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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

For Immediate Release
December 22, 2009

Convenience Store Owner Arrested for Tax Fraud Under New Law

(AUSTIN) — A new audit tool used by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has led to the indictment and arrest of a South Texas convenience store owner for tax fraud.

Rogelio Ramirez, owner of two Pepe’s Drive In stores in McAllen, was arrested today after being indicted for four felony counts of failure to remit sales tax collected on alcohol and tobacco and two felony counts of falsifying records.

According to the indictment issued Nov. 30 by a Travis County grand jury, Ramirez is alleged to have collected and not remitted $100,000 or more in sales tax in 2008, and between $20,000 and $100,000 in the first eight months of 2009. He is charged with collecting but failing to pay the state $100,000 or more in calendar years 2006 and 2007 as well.

The indictment is the first in Texas based on an investigation using a fraud detection tool initiated by Combs and passed by the Legislature in 2007.  The law requires distributors of alcohol and tobacco products to report sales to retail outlets monthly, giving the Comptroller’s auditors the ability to compare the distributors’ reports against taxable sales already reported by retailers. Distributor reporting under the law began in January 2008.

“This law passed with the overwhelming support of convenience store operators,” Combs said. “It helps protect legitimate, law abiding convenience store owners against competitors who attempt to profit from tax fraud.”

So far, the Comptroller has assessed nearly $90 million in sales tax that might have gone unreported without the fraud detection capability offered by the new law.

For more information about the Comptroller’s efforts to arrest and prosecute tax evaders and prevent tax fraud, visit the Criminal Investigations Division Web site at http://www.window.state.tx.us/about/cid/.

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