Bluffton man sentenced for tax evasion, ordered to pay over $3M in restitution

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A Bluffton man was ordered to pay millions in restitution after pleading guilty to years of tax evasion, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Michael Sturms, 78, of Bluffton, was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay almost $3.1 million in restitution to the IRS, according to a Tuesday news release. The court found that Sturms failed to pay a total of $1.8 million to the IRS, not including interest and penalties.

Court documents trace the root of Sturms’ financial troubles back to decades-old legal battles with his ex-wife and ex-business partner, both of which he lost. Investigators found that Sturms had not paid outstanding tax deficiencies dating back to 2007.

Due to an inability to pay his debts, Sturms received a payment waiver from the IRS in 2015, when he owed over $2 million to the agency.

But Sturms found himself back in trouble in April 2016, when he received a nearly $1.2 million settlement from a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Comcast. Over the next few months, prosecutors argued Sturms made a series of wire transfers and transactions in an attempt to hide the funds, including the purchase of a $550,000 Bluffton home in his new wife’s name.

Sturms is currently unable to pay the $3 million in restitution fees, but is “eager” to negotiate a final settlement with the IRS, according to sentencing documents.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Allessandra Stewart prosecuted the case, and the sentence was handed down by Judge Richard M. Gergel.