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June 12, 2007

Used Car Dealer Arrested in $55,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of an auto sales/used auto business has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $55,000 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Jose Montes, 48, of Pembroke Pines, was arrested by the Broward County Sheriff's Department on June 7, 2007 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. Montes also faces felony charges related to failure to file tax returns as required by law. Montes operated Raba Auto Sales, Inc., doing business at 5916 Rodman Street, Hollywood, Florida. The business is now closed.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Montes routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods between June 2002 and September 2004, Montes failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that Montes had illegally kept $55,102.46 in tax money. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection.

"All businesses must pay the taxes they owe to the state," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Tax cheats steal money that is paid by the public and needed to support vital public services in Florida, 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 Coral Springs at 954-346-2850.