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Multimillionaire Scrooge-like tax cheat gets year in prison

Updated: August 19, 2013 1:30PM

A Scrooge-like 78-year-old multimillionaire who “had more of a relationship with money than [he] had with other human beings,” was sentenced Tuesday to a year in prison for tax evasion.

Skokie businessman Peter Troost squirrelled away millions of dollars in a Swiss bank account between 1999 and 2009, dodging taxes of more than $1 million.

Despite his wealth and what he described as an obsession with money that “was an illness,” he lived a relatively humble life without the lavish cars, homes and vacations more typical of a big-time tax cheat, instead hoarding the cash as a secret symbol of his self-worth while working up to seven-day weeks at his grave stone and cemetery monument business, Troost Memorials.

During a sad and at times emotional sentencing hearing in federal court Tuesday, Troost told Judge John Tharp, “If I could live my life over I’d do everything different,” urging the judge to spare him from prison.

“I certainly wouldn’t avoid my taxes — there was no reason for it.”

Troost — who has repaid the missing taxes and fines of more than $3 million — blamed his relationship with his emotionally distant father for his stinginess and poor self-esteem, writing in a letter to the judge that he “always shopped for the cheapest prices. . .when I went to find people to work for me, I always found people who would work for the least pay.”

“I valued myself according to my wealth,” he wrote in a court filing.

His psychiatrist wrote in a letter also shown to the judge that Troost had lived “a desperate, lonely and isolated life” and that his “obsession” with wealth “has obtained financial success at the expense of . . .warm and caring relationships with others,” including the failure of his marriage.

But Tharp told Troost that his tough upbringing was “no excuse” adding that he hoped 200 hours of community service would help put Troost in contact with needy people who rely on taxpayer assistance.

“The rewards that we get are the result of what we give back and not what we take,” the judge told Troost.

“That’s a very good comment,” a contrite Troost replied. The judge allowed him until December to wind up his business, which is not connected to a similarly named business in Hillside, before he reports to prison.

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