South Florida

Former CPA and chairman of Public Health Trust sent to prison for three-plus years

In this 2015 file photo, Darryl Sharpton, former chairman of the Public Health Trust that manages Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade’s taxpayer-owned hospital network, announces plans for a new facility. On March 7, 2019, Sharpton was sentenced in federal court to three years and three months in prison for tax evasion.
In this 2015 file photo, Darryl Sharpton, former chairman of the Public Health Trust that manages Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade’s taxpayer-owned hospital network, announces plans for a new facility. On March 7, 2019, Sharpton was sentenced in federal court to three years and three months in prison for tax evasion. Miami Herald staff

Darryl K. Sharpton is a prominent member of Miami’s black community who once headed his own accounting firm and served as chairman of the taxpayer-funded Miami-Dade Public Health Trust, which manages Jackson Memorial Hospital and other county facilities.

Sharpton, 61, is also a tax dodger.

He pleaded guilty to tax evasion in late December, and now owes the Internal Revenue Service more than $1.1 million dating to 2004 for failing to pay income taxes and file returns. He also owes $750,000 for failing to pay his accounting firm’s share of withholding taxes on employees’ paychecks since 2012.

Sharpton, who drew support in letters from former Gov. Jeb Bush and ex-School Board member Solomon C. Stinson, was sentenced to three years and three months in prison Thursday by U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga. She described Sharpton as “two different people” — one who has a history of helping people in the community but also one who has cheated the U.S. government on his taxes.

“I could not help but be shocked by the decades of noncompliance of tax obligations by a CPA,” Altonaga told Sharpton, who lost his pretrial bond because he tested positive for marijuana and is being held at the Miami federal detention center. “This is not a mistake but deliberate misconduct over years.”

Sharpton, dressed in a khaki inmate jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists and ankles, issued a brief apology as about 10 supporters, including Stinson, looked on. “I am really sorry to be in this position,” Sharpton told the judge. “I apologize for the hurt and grief I have caused my family.”

A trio of federal prosecutors asked the judge to give Sharpton the high end of the sentencing guidelines, three years and five months, while his defense attorney, David Garvin, urged the judge to grant him a variance with a sentence of one year and six months.

Altonaga flatly rejected Garvin’s request, pointing out how long the IRS had to work on Sharpton’s case and how long it took him to accept responsibility for his crime after he was indicted in April of last year. “This case has dragged on for a long time,” she said, noting both the civil and criminal probes.

Garvin, a notable tax-defense attorney, emphasized that Sharpton tried to work out his tax problems with the IRS, including paying $500,000 toward his accounting firm’s tax obligations. Garvin also focused on Sharpton’s years of volunteer service on the Public Health Trust and other community groups.

“He’s very well respected in this community,” Garvin said. “A lot of people look at Mr. Sharpton and say, ‘I don’t want to ever have the issues that he has that spun out of control.’ ”

Garvin pointed out that there are countless South Florida defendants who are convicted of Medicare fraud and other financial crimes but give nothing to their community. “Mr. Sharpton is not one of those,” he said.

Sharpton was appointed to the Public Health Trust, which manages Jackson Health System, in May 2011 as part of a financial recovery team charged with steering the hospital network out of near-bankruptcy. He served as chairman from 2013 to 2015 and stepped down in 2016 after completing his term. During his tenure, Sharpton led a campaign that won approval from Miami-Dade voters to raise $830 million in public money for upgrades, new equipment and facilities for Jackson Health.

But Sharpton’s tax problems began long before he assumed the high-profile position of chairman of the Public Health Trust. A certified public accountant, Sharpton founded a financial management firm, The Sharpton Group, formerly known as Sharpton, Brunson & Co., in 1984. It specialized in financial management, audits, and tax and wealth planning.

Garvin said Sharpton’s tax troubles arose from the strain of running his business, as clients were not paying on time and Sharpton split up with his partner. Sharpton was left struggling for years to make ends meet.

He not only failed to pay his full income and withholding payroll taxes, he stopped filing returns altogether. He also improperly ran personal expenses, such as a home mortgage and college tuition, through his accounting firm.

“This was not an isolated mistake,” said Justice Department tax attorney Mara Strier. “It was a pattern of criminal activity.”

Fellow Justice Department lawyer Sean Beaty criticized the letters of support emphasizing that Sharpton had made a mistake.

“What he pleaded guilty to was not a mistake,” said Beaty, who was assisted by Miami federal prosecutor Christopher Clark. “It was a willful act of evasion.”

Jay Weaver writes about bad guys who specialize in con jobs, rip-offs and squirreling away millions. Since joining the Miami Herald in 1999, he’s covered the federal courts nonstop, from Elian’s custody battle to A-Rod’s steroid use. He was on the Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news in 2001. He and three Herald colleagues were nominated as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for explanatory reporting in 2019.


  Comments