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October 2, 2012

Former Walton County Hotel Owner Arrested

Lawrence A. Wright, the former owner of TW Hospitality, LLC, that did business as Comfort Inns and Suites, a hotel located in Defuniak Springs, Florida, has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $37,000 in sales tax he collected from customers, but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced today.

Mr. Wright, 45, who lives in Niceville, FL, was arrested by the Walton County Sheriff's Office October 2, 2012, on felony and misdemeanor charges relating to theft of state funds and refusal to file returns and pay taxes due. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen taxes, payment of penalty and investigative costs. The Comfort Inn and Suites is located at 326 Coy Burgess Loop in Defuniak Springs.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Mr. Wright collected tax from customers at his hotel. However, during various periods beginning in 2009, lasting through periods in 2012, he failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that were collected or file tax returns as required by law.

“It is an honor to serve the vast majority of Florida businesses who comply with State tax requirements,” said Marshall Stranburg, Interim Executive Director, Florida Department of Revenue. “For those that don't, it is our job to enforce the law and ensure honest businesses are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by those who ignore the law or intentionally collect and steal taxpayer dollars.”

If you have information about tax crimes, please call the Florida Department of Revenue Investigations office in Tallahassee at 850-487-0412.

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.