Shanga Hankerson, the son of R&B legend Gladys Knight has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for failing to withhold payroll taxes for the restaurants that bore his mother’s name. The 45-year-old Hankerson is also the son of Knight’s former husband Barry Hankerson.
Hankerson was also Aaliyah’s uncle. He owns the rights to her music and just recently made her albums available to streaming platforms. Shanga Hankerson opened his first restaurant, Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles, in Atlanta in 1997, as well as several other locations over the years in Georgia and Washington, D.C.
Hankerson “willfully disregarded his tax obligations for many years,” acting U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said in a news release. During his sentencing on Nov. 3, Hankerson, who pleaded guilty in July, was ordered to serve a year of supervised release following his prison sentence and to pay more than $1 million in restitution also.
He was the sole owner of the business and was required to withhold payroll taxes from his employees’ gross pay. From at least 2012 to 2016, Hankerson failed to remit more than $1 million in payroll taxes, prosecutors further commented to the press.
“While ownership of a well-known restaurant in our community has its perks, it also comes with great responsibility,” IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, James Dorsey, added in the press statement. “Paying taxes is a way to give back to the community, but unfortunately Hankerson chose to use those funds for other means.”
In June 2016, Georgia Department of Revenue agents raided the Atlanta establishment after the restauranteur owed more than $650,000 from his three restaurants.
The “Midnight Train To Georgia” songstress let her son use her name for the restaurants, but wasn’t involved with the operation of the businesses. When Shanga’s troubles first started, she filed a lawsuit to have her name removed and barred from any affiliation with her son’s businesses.
Shanga’s restaurants permanently closed in 2017.