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For immediate release

January 14, 2015

Lehigh Acres Landscaper Arrested

Jose A. Centeno, 46, owner of Mulch & Pine Spreaders of FL, Inc., doing business as MPS, has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $24,800 in sales tax he collected from customers, but failed to send to the state, according to the Florida Department of Revenue.

Mr. Centeno, who lives in Lehigh Acres, was arrested by the Lee County Sheriff's Department on January 10, 2015 on a felony charge relating to theft of state funds. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Mr. Centeno collected sales tax from customers of his landscape business. However, during various periods from December 2012 through April 2014, he failed to send to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected from his customers. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection.

"It is an honor to serve the vast majority of Florida businesses who comply with State tax requirements," said Marshall Stranburg, Executive Director, Florida Department of Revenue. "For those that don't, it is our job to enforce the law and ensure honest businesses are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by those who ignore the law or intentionally collect and steal taxpayer dollars."

If you have information about tax crimes, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Fort Myers at 239-338-2437.

Note: Due to the confidential nature of taxpayer records, generally the information found in this release is the only information available from the Department of Revenue concerning this matter. Other information may be available through the arresting agency and the local Clerk of Court.