Happy’s Pizza founder gets 4 years in federal prison
Detroit — Happy Asker, president and founder of the Farmington Hills-based Happy’s Pizza chain, was sentenced to more than four years in federal prison Friday and ordered to pay $2.5 million restitution for tax fraud.
Asker, 38, of West Bloomfield was convicted of more than two dozen crimes, including filing false federal individual tax returns aiding and assisting the filing of false returns and engaging in a corrupt endeavor to obstruct and impede the IRS code.
“The license to run a business is not a license to avoid paying taxes,” Chief Richard Weber of IRS-Criminal Investigation said in a statement.
Asker, who established his first Happy’s Pizza in 1994, had ownership interests in multiple Happy’s Pizza franchises in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.
Along with four co-defendants, the government said he substantially underreported individual corporate income tax and payroll tax returns for nearly all 60 Happy’s establishments in the three states.
According to the government, Asker shared the unreported income during a weekly cash “profit split” with Tom J. Yaldo, Arkan Summa, Tagrid Bashi and Maher Bashi.
Maher Bashi, the pizza chain’s chief operating officer, was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $620,297. Yaldo, a franchisee, was sentenced to 18 months and ordered to pay $314,078.
Summa, also a franchisee, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $199,847. Tagrid Bashi, a franchise owner, was sentenced to three years’ probation.
“Mr. Asker and his co-defendants chose greed over legal business practices,” Weber said.
The four co-defendants pleaded guilty to corruption, providing false documents and obstruction prior to Asker’s trial last fall.
Happy’s Pizza issued a statement Saturday.
“We wish the best for our founder, Mr. Asker. All of us at Happy’s Pizza are extremely grateful for his vision and hard work in growing the company from a single store to more than 75 franchise locations. Happy’s Pizza has instituted new accounting and management systems that have made us a better company and we look forward to continued growth and success for years to come. We are most thankful for our customers, who love our quality pizza and other menu items and remain strongly loyal to Happy’s Pizza,” said John Moran, president and CEO of Happy’s Pizza.