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March 4, 2003

Safety Harbor Retailer Arrested in $20,000 Sales Tax Theft

The owner of a Safety Harbor antique and restaurant-equipment business has been arrested on charges of stealing more than $20,000 in sales taxes that he collected from customers but never paid to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Raymond Wall, 36, of Safety Harbor, was arrested Monday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on a felony charge of theft of state funds. 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. Wall was the sole officer of Dakota Partners, Inc., doing business as Tampa Bay Trading Centre, an antique mall, at 1600 S. Tenth Street in Safety Harbor. Dakota Partners also operated a restaurant equipment business division.

FDLE agents intercepted Wall in his driveway, in his car, which was packed with belongings. DOR investigators said that DOR had attempted to collect tax from Wall in connection with business activities in Jacksonville in the mid-1990s, but Wall never paid his tax liability.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Wall's company, Dakota Partners Inc., routinely collected sales tax from customers whom did business there. By state law, sales tax becomes the property of the state at the moment of collection. However, according to a DOR investigation, Wall never registered either of the Dakota Partners businesses with the Department of Revenue and never submitted tax returns or tax payments. Instead, Wall simply kept the tax money he collected, DOR investigators charged. During the period from July 2001 through June 2002, investigation shows that Wall failed to remit funds to the Florida Department of Revenue totaling $20,874.57, in a deliberate attempt to defraud the state, investigators said.

"To be fair, tax law must apply fairly and uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Businesses that fail to comply with tax law are stealing money that the public pays to support vital services such as education and law enforcement. They also are stealing an unearned, undeserved competitive advantage over honest business people. The Department 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 Port Richey at 727-841-4272.