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October 18, 2002

Former Owner of St. Augustine Auto Shop Draws 5-year Prison Term in Tax Theft

One of two owners of a St. Augustine car repair business has been sentenced to five years in prison after having he pleaded no contest in an $18,000 sales tax theft case, according to the Florida Department of Revenue and the Office of Statewide Prosecutor Melanie Ann Hines.

St. Johns County Circuit Judge Robert Mathis Thursday sentenced David Meeks, 47, of Kokomo, Indiana, to five years in prison. Meeks also was sentenced to pay $24,241.61 in restitution for the stolen tax and to repay the state for investigative costs. Meeks had pled guilty to third-degree felony charges relating to tax theft in this case. Meeks and his wife, Shirley, formerly operated Atlantic Services and Dave's Atlantic Services on Dobbs Road in St. Augustine. The business is no longer in operation.

Mrs. Meeks also was charged in the case. The case against her remains under way. Both Mr. And Mrs. Meeks are being prosecuted by the Office of Statewide Prosecutor Melanie Ann Hines. Chief Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Crystal Broughan, of the Jacksonville Office of Statewide Prosecution, represented the state in this case.

According to Revenue Department investigators, David and Shirley Meeks routinely collected sales tax from customers who did business with their auto shop. By state law, sales tax becomes the property of the state at the moment of collection. However, during a period from September to December 2000, the couple failed to send in $18,783.42 in sales tax that they had collected. Revenue Department officials arranged for the couple to pay back the missing taxes, but the couple defaulted on the agreement. Afterward, the couple left St. Augustine and moved to Kokomo, Indiana. The couple used the tax money for personal and business use, Revenue Department investigators said.

"We are pleased to see that the court has sent a strong message to tax cheats in this case - the state of Florida insists that tax law must apply fairly to all. Businesses that steal sales tax money are stealing money that the public has already paid to support essential public services, such as education and law enforcement. Tax cheats also are stealing an unearned, undeserved competitive advantage over honest businesspeople," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "The Department cannot allow this to occur."

If you have information about tax theft, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Jacksonville at 904-359-6667.