“I failed to collect and account for and pay to the government taxes for wages,” Robert Bertrand admitted, appearing in Brooklyn court this afternoon, wearing a dark leather jacket, a blue button-down shirt and pressed pants.
Bertrand’s plea came nearly seven months after the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed a 20-count indictment against the 62-year-old resident of Norwalk, Connecticut.
Though he previously pleaded not guilty to all counts, Bertrand reached a plea deal in November while awaiting trial on $50,000 bond.
He smiled alongside his attorney, Michael Daniel Weil with Federal Defenders of New York, as the men left the courtroom Monday, declining to comment.
Bertrand faces up to five years in prison when he appears before U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen for sentencing on April 12, 2018.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kaitlin Farrell led the prosecution, accusing Bertrand of failing to collect taxes on nearly $2 million in cash and nearly $1 million in shares paid to Soupman employees between 2010 and 2014.
The government said an independent auditor told Bertrand in 2012 he owed on 2011-12 taxes, but Bertrand did not pay and the auditor was later fired.
Bertrand pleaded guilty to a single count Monday, covering the financial quarter from January to March 2010.
Farrell told the court the government had calculated restitution of $78,518.18 based on the total alleged tax loss of $593,971.52.
Several months after Bertrand’s indictment, the Staten Island-based Soupman sought bankruptcy court protection in June 2017, claiming $10 million to $50 million in debt.
The company sells bisques, chowders, gumbo and jambalaya, as well as classics like chicken noodle and lentil. It licenses the name and recipes of Al Yeganeh, whose brusque persona inspired the “Seinfeld” character known as the Soup Nazi.
“Seinfeld” made a catch phrase of the line “No Soup for You” in 1995, but Nora Ephron might have referenced Yeganeh two years earlier in “Sleepless in Seattle.”
“This man sells the greatest soup you have ever eaten, and he is the meanest man in America,” the character played by Meg Ryan says at one point in the movie, pitching her New York news crew a story about an unnamed soup man.