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March 18, 2003

Brevard County Auto Dealer Arrested in $136,000 Sales Tax Theft

The owner of a Melbourne auto sales business has been arrested on charges of stealing more than $136,000 in sales taxes that he collected from customers but never paid to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Jason O'Laughlin, 25, of Palm Bay, was arrested Monday by the Brevard County Sheriff's Department on felony charges related to tax theft. He was released on $3,000 bond. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. O'Laughlin is the owner and operator of Jason Motors, Inc., doing business at 1700 N. Harbor City Blvd in Melbourne.

According to Revenue Department investigators, O'Laughlin's company, Jason Motors, Inc., routinely collected sales tax from customers who did business at the dealership. By state law, sales tax becomes the property of the state at the moment of collection. However, O'Laughlin under-reported sales taxes totaling $136,742.44, and failed to file a return or remit any tax during the months from February 2002 to July 2002, thus unlawfully trying to defraud the state, investigators alleged.

"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 Orlando at 407-623-1353.