ATLANTA - Shanga A. Hankerson, the son of legendary singer-songwriter Gladys Knight and former owner of Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles in Atlanta has been sentenced to two years in prison for what authorities say was a "willful failure to remit payroll taxes."
According to information presented in court, Hankerson started the small chain in 1997 and expanded to other locations in northern Georgia and Washington, D.C.
As the sole owner of the business, Hankerson and his company were required to withhold pay various payroll taxes, including taxes to pay for Social Security and Medicare. Instead of doing this, however, authorities say Hankerson failed to fully remit over $1 million in payroll taxes due from at least 2012 to 2016.
"While ownership of a well-known restaurant in our community has its perks, it also comes with great responsibility," said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey in a statement. "Paying taxes is a way to give back to the community, but unfortunately Hankerson chose to use those funds for other means. This sentencing emphasizes that all employers, big and small, have equal responsibility to collect, report, and pay over their payroll taxes."
Hankerson pleaded guilty to the charges on July 21, 2021. In November, a judge sentenced him to two years in prison and one year of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of over $1 million.
"Hankerson willfully disregarded his tax obligations for many years," said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. "Payroll taxes fund social insurance programs, including Social Security and Medicare, and are a large source of revenue for the federal government. Employers who fail to comply with their legal obligations will be held accountable."
The case remains under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.