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April 1, 2002

Seminole County Car Dealer Arrested in $96,000 Sales Tax Theft

The owner of a Longwood used car dealership has been arrested on charges of stealing more than $96,000 in sales taxes that he collected from customers but never paid to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Nasser Familmohammadi, 47, of Longwood, was arrested Monday on a felony charge of tax theft by the Seminole County Sheriff's Department. 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. Familmohammadi worked for National Car Sales at 575 N. Highway 17-92 in Longwood.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Familmohammadi's company, National Auto Exchange Inc., routinely collected sales tax from customers who did business at the car sales lot. By state law, sales tax becomes the property of the state at the moment of collection. However, a Revenue Department investigation compared applications for auto titles processed at the business to the business's tax returns and found that the business was systematically sending in a smaller amount of tax than it was actually collecting, investigators charged. During a period from December 1997 to March 2001, Familmohammadi sent in $9,493 but failed to send in $96,196.52 in sales tax that he had collected, investigators charged.

"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 businesspeople. 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.