Cory M. Tarpenning, a two-time U.S. Olympic pole vaulter from Portland, was sentenced Thursday to three months in prison for failing to report $1.9 million in income and wages over five years while living in Monaco.
Tarpenning, a 59-year-old athlete turned entrepreneur, told US District Judge Michael W. Mosman that he “deeply regrets” his behavior and apologized for all that affected him.
He vowed to “fix what I broke” and asked the judge to treat him with mercy.
Tarpenning failed to report the money he made from the commission contract he received after arranging a sponsorship between Nike, Inc. and the Association Sportive de Monaco Football Club SA (“AS Monaco”), a professional football team in Monaco. The commission contract was worth more than 2.1 million euros, or about $2.4 million, according to federal prosecutors.
Tarpinning failed to account for the income he earned from his interests in consulting firms Sirius Group and Sirius Sports Marketing, a company called Tar.CaSAM that operates a Nike store in Monaco and from consultancy Downstream Monaco SAM in Portland, prosecutors said.
They said he transferred his business distributions to his personal bank accounts to pay for a second home in Eugene worth $500,000 in 2015 and to pay school fees for his children at private schools in Monaco.
Knight Assistant US Attorney urged the judge to send Tarpining to prison for a year and a half for his crime, which lasted several years and resulted in a huge loss to the government. Tarpining pleaded guilty in September to one count of filing a false tax return.
Knight said the recommended sentence took into account Tarpenning’s no prior record, his early and consistent acceptance of responsibility, as well as potential collateral damage to Tarpenning’s wife, who has a debilitating illness and is dependent on care. Who is her husband.
Tarpenning also agreed to pay compensation of $670,851, equal to the amount of taxes he underpaid.
Fellow Attorney General Meredith DM Batman urged the prison sentence “to tell future tax evaders that this kind of intentional, unlawful, multi-year behavior will not result in a slap on the wrist.”
Defense attorney George M. Clark III and Michelle Keren for a three-year probationary sentence.
Clark said crime should be seen as “one black mark” in his client’s otherwise extraordinary life, as Tarpenning gave his time and energy toward charitable causes, including helping young and adult athletes and enabling people with disabilities to enter the workforce.
They asked the judge to hold that Tarpenning immediately “possessed” his crime as soon as investigators contacted him and that he is primarily responsible for his wife and four children.
His lawyers said the crimes were committed to support his family, not to fill his pockets.
They blamed Tarpenning’s crimes on losing a major client that put his family in a precarious financial situation and led to his “wrong choice to pay less” to the federal government and use the money to stabilize his family’s financial condition, according to their sentencing warrant.
Tarpenning is a marketing consultant and owner of several foreign companies in France and Monaco. His primary work is as a brand advisor to US companies interested in expanding their business operations to Monaco. Tarpenning also owns several Monegasque consulting firms, including Sirius Group SAM and Sirius Sports Marketing.
In 2014, Tarpenning arranged a sponsorship agreement between professional football club Monaco, Fédération Monaco, also known as AS Monaco, and Nike European Operations. The deal was worth 20 million euros over five years, according to court records.
The football club has entered into a contract with Sirius Group to pay Tarpenning a commission of 9% on cash payments from Nike and a commission of 6% on sportswear ordered by the team. Between 2014 and 2018, AS Monaco paid Tarpenning at least €2.1 million.
Prosecutors said Tarpenning diverted income from deals with AS Monaco and other companies to joint personal bank accounts in Monaco and the United States.
The judge said he considered hiding income from the government a less serious crime than stealing money stolen directly from other people. He described the sentencing guidelines as “fundamentally flawed” because they failed to make such a distinction.
Mossman said he considered Tarpining’s crime-free life and philanthropic activism, his age, his quick acceptance of responsibility and cooperation with investigators when drafting the sentence.
Season 2 was also unimpressed by the claim that Tarpenning was motivated by greed, but instead turned to fraud when his financial situation was collapsing.
“The idea of Monaco is very unusual here and really brings a bit of a bit of a luxury to the whole affair, and I think if you dig around a bit more it just won’t hold up,” he said. “So I accept that this is not the worst kind of fraud, where a person is buying luxury items and living it.”
Mossman said he also took into account the potential harm a prison sentence could do to the Tarpenning family, but noted that he carries out a sentence every week that causes all kinds of collateral damage to families and is often more serious.
“It’s kind of a sad irony that often, the people who have the most to lose in prison are the people who have the most to lose before they go to prison,” Mosman said.
“Mr. Tarpining’s wife desperately needs him and will suffer greatly without his care, especially in a pandemic situation where getting outside care is a challenge,” the judge said. “If I am taking it seriously, then I must impose a solution or at least significant mitigation.”
He rejected a prosecutor’s proposal to dry up six months of a two-year prison sentence.
“I appreciate the government’s integrity…and its awareness of this collateral damage,” Mossman said. “It just doesn’t do anything, really, to alleviate a lot or solve the problem.”
Tarpenning was ordered to voluntarily surrender the US Marshals Service on February 17 to spend three months in prison, to be followed by a year of supervised release.
Tarpining, who is from Portland, represented Team USA in the pole vault at two Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992 where he placed fourth. He holds an MBA from Boston University and lives in Monaco. After his sports career, he moved to Monaco and co-opened the country’s first Starbucks coffee shop in 2013.