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August 19, 2002

Broward County Businessman Arrested for Using Worthless Check to Pay Tax

The owner of a Broward County janitorial supply business has been arrested on charges that he gave almost $4,300 worth of worthless checks to the state Revenue Department for payment of tax, the Florida Department of Revenue announced. The checks bounced.

Theodore L. Piper, 43, of Coral Springs, turned himself in early Monday to Broward County sheriff's deputies on charges relating to payment of tax with worthless checks. State law makes it a third-degree felony to attempt to pay tax with worthless checks, drafts or debit cards. If convicted, Piper faces up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Piper was president of Star Pak, Inc., located at 6601 Lyons Road in Coconut Creek. The business closed in April 2001.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Piper 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 Piper failed to send in tax payments for two months in early 2001. After DOR collections staffers contacted him, Piper issued two checks totaling $4,289.54 that were returned by Piper's bank for insufficient funds. DOR collections staffers tried to work out a payment agreement that would allow Piper to come into compliance with state law, but Piper failed to follow through on the terms of the agreement. A review of bank records showed that Piper withdrew thousands of dollars from the business's account during the period in which he had issued the worthless checks, investigators said.

"To be fair, tax law must apply uniformly to all businesses," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Both the Department of Revenue and Broward County authorities vigorously pursue tax cheats who try to shift the burden of taxes to honest businesspeople. "

If you have information about tax theft, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Coral Springs at 954-346-2850.