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April 30, 2002

Jacksonville Beach Auto Repair Shop Owner Arrested in $29,000 Tax Theft Case

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

Lora Camper Knox, 43, of Jacksonville Beach, turned herself in to the Duval County Sheriff's Department late Monday to face a felony charge of tax theft. If convicted, she 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. Knox operated Z Car Doctor on 11th Street North in Jacksonville Beach. The business is now closed.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Knox routinely collected sales tax from customers at her car repair business between January 1997 and July 1999. State law required Knox to regularly send in tax returns and the collected tax money to the state. Sales tax becomes the property of the state at the moment of collection, according to state law.

However, Knox failed to send in $29,097.49 in tax that she had collected from her customers, according to a Revenue Department investigation of the business's records. Contacted about her nonpayment of taxes, Knox entered into an agreement to repay the tax money, but defaulted on the agreement. Knox spent tax money for business expenses, returned-check fees and personal expenses, Revenue Department investigators said.

"To be fair, tax law must apply fairly and uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Tax thieves steal 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 Jacksonville at 904-359-6667.