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April 17, 2002

Graceville Man Sentenced to Prison Term, 25 Years' Probation for Tax Theft

The former owner of a Graceville auto dealership has been sentenced to more than three years in prison followed by 25 years' probation after having pleaded guilty to the charges, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

William D. Morrow, 38, of Graceville, had been arrested in August on grand theft charges in connection with the theft of more than $100,000 in sales taxes that he collected from customers at his business but never sent in to the state. Circuit Judge William Wright sentenced Morrow to more than 38 months in prison (with credit for time already served in jail). After the completion of his prison term, Morrow will remain on probation for another 25 years. Morrow was ordered to pay $131,983.28 in restitution to the state for stolen sales tax, interest and investigative costs. Morrow operated Morrow Auto Sales in Graceville, which is no longer in business. Morrow's case was prosecuted by State Attorney Jim Appleman's office.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Morrow made a practice of collecting sales tax from customers at his auto dealership on a routine basis. However, during various periods from January 1997 to October 1999, Morrow failed to send in $100,327.45 in sales tax money that he had collected to the state, investigators charged. Investigators said that Morrow had been deliberately understating the amount of taxable transactions that occurred at his business in an attempt to conceal his theft of tax money. Revenue investigators said that Morrow promised to repay the stolen tax money but defaulted on agreements to repay the stolen tax.

"If tax law is to be fair, everyone must bear their share of the tax obligation," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Tax cheats steal money that the public pays to support vital services, such as law enforcement and education. They also steal an unearned, undeserved competitive advantage over honest businesspeople who pay their taxes. The Department of Revenue cannot and will not allow this theft to occur."

If you have information about tax theft, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Tallahassee at 850-922-2666.