Former owner of Naperville's Hollywood Palms theater sentenced to 5 years
The former owner of the Hollywood Palms cinema in Naperville and the Hollywood Blvd. movie theater in Woodridge is off to prison for cheating the government out of millions of dollars.
DuPage County Judge Daniel Guerin sentenced Edwin C. "Ted" Bulthaup, 59, of Woodridge, to five years in prison for sales tax evasion and four years in prison for banking institution fraud. The sentences will run concurrently and he will only serve half if he maintains good behavior.
Bulthaup pleaded guilty to the charges during a July hearing in which Illinois attorney general's office prosecutors agreed to dismiss 104 additional counts of wire fraud.
Assistant Attorney General Johnathon Greenwood alleged again during Thursday's sentencing hearing that Bulthaup underreported sales by a total of $18 million from July 2009 to December 2013 at the Naperville theater and Hollywood Blvd. theater in Woodridge, which he owned and operated until Feb. 10, 2014.
Greenwood said Bulthaup then committed bank fraud when he drastically overreported his income to obtain more than $4 million in bank loans.
"This crime was of a long, programmed, premeditated and sustained nature," Greenwood said, arguing for an eight-year sentence. "A strong firm sentence is needed because we don't want to create an understanding that paying your taxes is a catch if catch can system."
Bulthaup accepted responsibility for the scheme and pleaded for probation, saying all of the money went back into the theater to "keep the doors open" and not into his personal finances.
"I was very wrong, more wrong than I've ever been about anything in my life," Bulthaup told Guerin. "So many people have bought into my vision and dreams and this has become a nightmare."
The Illinois Department of Revenue began investigating Bulthaup in February 2014, when agents searched his businesses and seized records and computer information.
Officials said some of the tax liabilities mentioned in the two cases come from use taxes on items the business would buy to support its operations, such as a roll of tickets to sell to moviegoers or a computer on which to conduct ticket sales.
Guerin told Bulthaup he doesn't believe Bulthaup is a "fraud" or a "bad guy," but he thinks Bulthaup caught himself in his own web.
"Thousands of DuPage County residents face difficult financial circumstances at some point in their lives," Guerin said. "And they find ways to honestly and ethically tackle those difficulties."