Former bridal shop owner accused of pocketing sales taxes

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:21 p.m.

The former owner of a Gainesville bridal shop has been arrested on allegations he collected sales tax from customers but failed to turn it over to the state.

Paul Rhodenizer, 66, owned Jay’s Bridal in the Creekside Mall at 3501 SW Second Ave. He was arrested Monday by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office on a charge of theft of state funds and faces up to 15 years in prison, according to the Florida Department of Revenue.

The state alleges Rhodenizer stole more than $28,000 in sales tax during various periods from 2010 to 2012.

Reached by phone Thursday, Rhodenizer said he turned himself in within two hours of hearing about the warrant and was released on his own recognizance.

He said he had no intention of doing anything wrong when the business started losing money.

“Your vendors don’t ship dresses. Brides have weddings coming up. Dresses come in and they are COD with additional amounts added on, so there wasn’t anything I could really do,” he said.

He closed Jay’s Bridal in August 2012. He owned it for about 25 years, though the shop was in business for 77 years.

Rhodenizer told The Sun at the time that he struggled for years as a result of a weak economy, high overhead costs and competition from the Internet and the recent opening of a national bridal chain — a reference to David’s Bridal, which opened in January 2010.

Rhodenizer and wife, Linda, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection on Aug. 28, 2012, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Florida as a result of business debts.

According to the filing, the couple owned $207,000 worth of assets and owed $677,000. The debts included about $430,000 that the business owed to creditors, $69,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service for business payroll tax and $57,000 in sales tax owed to the Department of Revenue.

Through the bankruptcy proceedings, the Rhodenizers sold their home and the assets of the business.

“We lost our home. We lost our business, and now we have this situation as well,” Paul Rhodenizer said, his voice quavering.

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