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September 18, 2007

Automobile Repair Shop Owner Arrested in over $47,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Hillsborough County automobile repair business has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $47,000 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

William D. Mitchell, 41, of Tampa, was arrested by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department on September 17 on felony charges relating to failure to file tax returns and pay tax. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Mitchell also faces charges related to failure to file tax returns as required by law. Mitchell operates Z-Fever, Inc., 4607-A Lois Avenue, Tampa, Florida.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Mitchell routinely collected tax from customers at his business. However, during various periods between November 2003 and January 2007, Mitchell failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that Mitchell had illegally kept $47,304.06 in tax money. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection.

"All businesses must pay the taxes they owe to the state," said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. "Tax cheats steal money that is paid by the public and needed to support vital public services in Florida, such as law enforcement and education. They also steal a competitive advantage over honest businesspeople that pay their taxes. The Department of Revenue 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 Tampa at 813-744-6506.