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October 15, 2002

Gainesville Auto Dealer Arrested in $38,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Gainesville auto sales business has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $38,000 in sales tax that he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Khosro Shrivani Jouzdani, 50, of Gainesville, was arrested Tuesday by the Alachua County Sheriff's Department on felony charges of tax theft and tax fraud, filing false and fraudulent tax returns, and a misdemeanor charge of failure to retain business records as required by 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. Jouzdani operates Auto Express of Gainesville at 1106 SE Fourth Avenue in Gainesville.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Jouzdani routinely collected sales tax from customers at his auto 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 Jouzdani intentionally filed tax returns that claimed that he was conducting fewer sales, and collecting less in taxes, than actually had occurred. Investigators claimed that Jouzdani filed fraudulent tax returns to cover up his theft. Also, Jouzdani failed to turn over certain tax records to DOR as the law required him to do. Investigators charged that Jouzdani stole $38,482.14 in tax during various periods between November 1999 and November 2000. Investigators charged that Jouzdani used the stolen tax money to pay for personal and 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 Alachua at 386-418-4414.