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January 5, 2005

Largo Restaurant Owner Arrested in $11,000 Tax Theft Case

The general manager who operated a series of Largo restaurant businesses has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $11,000 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Joseph C. Fabozzi, 48, of Largo, was arrested Wednesday afternoon on felony charges relating to tax theft. If convicted, he faces up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Fabozzi is general manager for a restaurant, Bella Soprano's Express, at 601 Starkey Road in Largo. The restaurant has been incorporated as three different corporations with similar names at various times. The most recent corporation is named Bella Soprano's 2 Inc.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Fabozzi routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods between October 2003 and May 2004, Fabozzi failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that Fabozzi had illegally kept $11,357.91 in tax money. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection. DOR staff repeatedly attempted to help Fabozzi come into compliance with state tax law, but he failed to meet his legal obligations.

"To be fair, tax law must apply uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Tax cheats steal money that the public pays to support vital public services, such as law enforcement and education. They also steal a competitive advantage over honest businesspeople who pay their taxes. The Department of Revenue cannot and will not allow this to occur. "

If you have information about tax theft, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Clearwater at 727-507-6305.