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September 16, 2009

Panama City Auto Repair Shop Owner Arrested

The owner of Whitehead’s Automotive has been arrested, the Florida Department of Revenue announced today, on charges that he kept more than $12,500 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state.

Fred William Whitehead, 40, of Panama City, was arrested by the Bay County Sheriff’s Department on September 15, 2009 on felony charges related to theft of state funds and failure to file six consecutive tax returns. According to Revenue Department investigators, Mr. Whitehead routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods beginning in January of 2005 through February 2009, investigators found that Mr. Whitehead had illegally kept over $12,500 of sales taxes he collected from his customers and failed to file the required sales tax returns. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection. If convicted, he faces up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines on each charge, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Mr. Whitehead owns and operates Whitehead's Automotive, Transmitter Road, Panama City.

"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 Panama City at 850-747-5614.