Any fan of the TV show Seinfeld remembers the classic soup restaurant episode and its now-infamous star character: A chef with strict orders on how customers were allowed to order soup.
The television episode is a mainstay of ’90s pop culture and has popped up again in 2017– for a much less funny reason. The former Chief Financial Officer of Soupman, Inc, the company that licenses the recipes of the real-life chef who inspired the TV character, has pleaded guilty to tax evasion.
Robert Bertrand is the 62-year-old one-time CFO of the soup franchise. On December 11, he pleaded guilty to one count of failure to pay Medicare, Social Security and federal income taxes on behalf of his employees. Between 2010 and 2014, Bertrand allegedly paid his employees in cash and provided them with stock awards, but did not report the payments to the Internal Revenue Service. This cost the IRS nearly $600,000 in tax payments. Bertrand will have to pay about $80,000–the amount of money that he personally pocketed–in restitution as part of a plea bargain. He will be sentenced in April of 2018 and could face up to 2 ½ years in prison.
Bertrand himself is not the man who inspired the soup-loving, customer-hating main character. That dubious honor goes to one Al Yeganeh, who opened his restaurant Soup Kitchen International in New York City in 1984 and was soon being parodied on Seinfeld. Yeganeh’s Soupman, Inc licenses his name and recipes to a franchise of soup restaurants and heat-at-home soup varieties. Mere weeks after its CFO was indicted on charges of tax evasion, the company declared bankruptcy.