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October 22, 2002

West Palm Beach Couple Arrested in $341,000 Tax Theft Case

A husband and wife who owned an auto sales business have been arrested on charges of stealing more than $341,000 in sales taxes that they collected from customers but never sent in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Andrea S. Parkoff, 52, was arrested Sunday and Michael A. Parkoff, 54, turned himself in Monday to face charges relating to tax law violations. If convicted, they face 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. The Parkoffs operated an auto sales business once known as Automax USA in three locations in West Palm Beach, at 2172 North Military Trail, 813 N. Military Trail and 216 N. Military Trail. The business was operated under three different corporate structures, between September 1997 through April 2000, but the principal parties controlling the business always were the Parkoffs. The business is no longer in operation.

According to Revenue Department investigators, the Parkoffs' businesses routinely collected sales tax from customers on sales of automobiles. 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 the Parkoffs deliberately understated the amount of taxable transactions taking place at their business and how much tax money had been collected. The Parkoffs also were claiming tax credits for the repossession of vehicles that they actually had not repossessed. The Parkoffs submitted fraudulent tax returns reflecting these deliberately falsified numbers, DOR investigators charged.

"To be fair, tax law must apply uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "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 investigations office in Port St. Lucie at 772-871-7623.