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The president of one of Niagara Falls’ oldest and biggest employers was spared jail time Wednesday.

Michael A. Elia of Sevenson Environmental Services was instead fined $5,000 for making false statements to the Internal Revenue Service.

Laurence Elia, a vice president at Sevenson, who like his brother faced up to six months in prison, also was fined $5,000.

The Elias were the first of six executives to be sentenced in the tax case.

Sevenson, known across the country for cleaning up Love Canal and other hazardous-waste sites, is one of the Falls’ biggest companies. It employs about 650 people, 260 of them in Niagara County.

“You guys have paid a big price,” U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara told the Elias. “There’s no period of incarceration warranted in this case.”

Arcara praised the government for reducing the Elias’ charges from felonies to misdemeanors and told the defendants that “you, your family and your company have done great work in Niagara Falls.”

The government’s case against the Elias centered around the allegation that they conspired with other Sevenson executives to avoid paying $310,000 in taxes on deferred bonus compensation.

Prosecutors said the executives received compensation in the form of goods and services that they purposely hid from the government. They also claim the executives fabricated and altered documents and invoices as part of the conspiracy.

Each of the six executives admitted some guilt as part of plea deals reached in January.

“What I did was wrong,” Michael Elia said Wednesday. “I deeply regret my conduct.”

Michael Elia was represented by Robert S. Bennett, one of the nation’s most prominent defense lawyers.

The other Sevenson executives who pleaded guilty are Richard Elia, Philip R. DeLuca, Alfred R. LaGreca and Frank A. Fracassi.

The case, which was handled by the Justice Department’s Tax Division in Washington, D.C., attracted attention because of the high-profile nature of the defendants and Bennett.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com