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January 4, 2008

Convenience Store and Restaurant Owner Arrested in over $71,000 Tax Theft Case

The Florida Department of Revenue announced that the former owner of several Bay and Okaloosa County convenience stores and restaurants has been arrested on charges of stealing more than $71,000 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state.

Glen Franklin Williamson, 43, of DeFuniak Springs, surrendered to the Walton County Sheriffs Department on January 4, 2008, on felony charges relating to failure to file tax returns and pay 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. Williamson operated Wegi Food Stores, Inc., doing business as Wegi Food Store #2, 2905 Thomas Drive, Panama City Beach, Bay County, FL; Wegi Food Store #3, Emerald Coast Parkway, Destin, Okaloosa County, FL; Wegi Food Store #4, 3100 East U.S. Highway 98, Panama City, Bay County, FL; Wegi Food Store #5, 1409-A Highway 231 North, Panama City, Bay County, FL; Huddle House #1, 2903 Thomas Drive, Panama City Beach, Bay County, FL; and Huddle House #2, 1909-B Highway 231 North, Panama City, Bay County, FL.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Williamson routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods between November 2002 and June 2003, Williamson failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that Williamson had illegally kept $71,415.98 in tax money. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the time of collection.

"Most Florida businesses do an excellent job of meeting the state's requirements for collecting and submitting sales tax, which pays for services Floridians need," said Lisa Echeverri, Executive Director, Florida Department of Revenue. "Individuals who collect tax but don't send it in are stealing taxpayer dollars and gaining an unfair financial advantage over honest businesses. It's our job to ensure that Florida's tax laws are administered fairly."

If you have information about tax crimes, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Panama City at 850-747-5614.