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October 26, 2004

Former Tallahassee Restaurant Owner Arrested in Tax Violation Case

TALLAHASSEE - The former operator of a Tallahassee restaurant has been arrested on charges that he failed to send in to the state all of the sales tax that he collected from customers, as well as other tax-law violations, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Mark A. Pitt, 68, of Tallahassee, was arrested Tuesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on felony charges relating to failure to file tax returns as required by law. If convicted, he faces up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Pitt operated Swanky Franks, Inc., at 1317 Blair Stone Road in Tallahassee. The business closed in late 2002.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Pitt routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods between June 2002 to November 2002, Pitt failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators also found that Pitt had failed to file sales tax returns as required by law. According to investigators, Pitt said that he used the stolen tax money to help pay business expenses and keep his business going. When DOR investigators attempted to review the business's tax records, Pitt could not produce them, also a violation of law.

"To be fair, tax law must apply uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "If a tax cheat violates tax law and gains a competitive advantage over honest competitors, then both the state of Florida and honest businesses lose. 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 Tallahassee at 850-488-3818.