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January 31, 2006

Flea Market Owner Arrested in $145,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Bradenton flea market/consignment shop has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $145,000 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Terry Schneider, 58, of Bradenton, turned himself in to authorities on January 27, 2006 regarding felony charges relating to failure to file tax returns and pay tax. 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. Schneider operates Shoppers Bazaar LLC, doing business as same at 3201 1st Street, Bradenton, Florida.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Schneider routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, from November 2003 through June 2005, Schneider failed to send in to the state the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that Schneider had illegally kept $145,119.98 in tax money. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection. Department of Revenue staff repeatedly visited and called Schneider in an attempt to help him come into compliance with state tax law, but he failed to meet his legal obligations.

"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 Tampa at 813-744-6506.