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November 18, 2008

Owner of Lee County Car Dealership Arrested in More Than Quarter of a Million Dollar Tax Theft Case

The part owner of a Lee County used car dealership has been arrested on charges that she stole more than $286,878 in sales tax she collected from customers, but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Martha Alicia Flores, of Ft Myers, was arrested by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office on November 11, on a felony charge relating to failure to file tax returns and pay tax. If convicted, she faces up to 30 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines, as well as possible repayment of stolen tax, interest, penalty and investigative costs. Ms. Flores operated City of Palms Automotive, Inc., located at 3445 Palm Beach Blvd, Ft Myers, Florida.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Ms. Flores routinely collected tax from customers at her business. However, during various periods starting in 2003 through 2007, she failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that she had collected. Investigators found that she had illegally kept more than $286,878 in tax money. 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.