During its heyday, the national chain of yoga studios, Yoga to the People, pitched itself as an alternative to the pricey and precious wellness franchises that have succeeded in the social media age. The company’s mantra, once on its website, claimed classes would have “no ego…no glorified teacher…no pedestals.” This would be, as The Cut put it in a 2020 investigation, “yoga stripped down to its essentials.” But apparently, Yoga to the People’s minimalist ethos may have extended to its approach to paying taxes to the IRS.
The Feds are alleging as much: Three of the chain’s top leaders were arrested Wednesday in Washington state for “participating in a conspiracy to commit tax fraud for at least seven years,” according to the Department of Justice. In a release, prosecutors accused the top yogis — Gregory Gumicio, Michael Anderson, and Haven Soliman — of running a “decade-long cash cow that relied on a sophisticated network of tens of millions of dollars in unreported income and free labor to fund the leaders’ lavish lifestyles.”
Those lifestyles allegedly included “frequent foreign travel; expensive meals and clothing; NFL season tickets; and horse lodging and horseback riding,” according to the release. The complaint details that the “horse-related fees” alone allegedly included about $48,900 between 2017 and 2018 on “apparent horse shows, a ‘horse lease,’ horse boarding, and horse shoes.” Neigh-maste, brothers.
The group was founded in 2007 around the idea that yoga should be available to those who couldn’t afford consistent classes in expensive urban areas. They offered free classes, requesting only donations, at studios in several cities across the country. A Wall Street Journal article from 2015 noted that they often crammed as many as 150 people into their East Village location. The group shut down somewhat suddenly over the summer of 2020, around the same time that rumors started to circulate about alleged “widespread discrimination and misconduct,” per The Cut, including sexual assault allegations against Gumicio.
In spite of all that, federal prosecutors claim the business was pretty profitable, raking in more than $20 million between 2010 and 2020, from their locations around New York, California, Colorado, Arizona, Florida, and Washington. Yet, according to the complaint: “YTTP never filed a corporate tax return with the IRS.” They allegedly hid this income with a range of strategies — bending over backwards into extended bridge pose to hide their tracks at every turn — including “paying employees in cash and off the books, refusing to provide employees with tax documentation, not maintaining books and records, paying personal expenses from business accounts, and using nominees to disguise their connection to various entities.” At one point, the complaint claims, two of them used “fabricated tax returns” while applying for loans and apartments.
Much of their revenue was collected in cash, which studio managers allegedly transported to a central location. Once collected, staff allegedly held “stacking parties” of between three and ten people, where “cash would be removed from envelopes, flattened, organized by dollar amount, and counted.” Often, the complaint claims, that central location was Gumicio’s New York apartment, where he kept the cash in a guitar case. Gumicio allegedly called this “guitar cash.” Rock on.