Restaurateur Michel R. Sellier has been ordered to pay the District government $110,967 in back taxes from the operation of two now-defunct Georgetown establishments, the Cafe' de Paris and the club La Serre.
The amount is one of the largest claims for back taxes ever awarded to the District government, said Richard Aguglia, chief of the finance section of the D.C. Corporation Counsel.
James E. Joyner, Sellier's attorney, said he will ask Superior Court Judge Iraline G. Barnes to reduce the amount, because it appears the city has not credited Sellier for some money he paid.
"There is no doubt something is owed," he said. "The amount is in question."
Sellier for years collected D.C. sales and employment taxes that he failed to turn over to the District, according to D.C. government officials. But Joyner said Sellier had merely held back the taxes while his accountants and lawyers were trying to straighten out his difficulties with the District.
Barnes ordered the payment on Aug. 5 after Sellier pleaded guilty May 11 to two counts of failure to pay withholding tax and two counts of willful failure to pay sales tax, according to Barnes' office.
D.C. prosecutors said that Sellier never registered La Serre, a private club that was located at 3202 O St. NW, with the D.C. Department of Finance and Revenue and did not file any D.C. tax returns for the business.
Howard Rubin, another lawyer for Sellier, said Sellier did register La Serre.
The District government closed the club about a year ago and sold Sellier's restaurant equipment, a grand piano and liquor stock for about $10,000, Aguglia said. The proceeds went to the D.C. government to pay some of the back taxes, he said.
Cafe' de Paris filed for reorganization in bankruptcy in 1981. Sellier later opened the Georgetown Seafood House at the same location, 3056 M St. NW. Rubin said he plans to file a reorganization plan today under which Sellier will pay off his debts from Cafe' de Paris.
The court-ordered restitution covers four years of back taxes, which the judge ordered Sellier to pay back at a rate of $1,500 a month, officials said.
Aguglia said that when the city's finance department discovers a business owes more taxes than were paid, officials attempt to get the individual or business to pay the difference voluntarily. If that is not successful, the city prosecutes the case, he said. Aguglia estimated the city prosecutes about eight or 10 cases a year.