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July 18, 2011

Auto Body Shop Owner Arrested

James Ballengee, 46, of Chiefland, has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $78,000 in sales tax he collected from customers, but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Mr. Ballengee was arrested by the Levy County Sheriff’s Department on July 14, 2011 on a felony charges relating to theft of state funds and refusal to file returns and pay taxes. 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. Mr. Ballengee is the owner of Ballengee Auto body located at 15563 NW Highway 19 in Chiefland.

According to Revenue Department investigators Mr. Ballengee collected tax from customers at his business, which specialized in the sale and body repair of cars. However, during various periods starting in 2007 and lasting through periods in 2011, he failed to send into the state all of the sales taxes that he collected and he failed to file tax returns as required by law. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection.

"It is an honor to serve the vast majority of Florida businesses who comply with State tax requirements," said Lisa Vickers, Executive Director, Florida Department of Revenue. "For those that don’t, it is our job to enforce the law and ensure honest businesses are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by those who ignore the law or worse—intentionally collect and steal taxpayer dollars."

If you have information about tax crimes, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Alachua at 386-418-4415.

Note: Due to the confidential nature of taxpayer records, generally the information found in this release is the only information available from the Department of Revenue concerning this matter. Other information may be available through the arresting agency and the local Clerk of Court.