Crime & Courts

Lake Norman restaurant owner pleads guilty to tax evasion on Friday

The owner of a landmark Lake Norman restaurant faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty on Friday to tax evasion.

Peter Gjuraj, 49, owner of the Blue Parrot Grill on N.C. 150 West in Mooresville, admitted to hiding nearly $3 million in income and filing false returns.

“Gjuraj reaped all the benefits of owning a profitable restaurant on the shores of Lake Norman, but did not want to pay taxes owed from operating his successful business,” U.S. Attorney Jill Rose said. “Instead, he used the extra income to fund homes, cars and to travel.

Gjuraj, 49, of Mooresville was freed after his plea hearing in U.S. District Court in Charlotte. He and his lawyer, Eben Rawls of Charlotte, have not returned calls from the Observer requesting comment since the newspaper reported the felony charge on May 31.

The restaurateur also agreed Friday to pay about $537,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. His sentencing has yet to be scheduled.

The Blue Parrot Grill was established in 2010 as a family-friendly place where you can also take your dog, according to the restaurant’s website.

Court records show Gjuraj failed to report about $2.8 million in additional gross receipts to the IRS from 2012 through 2014. As a result, he owed an additional $320,000 in federal taxes.

Gjuraj admitted to using business funds to purchase, among other items, two houses for $375,000; cars worth about $80,000; and other personal expenditures, including travel and home improvements, according to court documents.

As a result of the unreported gross receipts, Gjuraj hid “a large part of the gross receipts of Blue Parrot from his tax return preparer,” according to a federal document. Because of the unreported receipts, he “fraudulently claimed various credits against taxes,” according to the document.

Gjuraj structured cash withdrawals to avoid filing currency transaction reports. For example, between July 8, 2013, and Sept. 27, 2013, he made about 15 withdrawals from a bank account totaling about $142,000, prosecutors said.

Gjuraj’s expenditures for 2012 through 2014 “were far in excess of his reported income,” according to a court record.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak