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July 29, 2002

New Port Richey Auto Sales Lot Owner Arrested in $64,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a New Port Richey used auto business has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $64,000 in sales tax that he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

George Ferenc, 53, of Tarpon Springs, turned himself in to the Pasco County Sheriff's Department Friday to face charges relating to tax theft and failure to comply with tax law. He was released on bond. If convicted, he 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. Ferenc operated Georgetown Motors Inc. at 7542 U.S. 19 in New Port Richey. The business is no longer in operation.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Ferenc routinely collected sales tax from customers at his 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 Ferenc failed to send in $64,537.76 in sales tax that he collected from customers between March 2000 through July 2001. Investigators alleged that Ferenc failed to submit sales tax returns or pay tax during this period. In court documents, investigators said that Ferenc admitted taking tax funds to pay other business expenses.

"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 Port Richey at 727-841-4272.