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June 15, 2011

LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER ARRESTED

Muhammad A. Farooqui, owner of Sharp Image America, Inc., doing business as Cell-Rite, has been arrested on felony charges related to theft of more than $17,000 in state funds he collected in sales tax from his customers, and filing false tax returns, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Mr. Farooqui, 37, of St. Petersburg was arrested by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on June 15, 2011 on two felony charges relating to theft of state funds and filing false or fraudulent returns. If convicted, he faces up to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines on each charge, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. The business is located at 6901 22nd Avenue South, St. Petersburg.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Mr. Farooqui collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods in 2009, he failed to send into the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected and he filed false returns. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment 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 Vickers, 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 Clearwater at 727-507-6305.

Note: Due to the confidential nature of taxpayer records, generally the information found in this release is the only information available from the Department of Revenue concerning this matter. Other information may be available through the arresting agency and the local Clerk of Court.