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May 15, 2002

Frame Shop Operator Arrested in $48,000 Tax Theft Case

The operator of a Miami art and frame shop has been arrested on charges of stealing more than $48,000 in sales taxes that he collected from customers but never sent in to the state.

Waldo Rodriguez, 47, of Miami, was arrested May 10 by Metro-Dade police on two felony charges of tax theft and 38 misdemeanor charges of failure to file tax returns as required by law. If convicted, Rodriguez faces up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, in addition to repayment of stolen taxes, penalty, interest and investigative costs. Rodriguez was secretary of Viteana Corporation and treasurer of the Gomart Corporation, which jointly did business as the Art & Frame Mart.

According to Revenue Department investigators, the businesses had registered to collect sales tax when it was formed in early 1981. The businesses collected sales tax and filed returns throughout its early years of existence. However, between July 1996 and December 1999, the businesses failed to send in $48,470.12 in tax money it had collected from customers. In addition, the businesses failed to file tax returns as required by law during various periods from January 1998 and December 1999. Investigators charged that Rodriguez, who was responsible for filing the businesses' tax returns, intended to defraud the state of the tax revenue.

"Tax thieves steal from the public in two ways," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "First, they steal money that the public pays to support vital services, such as law enforcement and education. Second, they steal an unearned, undeserved competitive advantage over honest businesspeople who pay their taxes."

If you have information about tax theft, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Miami at 305-513-3290.