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June 13, 2007

Automobile Dealer Arrested in over $41,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Putnam County used car dealership has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $41,000 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Charles R. Chronister III, 58, of Bostwick, was arrested by the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department on June 11, 2007 on felony charges relating to failure to pay tax. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Chronister operated Cars R Us, 1019 Reid Street, Palatka, Florida. The business is now closed.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Chronister routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods between January 2003 and August 2006, Chronister failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that Chronister had illegally kept $41,239.49 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 that 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 Alachua at 386-418-4415.