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April 30, 2008

Commerical Sign Shop Owners Arrested in over $19,000 Tax Theft Case

The owners of a Bay County commercial sign business have been arrested on charges that they stole more than $19,000 in sales tax they collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Heather Lynn Crow, 32, and Samuel Crow, 35, both of Panama City Beach, were arrested by the Bay County Sheriff’s Department on April 23, 2008 on felony charges relating to failure to file tax returns and pay tax. If convicted, they face 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. The Crows also face charges related to failure to file tax returns as required by law. The Crows operated S. & S. Signs, Inc., 12202 Hutchinson Blvd, #49, Panama City Beach, Florida.

According to Revenue Department investigators, the Crows routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods between April 2004 and June 2006, the Crows failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that they had collected. Investigators found that the Crows had illegally kept $19,234.91 in tax money. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment 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 Panama City at 850-747-5614.