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March 7, 2008

Collectible Toy Shop Owner Arrested on Multiple Charges in Theft of Sales Tax

The owner of two Escambia County collectible toy businesses has been arrested on charges he conducted an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, scheme to defraud, and grand theft resulting from a sales tax theft case conducted by the Florida Department of Revenue.

Richard Lee Smith, 37, of Milton, was arrested by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Department on March 6, 2008 on felony charges stemming from his collection of sales tax from customers and failure to pay the tax due. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison and fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, and investigative costs. Smith also faces charges related to failure to file tax returns as required by law. Smith operated Star Wars Collectibles And Old Tyme Toy Store and Retro World, Inc., 7171 N. Davis Highway, #D-7, Pensacola, Florida.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Smith routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods between November 2004 and August 2006, Smith failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that Smith had illegally kept $6,265.90 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 Pensacola at 850-595-5188.