NEW YORK (Reuters) - The chief financial officer of a company that licensed the name and recipes of the chef who inspired the tyrannical "Soup Nazi" character on the television comedy "Seinfeld" has been indicted for tax evasion, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Robert Bertrand, 62, was accused of depriving the U.S. Internal Revenue Service of roughly $594,000 of taxes by failing to report $2.85 million of cash and stock that a subsidiary of Soupman Inc quietly awarded employees from 2010 to 2014.
Prosecutors said the Norwalk, Connecticut, resident also ignored an outside auditor's warning, which he acknowledged in writing, that some of the payments should be reported to the IRS.
"The United States was fleeced out of more than half a million dollars through the defendant's corporate misdeeds," Bridget Rohde, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. "Tax crimes like those alleged in the indictment hurt every American citizen."
Bertrand was charged with 20 counts of failing to pay Medicare, Social Security and federal income taxes, and could face up to five years in prison.
He pleaded not guilty at a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn Go in Brooklyn, and was freed on $50,000 bail, according to Rohde's office.
Michael Weil, a federal public defender representing Bertrand, declined to comment.
Based in Staten Island, New York, Soupman sells products under the Original SoupMan brand. Soupman is not a defendant in the case. It did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Soupman traces its roots to 1984, when Al Yeganeh opened his soup shop on West 55th Street in midtown Manhattan and soon began drawing long lines of customers.
Yeganeh was the inspiration for Yev Kassem, a character portrayed by Larry Thomas on a 1995 "Seinfeld" episode who was known for making customers follow strict ordering rules, or risk being shunted away with his forceful bellow: "No soup for you!"
In published interviews, Yeganeh has said he was not a fan of the "Soup Nazi" name.
The case is U.S. v. Bertrand, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 17-cr-00186.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Lisa Shumaker