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Surf champion Sunny Garcia gets prison for tax evasion


Team/Industry News

Surf champion Sunny Garcia gets prison for tax evasion

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 18 October, 2006 : - - SAN DIEGO – Former champion surfer Sunny Garcia was sentenced Wednesday to three months in federal prison for failing to report $417,000 in winnings on his tax returns. Garcia, 36, formerly of Encinitas, said he knowingly signed false returns because his focus was on surfing.

“I spent my money foolishly and didn't handle my affairs,” he said outside the San Diego federal courtroom where he was sentenced. U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Whelan ordered Garcia to report to prison by Jan. 12, and recommended he be placed at a prison in Lompoc, north of Santa Barbara. Garcia became a professional surfer at age 16, was ranked as a top ten surfer for more than a decade and became world surfing champion in 2000. 
He was the second surfer to win more than $1 million from competitions, though, as most pros, he made most of his money from endorsement deals and sponsorships. He declared those earnings on his taxes. He retired from the professional tour in November, though he surfed in the U.S. Open in Huntington Beach in July and plans to surf competitively again in November, before he begins his prison sentence.

Judge Whelan also ordered Garcia to spend seven months in home confinement after he gets out of prison and to perform 80 hours of community service, preferably with troubled youths. “Some of those kids might not listen to their parents, but might listen to Mr. Garcia,” the judge said. Garcia has been working with the Huntington Beach High School surf team, which trains near his present Newport Beach home, his lawyer said.

Garcia will also have three months after his release to reach an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service on how much of his back taxes to pay. The IRS has tried to get Garcia to pay his taxes for nearly 10 years. Efforts to settle the case outside court ended in June 5 when Garcia pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return.

Read the full report by Onell R. Soto at 

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