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November 28, 2006

Stuart Restaurant Owner Arrested in $173,000 Tax Theft Case

The owner of a Stuart restaurant has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $173,000 in sales tax he collected from customers but failed to send in to the state, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

Timothy Fritschle, 35, of Palm City was arrested by the Stuart Police Department on November 25 on felony charges relating to failure to file tax returns and pay tax. 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. Fritschle also faces felony charges related to failure to file tax returns as required by law. Fritschle operated Palais Du Pont, Inc. and 61 Osceola, Inc. doing business as The Ashley Restaurant & Bar at 61 Osceola St. in Stuart, Florida.

According to Revenue Department investigators, Fritschle routinely collected tax from customers at his businesses. However, between May 2003 and August 2006, Fritschle failed to send in to the state all of the sales taxes that he had collected. Investigators found that Fritschle had illegally kept $173,062.68 in tax money. Under state law, sales tax is the property of the state at the moment of collection. Department of Revenue staff repeatedly visited and called Fritschle in an attempt to help him come into compliance with state tax law, but he failed to meet his legal obligations.

“To be fair, tax law must apply uniformly to all businesses,” said Jim Zingale, executive director of the Revenue Department. “Tax cheats steal money that the public pays to support vital public services, such as law enforcement and education. They also steal a competitive advantage over honest businesspeople who 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 West Palm Beach at 561-640-2874.