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August 2, 2002

Sarasota Restaurant Owner Arrested in $10,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Sarasota pizza restaurant has been arrested on charges that he stole almost $10,000 in sales tax that he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Douglas St. Amant, 42, of North Port, turned himself in to Sarasota County authorities Wednesday to face charges relating to tax theft and failure to comply with tax law. 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. St. Amant operated Five Point Enterprises, which operated Little Caesars Pizza Restaurants at 3250 17th Street in Sarasota, 3563 Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota, 1554 U.S. 41 Bypass in Venice and 5808 14th Street W. in Bradenton.

According to Revenue Department investigators, St. Amant routinely collected sales tax from customers at his business. Under state law, sales tax becomes the property of the state at the moment of collection. However, an investigation of the business's records showed that St. Amant failed to send in $9,791.04 in sales tax that he collected from customers between January 1999 and February 2000. Investigators said that DOR officials made repeated attempts to bring St. Amant's restaurant into compliance with law but that all efforts failed.

"To be fair, tax law must apply uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Tax thieves steal money that the public pays to support vital services, such as law enforcement and education. Businesses that fail to comply with tax law also are stealing an unearned, undeserved competitive advantage over honest businesspeople. The Department 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 Sarasota at 941-361-6689.