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August 23, 2002

Broward County Auto Dealer Arrested in $22,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Broward County auto sales business has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $22,000 in sales tax that he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Andrew H. Smith, 37, of Coral Springs, turned himself in to Broward County authorities Thursday to face charges relating to tax theft and failure to comply with tax law. 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. Smith was president of A & D Auto Sales, Inc., located on Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. The business ceased operations in February 2000.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Smith 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 Smith failed to send in $22,536.06 in sales tax that he collected from customers during various periods between January 1999 through February 2000. In some cases, Smith sent in tax returns but failed to send in tax payments. In other cases, DOR investigators alleged, Smith sent checks to make tax payments, but the checks were worthless. After a criminal investigation was opened, Smith repaid the stolen tax money but prosecutors filed criminal charges, noting that Smith had shown a pattern of tax law violations.

"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 Coral Springs at 954-346-2850.