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December 05, 2002

Tallahassee Auto Body Repair Shop Owner Arrested
in $198,000 Tax Theft

TALLAHASSEE - The owner of a Tallahassee auto body repair shop has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $198,000 in sales taxes that he collected from customers but never paid to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Carlton H. Sheffield, 67, of Quincy, was arrested Thursday by agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on multiple felony charges relating to tax theft and tax fraud and booked into the Leon County Jail. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, as well as repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Sheffield is the president, owner and operator of Sheffield's Auto Body & Paint Shop at 2195 W. Tennessee Street in Tallahassee.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Sheffield routinely collected sales tax from customers at his auto body repair shop. 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 Sheffield failed to send in tax payments totaling $198,787.28 during various periods between November 1997 and December 2001. In addition, Sheffield filed tax returns that fraudulently understated the amount of taxable transactions that occurred at his business between January 2000 to December 2001, Revenue investigators alleged. Revenue investigators charged that Sheffield used the stolen tax money to pay business and personal expenses.

"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 Tallahassee 850-922-2666. 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/.