Jefferson County Business Pleads Guilty To Failure To Collect State Sales Tax

Attorney General Spitzer and state Department of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Andrew Eristoff today announced that a guilty plea was entered on behalf of Aqua-Mania, Inc., an Alexandria Bay boat dealership, for failure to collect sales tax. Additionally, the company’s owner, Richard Merola, pled guilty to filing false documents with the state Tax Department.

An investigation by the Tax Department determined that between August 1998 and January 2001, Merola and Aqua-Mania failed to collect sales taxes from the buyers of luxury boats on six separate occasions. The total purchase value of the six boats was $928,146. Merola and Aqua-Mania should have collected and turned over to the state $56,040 in sales tax on sale of the boats.

"Not only is the failure to collect sales tax a violation of the law, but it results in an unfair advantage over businesses who do the right thing and comply with the our tax laws," said Attorney General Spitzer. "My office will continue to work with the state Tax Department to prosecute willful violators of these laws."

State Tax Department Commissioner Andrew Eristoff said: "The Department of Taxation and Finance is committed to ensuring a tax system that is based on integrity and equity. We will continue to work with prosecutors across the state to ensure New York’s tax system remains above reproach and that no taxpayer is unduly burdened by the selfishness and greed of those who would attempt to short-change their fellow New Yorkers."

Merola, of 5100 West Taft Road, Liverpool, appeared today before Jefferson County Court Judge Kim Martusewitz and pled guilty to one charge of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 2nd Degree, a Class A misdemeanor. In addition, Aqua-Mania pled guilty through its attorney to one count of Failure to Collect Sales Tax, a Class E felony.

Under a plea agreement, Merola will pay the state a total of $112,049 in owed taxes, interest and penalties.

New York State law exempts sales tax on boats sold in New York which are delivered outside of the state. However, even though all of the boats were delivered in New York state, Merola submitted forms to the state Tax Department creating the appearance that the boats were delivered outside of New York.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Gary Simpson, with the assistance of Investigator Mark Spencer. Tax Department Investigator Clinton Woodford, and members of the New York State Park Police also worked on the case.