August 26, 2002
The owner of a Tampa marketing and direct-mail company has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $129,662.71 in sales tax that he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.
Lawrence Zollo, 44, of Tampa, was arrested Monday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on charges relating to tax theft and failure to comply with tax law. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Zollo operates Turnkey Marketing, Inc., and Turnkey Advertising & Marketing, engaged in direct-mail advertising in 11 Central Florida counties.
According to Revenue Department investigators, Zollo 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 Zollo failed to send in $129,662.71 in sales tax that he collected from customers between April 1997 through October 2001. Investigators alleged that Zollo submitted fraudulent tax returns that falsely portrayed the business as having fewer taxable sales than had actually occurred. Investigators compared the business's tax returns with internal business records and found discrepancies indicating that Zollo understated the sales taxes that he collected in a deliberate attempt to defraud the state, they alleged.
"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 Hillsborough County at 813-744-6505.