Winter Park business owner accused of pocketing $1.7M, not paying taxes

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WINTER PARK, Fla. - A Winter Park business owner is in hot water with the state of Florida after officials said his companies never passed along the sales tax paid by customers.

Arman Canatay, 44, has owned two different companies in Winter Park and put more than $1 million in his bank account, but officials said he never paid the state its share of sales tax.

State sales tax is 6 percent in Florida, and businesses are supposed to collect that money and pass it on to the Department of Revenue.

But state investigators said Canatay didn't always do that.

Canatay owned U.S. Stone and Tile, a retail store that has since closed in Winter Park. State investigators said they don’t know for sure how much sales tax money Canatay collected but estimate he took more than $58,000 in sales tax from his customers but never gave it to the state.

According to court documents, records at Wells Fargo indicate Canatay had more than $1.7 million deposited into his account during a two-year period, and investigators said he should have had enough to pay the state.

Canatay's former father-in-law said he wasn't aware Canatay had any financial or legal trouble.

While the state was trying to collect money from Canatay, records show he closed the business and reopened as Ancient Elements, but that business eventually closed, too.

Besides the criminal charges, the state has filed civil warrants estimating Canatay owes nearly $200,000, including interest and penalties.

The state couldn't calculate the numbers Wednesday to tell Channel 9 how much money it's owed from all cases of unpaid sales tax but said it tries to keep someone who owes taxes from registering under a different name for tax purposes or from opening a new business.

Besides the civil penalties, Canatay faces up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.