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Sugar Hill Records brothers get house arrest, community service for tax evasion

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

Two sons of the Sugar Hill Records co-founders Sylvia and Joe Robinson were sentenced today to 400 hours of community service and three months house arrest for failing to file federal tax returns for several years, which prosecutors said cost the government nearly $1.3 million they should have paid on royalties from recordings by the Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, The Treacherous Three and others.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk fined 47-year-old Leland Robinson $8,000 and his 51-year-old brother, Joseph Robinson Jr., $16,000.

A third brother, 42-year-old Rhondo Robinson — also of Englewood — has yet to be sentenced.

Joseph and Leland Robinson both pleaded guilty last year to federal complaints charging them with ducking federal income taxes from 2005 through 2008.

As part of their plea agreements, each agreed “to file true and accurate tax returns and to pay to the IRS all taxes and penalties owed,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.

In addition, Falk considered charitable works done by the two, including helping 9/11 survivors, Hurricane Sandy first responders and others.

The Robinson trio were copyright administrators for the Englewood-based music label created by their parents in 1979. Sugar Hill rode high through 1986, with a slew of hits, from “Rapper’s Delight” to “The Message.”

Sugar Hill was responsible for the first hip hop crossover hit, 1979′s “Rapper’s Delight,” with its bass rip snatched from Chic’s big hit “Good Times.” For several years, the brothers were knee-deep in a battle with the Sugarhill Gang over rights to the band’s name.

A little over a year ago, a film about how Sylvia and Joe Robinson and the trio defrauded the group was released. In it, band members talk of how Joe Robinson Jr. took Master Gee’s stage name and used it in performance.

Fishman credited special agents with IRS-Criminal Investigation that led to the case, presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Mack of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division.

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