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April 18, 2008

Pizza Restaurant Owner Arrested in over $12,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of two Brevard County pizza businesses has been arrested on charges that she stole more than $12,000 in sales tax she collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Lynne West, 48, of Satellite Beach, was arrested by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office on April 17, 2008 on felony charges relating to failure to file tax returns and pay tax. If convicted, she faces up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. West also faces charges related to failure to file tax returns as required by law as well as several worthless check charges. West operated two Mio’s Pizzeria stores at 2447 North Wickham Road #146, Melbourne, Florida and at 1114 Highway A1A, Satellite Beach, Florida.

According to Revenue Department investigators, West routinely collected tax from customers at her business. However, during various periods between January 2007 and August 2007, West failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that she had collected. Investigators found that West had illegally kept $12,829.62 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 Maitland at 407-475-1257.