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September 15, 2009

Operator of a Convenience Store and a Beauty Supply Store Arrested in Tax Theft Case

The operator of a closed Escambia County convenience store and a closed beauty supply store has been arrested on charges that she stole more than $48,000 in sales tax she collected from customers, but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Tania Michelle Cunningham 36, of Century, surrendered to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department on September 8, 2009 on numerous felony and misdemeanor charges related to theft of state funds. If convicted, she faces up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines for each felony and up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 in fines for each misdemeanor, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, and investigative costs. Ms. Cunningham operated Kim’s Mini Mart, 8130 North Century Blvd. and Kim’s Beauty World, 9420 North Century Blvd. in Century.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Ms. Cunningham routinely collected tax from customers at the businesses. However, during various periods beginning in 2004 through 2006, she failed to send to the state all of the sales taxes that she 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 of the 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 Pensacola at 850-595-5188.