January 3, 2011
The manager of a Hillsborough County hotel and nightclub has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $46,000 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.
Jai Lalwani, 32, of Wesley Chapel, was arrested by the Polk County Sheriff’s Department on December 22, 2010 on felony charges relating to tax evasion, theft of state funds, and failure to file six consecutive tax returns. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Mr. Lalwani operated and was CEO of the Westshore Hotel and the Temple Lounge located in Tampa, Florida.
According to Revenue Department investigators, Mr. Lalwani collected tax from customers at the two businesses. However, during various periods in 2008 and 2009, he failed to file returns or send in sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that he had illegally kept the sales tax money. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection.
"Most Florida businesses do an excellent job of meeting the state's requirements for collecting and submitting sales tax, which pays for services Floridians need," said Lisa Vickers, Executive Director, Florida Department of Revenue. "Individuals who collect tax but don't send it in are stealing taxpayer dollars and gaining an unfair financial advantage over honest businesses. It's our job to ensure that Florida's tax laws are administered fairly."
If you have information about tax crimes, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Tampa at 813-744-6506.
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.