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June 9, 2005

Key Largo Hauling Company Operator Arrested in Tax Violation Case

The owner of a Key Largo hauling company has been arrested on charges that he failed to file tax returns as required by law and also stole more than $2,600 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Eugene N. Lawrence, 44, of Key Largo, was arrested Wednesday by the Martin County Sheriffs Department on felony charges relating to failure to file tax returns and pay tax. 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. Lawrence operated Keys Bobcat Light Hauling, 99353 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, Florida.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Lawrence routinely collected tax from customers at his business. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state from the moment of collection. However, during various periods between January through November 2000, Lawrence failed to send in to the state all the tax money that he had collected. Investigators found that Lawrence had illegally kept $2,626.66 in tax money. DOR staff repeatedly visited and called Lawrence in an attempt to help him come into compliance with state tax law, but he failed to meet his legal obligations.

"To be fair, tax law must apply uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Tax cheats steal money that the public pays to support vital public services, such as law enforcement and education. They also steal a competitive advantage over honest businesspeople who pay their taxes. The Department of Revenue 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 Key West at 305-513-3290.