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October 7, 2004

Clearwater Adult Nightclub Owner Arrested in Tax Violation Case

CLEARWATER - A businessman who operates an adult entertainment night club in Clearwater has been arrested on charges of failing to file sales and use tax returns as required by law, the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) announced.

Randolph R. Lanton II, 35, (aka Randy Lanton II and John Conner) of Clearwater, was arrested early Thursday by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department on felony charges in relation to failure to file tax returns as required by law. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison, fines of $5,000, and repayment of stolen tax, penalty, interest, and investigative costs. Lanton operates as Randolph Lanton II, doing business as Fantasy and Fantasy Nude, an adult nightclub located at 14411 U.S. Highway 19 North, in Clearwater.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Lanton failed to file monthly sales and use tax returns with the Department of Revenue for the following periods: July 2001 through December 2001; January 2002 through June 2002; January 2003 through June 2003; and July 2003 through December 2003. It is a felony under state law for businesses to fail to file sales tax returns for periods of six months or more. In addition, investigators said that Lanton collected an estimated $24,549.77 in sales tax that he did not turn in to the state. According to investigation records and affidavits, Lanton used the sales tax he collected to purchase property, pay his mortgage, and settle other personal expenses.

According to investigators, DOR agents made numerous attempts to work with Lanton in an effort to resolve the monthly sales tax delinquencies of his business, and secure his voluntary compliance to properly file and remit monthly sales tax collected from customers. Lanton failed to come into compliance with the law.

"To be fair, tax law must apply uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue. "Tax cheats steal money that the public pays to support vital public services, such as law enforcement and education. They also steal a competitive advantage over honest businesspeople who pay their taxes. The Department of Revenue cannot and will not allow this to occur."

If you have information about tax theft, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigation office in Clearwater at 727-524-4369.