February 7, 2002
The owner of a Panama City tire dealership and auto repair shop has been arrested on charges of stealing more than $49,000 in state sales taxes that he collected from customers but never sent in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue has announced.
Charles A. "Chuck" Flynn, 41, of Panama City, was arrested Thursday and booked into the Bay County Jail on $3,000 bond. He faces a felony charge of theft of state funds and 49 misdemeanor charges of failure to file sales tax returns as required by law. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, plus repayment of stolen tax, penalty and interest. Flynn was the owner of Chuck's C&M Discount Tires on East Fifth Street in Panama City. The business is no longer in operation.
According to Revenue Department investigators, Flynn routinely collected sales tax on purchases that customers made at his business. Flynn had been involved in a previous business that had filed sales tax returns and sent in tax as required by law. However, Revenue investigators found that Flynn had failed to register his C&M Discount Tires business properly with the Department of Revenue, had failed to file tax returns from January 1997 through December 2000 and did not send in to the state $49,669.82 that he collected from customers. According to state law, sales taxes become the property of the state at the moment of collection. Flynn used the stolen tax money for business and personal expenses, investigators charged.
"Tax law is fair only if it applies equally to all businesses and taxpayers," said Dr. Jim Zingale, executive director of the Department of Revenue. "Businesses that steal sales tax money are also stealing an unearned, undeserved competitive advantage over honest businesspeople who pay their taxes. Tax thieves cheat everyone."
Zingale urged other business owners or residents who know of tax law violations to contact the Florida Department of Revenue. In North Florida, residents should call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Tallahassee at 850-922-2666.