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February 4, 2008

Restaurant Owner Arrested in $2.5 Million Tax Theft

TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Department of Revenue today announced that state charges have been filed against a Broward County man for the theft of state sales tax in excess of $2.5 million. Richard Paul Beattie, Jr., age 46, was charged with 18 counts of theft of state sales tax and one count of Aggravated White Collar Crime. If convicted of all counts, Beattie could be sentenced to a minimum of 29.5 years up to a possible life sentence. He also faces fines up to $500,000 or double the amount of financial gain to him or the amount of financial loss to the state, whichever is greater. The case was investigated by the Department of Revenue.

From November 1, 2002 through January 21, 2005, Beattie was the president of Huntington Group Restaurants, Inc. and its subsidiary Golden Management, Inc., which at one time owned and operated over 30 Denny's Restaurant franchises in Florida and filed a consolidated sales tax return on all restaurants' behalf. Sales tax returns are to be filed and the sales tax paid to the state at the end of each month.

During this time, Beattie made all decisions on which bills got paid and which bills went unpaid - including whether sales taxes that were collected from customers and that belonged to the state would be paid to the state. For several months, Golden Management, Inc. "paid" the sales taxes the restaurants had collected with bad checks, many in excess of $100,000 each. The checks were never made good despite numerous demands by the state. For the months of November 2002, January 2003, April 2003, July 2003, October 2003 and December 2003; and January 2004 through December 2004, Golden Management, Inc. made no effort to pay the sales taxes the restaurants had collected despite the fact that the taxes were more than $100,000 each month.

Beattie had engaged in an aggressive acquisition program, acquiring other restaurants and converting them to Denny's Restaurants. For example, Beattie opened 14 Denny's Restaurant franchises in 2000 and was awarded "2000 Developer of the Year" by the Denny's Franchise Organization. Much of the state's sales tax funds due were diverted from the State of Florida and its citizens in his efforts to pay for the costs of expanding his own personal business empire and other business ventures.

Beattie's arrest was facilitated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and he was arrested by the Phoenix, Arizona Police Department. He will be prosecuted by Attorney General Bill McCollum's Office of Statewide Prosecution.