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March 5, 2008

Men's Clothing Store Owners Arrested in over $22,000 Tax Theft Case

The owners of a Brevard County men's clothing store have been arrested on charges that they stole more than $22,000 in sales tax they collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Athena Shatara, 32, and Ahmad Shatara, 35, of Palm Bay, were arrested by the Brevard County Sheriff's Department on March 5, 2008 on felony charges relating to failure to file tax returns and pay tax. If convicted, they face 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. The Shataras also face charges related to failure to file tax returns as required by law. The Shataras operate Shatara Enterprises, Inc., doing business as Mystique Men's Clothing, 1700 West New Haven Avenue #947, Melbourne, Florida. The business is now closed.

According to Revenue Department investigators, The Shataras routinely collected tax from customers at their business. However, during various periods between October 2005 and March 2007, The Shataras failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that they had collected. Investigators found that The Shataras had illegally kept $22,007.02 in tax money. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the time 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 Echeverri, 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 Maitland at 407-475-1254.