, conspired with the shareholders of the LLC, to hold back a portion of the sales tax that was collected by the restaurant business during the period September 1, 2014 through April 20, 2017, instead of remitting all of the sales taxes owed to the North Carolina Department of Revenue, as required by law. 

In an earlier press release issued by the North Carolina Department Revenue on August 13, 2020, the shareholders of the LLC, Charles Burgess, 48, and Peter Mark-Anthony Ellison, 52, of Raleigh, each pleaded guilty to one count of Embezzlement of State Property. Information presented in the court case showed that Burgess and Ellison, as owners/members of Lee’s Kitchen, LLC, assisted, or aided and abetted the business to embezzle, misapply, and convert to its’ own use $148,823.47 in North Carolina and Wake County Sales Tax during the period April 1, 2014 through April 20, 2017.  During this period of time, Lee’s Kitchen, LLC, operated two restaurant locations in Raleigh. Burgess and Ellison were the responsible persons of the LLC and were under a duty to collect, hold in trust, and remit North Carolina State Sales Tax to the North Carolina Department of Revenue.

Wake County Superior Court Judge A. Graham Shirley sentenced Burgess to a 21-month minimum, 35-month maximum prison term. The sentence was suspended and as a condition of probation, Burgess was ordered to serve seven months in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections. Upon release, Burgess will be placed on supervised probation for 12 months. 

Ellison was sentenced to a 16-month minimum, 29-month maximum prison term. The sentence was suspended and as a condition of probation, Ellison was ordered to serve six months in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections. Upon release, Ellison will be placed on supervised probation for 36 months.  The restitution was paid prior to the time of their plea.  

The charges against Burgess, Ellison, and Pierce resulted from an investigation by special agents with the Department’s Criminal Investigations Division in Raleigh, and was prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions attorneys in the office of the Attorney General.