Developer admits tax evasion

East Lyme developer Jeffrey Torrance pleaded guilty to tax evasion Tuesday on the eve of a trial in U.S. District Court and days before the town zoning commission is expected to deliberate on a large-scale affordable housing project proposed by his firm.

Torrance, 53, of Upper Pattagansett Road, was indicted in 2006 on one count of tax evasion and two counts of filing false documents with the Internal Revenue Service. With a jury selected and evidence to begin Wednesday in federal court, he pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return in 2000.

He faces a maximum of three years in prison and fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced on June 30. He has agreed to pay restitution of $89,230 plus penalties and interest to the IRS and any additional amount he may owe for the 2001 tax year. He also must cooperate with the IRS to pay any additional outstanding taxes, interest and penalties, and to file all past due returns and timely file all future tax returns.

In pleading guilty, Torrance admitted that, in addition to owing approximately $18,242 in back taxes for the year 2000, he also owes approximately $70,961 in additional federal income taxes, penalties and interest for the years 1992, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.

Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Torrance said he could not comment and referred questions to his lawyer. Attorney Neal Rogan issued a news release that said Torrance "takes full and complete responsibility for his actions."

"Mr. Torrance's guilty plea stands as a stark reminder that even when an individual relies upon the advice and guidance of professionals, such as accountants and attorneys, the individual who signs the return is ultimately responsible for it," the statement said. "Mr. Torrance recognizes he signed the tax return for calendar year 2000 and, as such, is responsible for that tax return."

The guilty plea comes two days before the East Lyme Zoning Commission is set to deliberate on an affordable housing project on Upper Pattagansett Road that would include 58 single-family homes. Torrance is a principal with the developer, New England National, and has said he would be the project manager for the housing development.

Zoning Chairman Marc Salerno was unavailable Tuesday evening to comment.

k.florin@theday.com

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