Friday, October 21, 2005
Dynamic Women founders avoid harsh prison sentences
Again, from YH:
Dundalk, Maryland - Two former Dundalk residents are focusing on restoring their business and continuing their self-founded church after escaping harsh sentences last week.
Keith Vazquez and his wife, Rene Christou-Vazquez, the founders of Dynamic Women Weight Loss and Exercise Center, faced possible jail time and large fines when they came before U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis on Oct. 12 for tax charges related to the company.
In the end, however, according to Internal Revenue Service spokeswoman Peggy Thomas, Keith Vazquez was sentenced to 15 months community confinement and three years probation, plus a $100 special assessment fee, and his wife received two months home confinement and two years probation.
The confinement stipulations mean Keith Vazquez will perform community service in an area chosen by the court and René Christou-Vazquez must stay at home for the length of the sentences.
The couple also must continue cooperating with the IRS and make restitution. Their total criminal tax liability for 1996 through 1999 came to more than $176,000, Thomas said.
Back in February, Keith Vazquez pleaded guilty to tax evasion, a charge that carried a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine up to $250,000. René Christou-Vazquez pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of failure to file a tax return, which could have resulted in one year of imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.
Keith, a former Bear Creek resident, and René, from Hidden Cove, opened their first center in Rosedale in 1990 and owned eight clubs, including one in Dundalk, by 1996.
Between 1996 and 1999, the Vazquezes left income unreported, submitted false information or failed to file tax returns altogether for some years, according to a February press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Sentencing for the couple was originally set for May and subsequently rescheduled several times. At last week's hearing, which Thomas called a “long ordeal,” the Vazquezes had several witnesses testify on their behalf. The couple had supporters in the audience, including members of their church group.
The Vazquezes, who both attended Patapsco High School and now live in Bel Air, in 2002 founded the nondenominational Dyvine Faith Breakthrough Church in Rosedale. That church currently has about 50 members. Keith Vazquez said that about 80 percent of the church's members are Dundalk residents.
Now that they've put the sentencing behind them, the Vazquezes plan to continue their physical fitness business with a spiritual component.
“It's restoration for women,” Keith Vazquez said, “physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
The Vazquezes' decision in 2004 to include a focus on spirituality as well as fitness was the main reason some of the licensees terminated their lease agreements with the couple and dropped the Dynamic Women name, the Vazquezes said, though René Christou-Vazquez said the spiritual side wasn't pushed on club owners who didn't want it.
Calling the centers “a safe haven for women,” Keith Vazquez said they provide support groups and crisis counseling in addition to Bible study groups. He and his wife still own the Dynamic Women centers in Dundalk, Golden Ring, Towson and Fallston.
They called their tax troubles a transforming time, one that led them to a life of service to others.
“So much good has come from this, in the middle of our mess,” René said.
“We were caught up in the American Dream that turned into a nightmare,” Keith said. “Sometimes goodness comes from a great mess.”
See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.
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