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December 8, 2003

Miami Auto Dealer Arrested in $82,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Miami auto dealership has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $82,200 in sales tax that he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Isaac E. Elbaz, 33, of Weston, was arrested Tuesday, Dec. 2, on felony charges relating to theft of sales tax. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Elbaz operated Aventura Cars at 3520 South Dixie Highway in Miami. The business is no longer in operation.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Elbaz routinely collected sales tax from customers doing business at his repair shop, but failed to send in all of the tax that he collected to the state during various times between August 1998 and October 2000. Under Florida law, sales tax is the property of the state from the moment of collection. DOR staffers made repeated attempts to bring Elbaz's business into compliance with state law. However, despite promises to comply with law, Elbaz failed to do so. DOR then turned to local prosecutors to file criminal charges. Bank records showed that Elbaz used stolen tax money to pay business and personal expenses, 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 Miami at 305-499-2240.