Philly cheesesteak shop founder and son plead in tax evasion case

PHILADELPHIA — The founder of a Philadelphia cheesesteak restaurant and one of his sons have pleaded guilty in a federal tax evasion case alleging concealment of nearly $8 million in sales over a decade.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Anthony Lucidonio Sr., 83, and Nicholas Lucidonio, 55, two owners of famed cheesesteak and sandwich shop Tony Luke’s, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government.

New Jersey residents told a federal judge they kept two sets of books to hide money from sales at their South Philadelphia store and admitted to paying part of the workers’ wages under the table to escape the payroll taxes, the newspaper reported.

The defendants, who are due to be sentenced later this year, said in a statement released by their attorneys that they “accept full responsibility for paying certain employees of Tony Luke in cash.” This practice ended in 2017, more than five years ago.

The statement said the defendants “have cooperated fully with the government’s investigation since its inception and are eager to put this matter behind them.” Tony Luke’s, they said, “will continue to serve its loyal customer base and provide gainful employment for its loyal employees and their families.”

Tony Luke’s face, Anthony Lucidonio Jr., known as Tony Luke Jr., was not named in the indictment. He split from his father and brother in 2015, followed by a sometimes personal public court battle over franchise deals and revenue ownership.

Tony Luke’s opened in 1992 and now has more than a dozen locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington DC, Maryland, Texas and Bahrain.

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