(Tallahassee Democrat) -- A former Florida Department of Revenue worker charged with stealing thousands of dollars in sales taxes from a Tallahassee stir-fry restaurant has been given a long time to pay the cash back.
Earlier this month, Leon Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford ordered Deloris J. Speed to make nearly $15,000 in restitution in increments of $1 a month. On that timetable, Speed wouldn't pay back the stolen sales taxes — theoretically, at least — until the year 3249.
Speed was arrested Jan. 12, 2011, on charges of organized scheme to defraud and official misconduct after Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators determined she'd stolen $16,900 in sales taxes that had been paid by 1 Fresh Restaurant Inc.
In late 2010, FDOR conducted an audit of the restaurant and found sales-tax underpayments for four separate periods in 2007 and 2008, according to court records. FDOR, which collects sales taxes, contacted the business owner, William Poole, to inform him of the underpayments.
Poole replied by saying there must have been a mistake because he'd properly collected and paid his taxes. He told investigators he typically paid electronically but that from time to time, he'd paid in person with cash at the FDOR Tallahassee Service Center.
One of the receipts he provided, for December 2008, showed he'd paid $11,011. FDOR's copies of the receipt showed only $6,011, but investigators found an imprint of "11" over the "6" on one of the agency's carbon copies. The receipt had been signed by Speed. Poole later identified Speed from her driver's license photo as the clerk who'd processed his payments.
Speed, who entered a no-contest plea on Sept. 23, 2013, could have faced up to 10 years in prison on the charges, according to court records. Prosecutors had sought 60 days in jail or time in a work camp along with restitution, said Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell.
On June 5, Fulford sentenced Speed to three years on probation for one count of official misconduct and one count of organized scheme to defraud. Fulford withheld adjudication, meaning Speed wasn't officially convicted of the charges. Several other counts of official misconduct were dropped, according to court records.
Fulford ordered three years of probation for Speed, including restitution of $14,817 at $1 a month. Fulford also ordered Speed to write a letter of apology to Poole within a month and every six months thereafter. She also ordered her to complete 60 days of free labor. Fulford said the free labor should first be offered to Poole, and if he declined, it should be offered to the state, the city or a charitable organization, in that order.
Poole called the outcome of the case "a joke." He also said he has no intention allowing Speed to work for him.
"It about ruined my life," Poole said of the case. "If I hadn't have had four pieces of paper showing that I paid my sales tax, I would have lost my business, my standing in the community. I would have been known as a crook. I would have faced jail time."
Speed, 51, began working for FDOR in July 1980 as an OPS worker. She was hired in a career-service position, as a clerk typist, in March 1984. When she was fired on Dec. 8, 2010, she was working as a tax specialist and earning $35,376 a year.
Officials with the Department of Management Services couldn't immediately provide information about whether Speed lost her retirement benefits as a result of the charges.
Fulford did not return a message left at her office. Speed's attorney, Richard Smith of Tallahassee, also couldn't be reached for comment.