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August 26, 2010

Used Auto Dealer Arrested for Theft of State Funds

The owner of an Englewood used auto dealership has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $11,000 in sales tax he collected from customers, but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Richard James Watson, 43, of Port Charlotte, was arrested by the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department on August 26, 2010 on a felony charges relating to theft of state funds. 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. Mr. Watson owned and operated Little Richies’s Auto Center, Inc, 2565 South McCall Road in Englewood.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Mr. Watson collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods beginning in 2008 and lasting through periods in 2009, he failed to send into the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection.

"Most Florida businesses do an excellent job of meeting the state's requirements for collecting and submitting sales tax, which pays for services Floridians need," said Lisa Echeverri, Executive Director, Florida Department of Revenue. "Individuals who collect tax but don't send it in are stealing taxpayer dollars and gaining an unfair financial advantage over honest businesses. It's our job to ensure that Florida's tax laws are administered fairly."

If you have information about tax crimes, please call the Florida Department of Revenue investigations office in Ft. Myers at 239-338-2426.