They include an award-winning engineering company, a now-defunct sporting goods operation, a state contractor, a restaurant chain and an auto sales dealer, and they collectively owe the state of Connecticut a tasty $7.42 million in delinquent taxes. If they all paid up, wouldn't that be a nice holiday present for this state's hard-pressed taxpayers?
Here's a look at the top-five tax dodgers on the state Department of Revenue Services' most recent list of naughty businesses:
-Harrington Engineering Inc. of Stonington and Rocky Hill. Owes $3,565,242.76 in state sales and use taxes. The 2010 recipient of an award for excellence from the Connecticut chapter of the Association of Builders and Contractors, Harrington also made INC Magazine's 2009 list of fastest-growing businesses. The company's business reportedly tripled between 2006 and 2009, it got a $1 million loan from a quasi-state agency, and at one point employed 240 people. But then the recession hit, Harrington defaulted on loans from the state and bank, and went out of business in May 2010, still owing all these back taxes to the state.
-Sprocket Sports LLC of Plainfield. Owes $1,290,440.17 in sales and use taxes. A person answering the phone at a company listed at the same address as Sprocket Sports insisted the alleged tax evader "has gone out of business." State corporation records shows the firm was incorporated in 2002 and lists its managing member as James G. Evans.
-White Oak Corp. of Plainville. Owes $1,040,586.21 in sales and use taxes. White Oak is in the middle of a long-running court battle with the state Department of Transportation that apparently began over a 1994 construction contract involving New Haven's Tomlinson Bridge. There are currently five different lawsuits, appeals and counter-suits pending in state courts, and one long-time official estimates the legal battle has cost the state more than $7 million in expenses since it began.
-S&J Restaurant LLC, operator of a chain of Humphrey's restaurants in Branford, Wallingford and Wethersfield. Owes $972,307 in state taxes. Anthony Prifitera of Branford, listed in state records as agent for the firm, was arrested in March of this year on 29 counts of failing to pay sales and use taxes. State officials say Prifitera's operations have nothing to do with the original Humphrey's restaurant on New Haven's Humphrey Street.
-Bernardo Motors LLC of Hamden. Owes $654,529.46 in sales and use taxes. A company employee says the auto dealer has settled the case in court for $200,000 and is now arranging to pay that amount to the state.