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March 5, 2004

Quincy Auto Body Shop Owner Arrested in $43,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Quincy automobile body shop has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $43,000 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Carlton H. Sheffield, 44, of Quincy, was arrested Friday by the Gadsden County Sheriff's Department 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. Sheffield operates Sheffield's Body Shop of Quincy. The business remains open.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Sheffield routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods over a four-year period between early 1999 and 2003, Sheffield failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that Sheffield had illegally kept $43,523.05 in tax money. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection. Investigators also charged that Sheffield file fraudulent tax returns. According to investigators, Sheffield used the money to pay business expenses. DOR revenue specialists attempted to help Sheffield come into compliance with state tax law, but he failed to meet his legal obligations.

Sheffield's father, also named Carlton H. Sheffield, was arrested in December 2002 in connection with a $198,000 tax theft case connected to the elder Sheffield's auto body business on West Tennessee Street in Tallahassee.

"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 Tallahassee at 850-922-2666.