Medical expenses

Former 49ers, Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski owes $15 million in unpaid taxes, court filing says

Former Raider and San Francisco 49er Bill Romanowski does an interview on “Radio Row” in the Super Bowl 50 Media Center located at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

Former NFL star Bill Romanowski and his wife dodged more than $15 million in overdue tax payments by siphoning money from their nutrition supplement company and using it to pay for plastic surgery, spa appointments and other personal living expenses, according to a civil complaint filed this week in federal court.

The claims against the former linebacker and his wife, Julie Romanowski, come as the Internal Revenue Service seeks to finally collect on a ballooning tax bill for the East Bay couple dating back 25 years — one that has grown by millions of dollars since authorities first won a court decision a decade ago, authorities say.

Most recently, federal prosecutors say the couple used a Solano County-based company they founded, Nutrition 53, to pay for their living expenses while avoiding payment on their outstanding taxes. On Wednesday, the Department of Justice asked a judge to foreclose a lien on the company — which hawked protein shakes from headquarters in Fairfield — and to sell it as a means to finally collect on the debt.

The complaint from the U.S. Department of Justice claims that the Romanowskis have spent years avoiding payment on two tax judgements won in 2013, which originally totaled $4.8 million. The unpaid taxes dated back to 1998, when Romanowski was collecting Super Bowl rings for the Denver Broncos.

The Romanowskis, who live in Lafayette, could not immediately be reached for comment by this news organization.

“Despite timely notice and demand for payment, the Romanowskis have neglected, refused, or failed to fully pay the assessments against them,” the legal claim said. It tallied the couple’s ongoing tax bill at $15,330,277.83, as of March 13.

Prosecutors allege that the couple has failed to pay the government, choosing instead to routinely use Nutrition 53’s coffers to pay for a wealth of personal expenses, according to the complaint. Repeatedly, the couple signed checks made out to “cash” that were issued from one of the company’s accounts — reaping tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

The couple used that money on a wealth of items, the complaint alleges. They spent more than $295,000 from 2017 through 2019 on a rental house costing $10,000 a month, court documents show. They also allegedly used the money to pay for hair appointments, plastic surgery, time at a day spa, pet food, chiropractor treatments, groceries and trips to a nail salon.

Prosecutors say the Romanowskis also helped pay rent and utilities for their daughter’s apartment in Fresno, as well as her credit card bills. And they paid for their son’s rent, groceries, medical expenses and vehicle fees, according to the complaint.

“By using (Nutrition 53) to pay their personal living expenses and those of their adult children, the Romanowskis have improperly used N53 to thwart the IRS’s collection of the individual income tax assessments at issue in this case,” the complaint said.

Romanowski retired in 2003 after playing 16 years in the NFL, including several years with the San Francisco 49ers at the start of his career, as well as a year with the Oakland Raiders. In retirement, he served as a football coach at Piedmont High School, where his son played.

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