For Immediate Release - August 16, 2011

Attleboro Convenience Store Owner Pleads Guilty, Sentenced for Not Paying More Than $109,000 in Sales Tax

BOSTON - The owner of an Attleboro convenience store has pled guilty for not paying over $109,000 in sales tax to the state on over $2.1 million dollars of tobacco products the store sold, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office announced today.

Vanitaben Patel, age 31, of Carver, pled guilty yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court to the charge of Aiding and Assisting in the Preparation of False and Fraudulent Sales Tax Returns (2 counts). After the plea was entered, Superior Court Judge Diane Kottmeyer sentenced Patel to three years of probation, and ordered her to pay a $39,000 fine to the Commonwealth, in addition to complying with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR)'s assessment of tax liability, penalties and interest. The DOR will assess at a later date the proper amount Patel must pay.

"Business owners who do not pay their taxes are depriving the state of much needed revenue and gain an unfair advantage over other businesses that do follow the law," AG Coakley said. "This action holds the business and its owner accountable for knowingly breaking the law."

In January 2010, the Attorney General's Office began an investigation after the matter had been initially investigated and referred by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR). Patel is part-owner and manager of South Side Restaurant and Variety (South Side), a convenience store located in Attleboro. Investigators discovered that from January 2007 through August 2008, South Side filed 20 monthly sales tax returns based on information provided by Patel to the store's tax return preparer. These returns underreported South Side's taxable sales by failing to report sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Investigators also discovered that from January 2007 through August 2008, South Side underreported its taxable sales by more than $2.1 million, and underpaid sales tax due the Commonwealth by over $109,000.

A Suffolk County Grand Jury returned indictments against Patel on April 8, 2010. On April 27, 2010, Patel was arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court and released on personal recognizance. Yesterday, she pled guilty to all charges and was sentenced.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Michael Pine and Margaret Parks of AG Coakley's Fraud and Financial Crimes Division, with Kathy Morrissey as the Victim/Witness Advocate on the case. Investigators Christine Slingerland and Thomas Nowicki of DOR's Criminal Investigations Unit also assisted with the investigation.