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June 2, 2009

Restaurant Owner Arrested for Failing to Pay Taxes

The owner of a Bay County restaurant has been arrested on charges that he refused to pay more than $13,000 in sales tax he collected from customers, but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Christopher Antonio Owens, 41 of Panama City, was arrested by the Bay County Sheriffs Department on June 2, 2009 on felony and misdemeanor charges relating to failure to file tax returns and pay taxes. If convicted, he 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. Mr. Owens owns and operates Big JRs House of Soul, LLC, 806 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Panama City.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Mr. Owens routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods in 2007 and 2008, he failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that he had illegally kept 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.