Flower entrepreneur's lavish lifestyle, prior convictions described in sentencing documents

A federal prosecutor is urging a judge to send businessman David M. Adams to prison for a long time, asserting in a sentencing document that he is "one of the biggest federal tax cheats in Connecticut history."

Adams, 57, of East Lyme pleaded guilty in U.S.  District Court in October to six tax-related crimes, and was scheduled for sentencing last week. His attorney, William T. Koch Jr., was on trial elsewhere and was granted an extension. Adams' sentencing is now set for May 30 before Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford. He faces decades in prison.

Adams is the founder of Flowers USA and another online floral business, both of which he has sold. He is a principal of Saybrook Realty Partners, which has an interest in the Saybrook Junction plaza near the Old Saybrook train station.

In a sentencing memorandum submitted to the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan L. Wines says Adams has been a "tremendous drain on federal resources for 20 years" who appears to have no intention of ever repaying the government.

As of October 2016, he owed more than $4.7 million in back taxes, interest and penalties for tax years 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, according to the government, and interest and penalties have continued to accrue since that time.

Attorney Drzislav "Dado" Coric said he would be arguing on behalf of Adams at the sentencing hearing.

"It's going to be a very unique and interesting sentencing, both from a factual and legal standpoint," Coric said Wednesday evening. "While people may not be able to put all the pieces together in a coherent manner at this point, the hope is that after sentencing they'll see this may not be what it seems on the surface."

Wines said Adams lived a lavish lifestyle. She described a decadeslong cat-and-mouse game that he played with the government, evading taxes while building a luxury estate, named "Orchard Manor," on 40 acres on Scott Road in East Lyme, and more recently, paying $10,000 a month for a beach property "right on the point in the tony Fenwick Borough of Old Saybrook." Adams filled an 11-car garage at the East Lyme home with a Maserati, Range Rover, Land Rover and other luxury vehicles, according to the government, and spent tens of thousands of dollars vacationing in five-star hotels.

"Adams violated the tax laws in almost every conceivable way — evading the assessment of millions of dollars in income, falsely overstating payments, causing the filing of multiple false tax returns, willfully evading payment and engaging in an exhausting obstruction of the IRS's efforts to collect from him," Wines wrote.

The prosecutor referenced readers' comments about lenient sentences for white collar criminals left on a Day article as she urged the judge  to impose a lengthy sentence.

"A significant term of imprisonment would promote respect for the law and rebut the sense that privileged defendants are treated with disproportionate leniency," Wines wrote.

Adams' attorney contends in a sentencing memorandum submitted to the court that Adams' unpaid taxes amount to $2.6 million because the government incorrectly added penalties and interest to some of the charges. Koch is requesting that the judge impose a sentence of 46 months, which is below federal sentencing guidelines.

Koch argues in the memorandum that Adams has "been a consistent annuity for the U.S. Treasury" who has paid a significant amount of taxes even though he owes a significant amount in taxes, interest and penalties. Koch wrote that a tax expert is calculating how much Adams has paid to the government.

Adams never committed a violent or drug crime, did not steal from anyone and made all of his money legitimately, Koch wrote.

"Mr. Adams is not like the Bernie Madoffs or Martin Frankels of this world who made excessive amounts of money illegally/illegitimately, by stealing it from innocent people," the memorandum says. "The victim in this case is the Plaintiff, the United States government. There will not be any victim like a widow, orphan or retiree in court telling Your Honor how they suffered financially due to Mr. Adams."

According to Koch, Adams started a lawn business at age 13, opened his first flower store while attending college and built Flowers USA into a national operation from his shop in Groton. He sold that business in 2002 for a gain of $6 million and opened an Internet flower business three years later after a noncompete clause expired. He sold that business in 2011 for another $6 million gain.

Adams' two prior convictions will be taken into account at his sentencing. In 1986, he was convicted of using his floral business to submit hundreds of fraudulent credit card sales online, according to the government. He was sentenced to probation and community service, fined $10,000 and ordered to liquidate two pieces of real estate, a Jaguar and a Mercedes Benz.

In 1992, he was convicted for willful failure to file tax returns for tax years 1984 and 1985. He was sentenced to three months in prison and five years' probation and ordered to repay the government.  

The government sentencing memorandum indicates that, "while on probation, Adams continued his scheme of obstructing the IRS' efforts to collect back taxes from him by, for example, bouncing checks to the IRS, failing to pay amounts owed, and giving other false information to IRS collections officers."

k.florin@theday.com

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