Platinum Jaxx owner failed to file tax returns

Kyle Hopkins
Jim Lavrakas

A prominent Anchorage defense lawyer failed to file income tax returns for three years and owes as much as $886,000 in unpaid taxes, federal prosecutors say.

Attorney Paul D. Stockler, 52, signed a plea agreement June 9 admitting to three misdemeanor counts of "willful failure to file a tax return," court records show. Stockler is part owner of the Platinum Jaxx nightclub in downtown Anchorage. The club announced its closure on Facebook the following day.

Before his sentencing, Stockler will argue that he does not owe money for the years he failed to file returns -- 2006, 2008 and 2009 -- because he should be allowed to deduct large stock market losses for those years, said Marcus Topel, a California-based attorney representing Stockler in the case.

"The big issue is whether or not he owed any taxes at all," Topel said.

Stockler is no stranger to federal courtrooms. He represented Security Aviation and its principal, Rob "Commander" Kane, against weapons charges involving the possession of two rocket launchers in 2006 and defended former state Rep. Tom Anderson against bribery, extortion and money laundering charges in 2007. Anderson was convicted. A jury found Kane and Security Aviation not guilty.

In 2007, Stockler agreed to give back $1 million to settle a lawsuit that arose from the bankruptcy of a former Security Aviation owner, which claimed Stockler was overpaid by Kane.

The attorney's plea agreement was filed in court Thursday. He declined to be interviewed Friday, referring questions to his attorney.

A sentencing date will likely be set next week, Topel said. A federal judge must then decide how much, if any, taxes are owed. The amount could range from zero to $886,058, according to the plea agreement.

At issue is how much money Stockler should be allowed to deduct for stock market losses, according to the agreement.

Prosecutors believe Stockler may only deduct $3,000 a year for each of the three years that he missed returns. Topel counters that Stockler can deduct all his capital losses for 2006 as well as other unclaimed losses as a day trader, which the attorney says would have erased his tax bill for those years.

"If that's the case, this would be a basically a no harm matter," Topel said. "Now that doesn't change the fact that he didn't file (returns) and that's why we are entering the plea to these misdemeanors."

The three charges each carry a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in prison, although Stockler's lawyer says he has no criminal record and will seek probation rather than time behind bars. Under the plea deal, prosecutors agreed they will recommend a sentence of 24 months or less.

Stockler owns 43.2 percent of Platinum Jaxx Inc., a company formed in 2005, according to the state Commerce Department. Jess Hepper owns the largest piece of the business, 49.6 percent, with the balance held by Jaysir Alden.

The U.S. government owned a quarter of the business for a time, receiving the share when another former co-owner, Wallie Scott Vierra, pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges he conspired to haul and distribute more than a ton of "BC Bud" marijuana from British Columbia to Alaska.

Vierra pleaded guilty to using the club to launder more than half a million dollars in drug money. None of the club's other owners were implicated in the smuggling or laundering operations at the time of Vierra's plea deal.

Topel said Stockler's missed tax returns are not related to the drug conviction against his former co-owner.

Platinum Jaxx announced its closure June 10. "We have decided to go in a different direction," read a post on the nightclub's Facebook page.

Asked if federal tax case against Stockler led to the closure, Topel said, "It's my belief that there is no connection."

Stockler said earlier this month that the closure of two other popular clubs since 2012 has dampened the downtown bar scene. Platinum Jaxx had been struggling financially for some time, he said.


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