WILKES-BARRE – The trial of a Hazle Township man charged with withholding more than $90,000 in taxes from his family business ended in a mistrial Tuesday after a Luzerne County jury could not come to a verdict.
Mark Lazo, 52, of Pardeesville Road, faced a county jury of six women and six men who, after deliberating for more than two hours,could not decide on a verdict on 43 counts.
The jury notified Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. it could not come to a decision, and a mistrial was declared, ending the two-day trial.
Senior Deputy Attorney General George Zaiser could opt to retry Lazo on allegations Lazo took the money while working at Ferdinand’s Family Restaurant on West 15th Street in Hazleton.
According to court papers, Lazo was president of Lazo Brothers Inc., which operated Ferdinand’s Family Restaurant and Catering. The restaurant closed in 2010. From July 2007 to October 2010, Lazo allegedly failed to pay $91,724 in sales tax for the business and $4,952 in employer tax.
Prosecutors say Lazo was in charge of income tax returns for the business and he knew he had to withhold state income tax, file the tax returns and remit the withheld state income taxes.
Lazo’s brother, Michael Lazo, told investigators Mark Lazo was in charge of financial aspects of the business, the kitchen, scheduling and cooking, while their father was in charge of bookkeeping and payroll. Michael Lazo said his father was responsible for preparing and filing sales tax returns and that he or Mark Lazo was responsible for signing and paying the sales tax and returns.
Mark Lazo’s attorney, David Pedri, argued during the trial his client was a cook and responsible for the kitchen and scheduling, and that his father was responsible for the tax monies.
Pedri sought to have the charges against his client dismissed in July, but Sklarosky denied that request three months later. Pedri said the charges should be dismissed because prosecutors did not establish enough evidence against Lazo at his preliminary hearing in February 2012.