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November 27, 2002

Fernandina Beach Auto Business Owner Arrested in Tax Violations Case

The owner of a Fernandina Beach automobile business has been arrested on charges that he failed to file tax returns or send in tax money that he took from customers but never paid to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Michael L. Jacobsen, 44, of Fernandina Beach, was arrested Wednesday morning on charges relating to tax law violations and booked into the Nassau County Sheriff's Department jail. Bond was set at $50,000. If convicted, Jacobsen faces up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines, as well as repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Jacobsen is the owner of All-Pro Automotive at 302 S. Eighth Street in Fernandina Beach.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Jacobsen routinely collected sales tax from customers at his auto business and provided receipts showing that sales tax had been paid. Under state law, sales tax becomes the property of the state at the moment of collection. However, an investigation showed that Jacobsen had failed to send in tax returns or tax payments during a period from November 2000 through April 2002, and again failed to file tax returns or pay tax from May through July of 2002. In statements to Revenue investigators, Jacobsen said he had used tax money for business purposes. Jacobsen also failed to provide business records to the Department of Revenue for review, despite state law requiring that such records be provided. DOR collections staffers repeatedly tried to bring Jacobsen into compliance with tax law, but he failed to abide by agreements he had made, 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 Jacksonville at 904-353-2129. The Department offers a reward program for individuals who provide information about tax law violations. For more information, visit the Department website at http://www.myflorida.com/dor/.