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February 12, 2003

Miami Banquet Hall Operator Arrested in $37,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Miami banquet hall has been arrested on charges that she stole more than $37,000 in sales tax that she collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Ana Luisa Cofino, 42, of Miami, was arrested Tuesday on charges relating to theft of tax money. If convicted, she 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. Ms. Cofino operated Krisa Corp., doing business as Krisa's Banquet Hall at 1405 SW 107th Avenue, Miami, Fla.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Ms. Cofino routinely collected sales tax from customers at her business. Under state law, sales tax becomes the property of the state at the moment of collection. However, an investigation of the business's records showed that Ms. Cofino failed to send in $37,043.59 in sales tax that she collected between July 1998 and February 2002. Investigators charged that Ms. Cofino also failed to file tax returns on 19 occasions during this period.

"To be fair, tax law must apply uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Tax thieves steal money that the public pays to support vital services, such as law enforcement and education. Businesses that fail to comply with tax law also are stealing an unearned, undeserved competitive advantage over honest businesspeople. The Department 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 Miami at 305-499-2240.