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April 27, 2002

Pompano Beach Auto Dealer Arrested in $36,000 Sales Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Pompano Beach auto sales business has been arrested on charges of stealing sales taxes that he collected from customers but never paid to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Henry William "Chip" VanVurst IV, 35, of Pompano Beach, was arrested Saturday on felony charges of tax theft and tax fraud. 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. VanVurst operated Mustang Group L.C. at 1401 S. Dixie Highway West in Pompano Beach.

According to Revenue Department investigators, VanVurst routinely collected sales tax on sales of automobiles at the sales lot. However, Revenue investigators found that VanVurst was not reporting and sending in to the state all the tax money that he collected. Investigators charged VanVurst was systematically misrepresenting taxable sales of autos as not being subject to tax on records at the company. The investigation disclosed that sales and tax records on file at the business falsely portrayed taxable sales of autos as nontaxable, sometimes by misrepresenting sales as trades of one car for another of equal value. In other instances, the business's records reflected that a more valuable car was traded in on a purchased vehicle, which would make the transaction non-taxable. However, customers indicated that no trade-ins were involved in the transactions. In some of these instances, customers received invoices indicating that sales tax was due and had been paid. Finally, business records indicated that VanVurst was conducting more business at the lot than was reflected in tax returns filed by the business.

"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 Coral Springs at 954-346-2850.