Gladys Knight’s son, Shanga Hankerson, has been sentenced to two years in federal prison. According to FOX5 in Atlanta, the former owner of Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles failed to pay his payroll taxes for several years.
Hankerson began the restaurant chain in 1997 in Atlanta. He eventually expanded to Washington, D.C. and throughout Georgia. Authorities have alleged that Hankerson failed to pay more than $1 million in payroll taxes between 2012 to 2016 for the restaurant chain. Employees were also sometimes paid with bad checks or paid half of their due wages.
After the Georgia Department of Revenue shut down three of his restaurants in 2016, Hankerson was arrested. The investigation found that Hankerson had spent the payroll tax money from his businesses on himself.
Hankerson’s spending habits were so bad that a general manager had to help keep the employee’s health insurance from lapsing by putting $12,000 on his own credit card. Knight eventually sued to remove her name from her son’s restaurant chain. She won the lawsuit in 2017, and Hankerson was ordered to stop using his mother’s name or likeness.
The son of the legendary singer pleaded guilty in July. He was sentenced in November to two years in federal prison.
The IRS Criminal Investigation unit released a statement noting that Hankerson purposely failed to pay his payroll taxes. Special Agent James E. Dorsey claimed that the restaurant owner used the funds for other means, which according to the authorities was sex and Mary Jane.
“While ownership of a well-known restaurant in our community has its perks, it also comes with great responsibility,” said Dorsey. “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.”
The U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine also commented on Hankerson’s actions.
“Hankerson willfully disregarded his tax obligations for many years,” he said. “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.”
Hankerson will also have to pay $1 million in restitution, plus he will have a year of supervised release after his two-year prison sentence ends.