Rifle business owner issued warrant for owing $99K
RIFLE — A bench warrant was issued for a Rifle business owner Wednesday after she failed to appear in court for a case related to unpaid sales tax.
Judge Victor Zerbi ordered the warrant for Kyra Fief, owner of Cruise Control Auto & Truck Accessories Inc., after waiting more than 40 minutes for Fief to appear in court. Fief owes the city restitution payments totaling $99,239, which led Zerbi to set a $100,000 cash payment bond.
“If that doesn’t get somebody’s attention, I don’t know what will,” Zerbi said.
Fief was not at the business, located at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Ninth Street, when a reporter asked to speak with her Wednesday morning. According to an employee at Cruise Control, Fief became ill Tuesday and was at home recuperating Wednesday.
Wednesday was yet another example of Fief’s failure to comply with the city, Jeffrey Conklin, an attorney representing the city, said in court.
“Unfortunately we’re back where we started with the defendant not being here today. … We’re out of options,” Conklin said.
Court documents detail a long-running matter during which the business and its owner were provided numerous opportunities to avoid Wednesday’s outcome.
The city of Rifle initially sent a letter to Cruise Control on Dec. 30, 2013, according to court documents. The letter stated that the business had been selected for a routine sales and use tax audit, which the city has the authority to conduct.
The business failed to comply with the city’s first request, as well as a second request sent in April 2014.
The city’s attorney sent a third letter to Cruise Control in May 2014 offering “a final opportunity to comply with the city’s audit requests.” The business responded to that third letter but ultimately failed to comply with the audit request, which led the city to subpoena the business for a hearing and request relief.
Penalties for failing to comply with an audit request can cost up to $1,000 per day.
The city eventually determined Fief owed $104,888 in unremitted sales tax and court fees. Fief plead no contest, and in August 2015, Zerbi imposed a sentence of one year in jail, but he suspended 355 days of the sentence providing Fief make monthly restitution payments of $4,649 starting on Sept. 1, according to court documents.
She made her first payment, but a check in October bounced, Kathy Pototsky, court administrator, told the judge Wednesday morning. Fief has failed to remit sales tax, and she has not contacted the court since the last attempted payment.
In an interview, City Manager Matt Sturgeon said the Cruise Control case represents “a last and least-preferred course of action.”
Occasionally a business will miss a filing, and it is typically an honest mistake that the business rectifies immediately, he said.
“The majority of business owners understand they are acting as an extension of the city when they collect and remit sales tax, and that the dollars being remitted aren’t their dollars but the dollars of the customer,” Sturgeon said.
Businesses have no excuse for failing to remit sales tax, which pays for vital city services such as law enforcement and street maintenance, according to Sturgeon.
“In the 14 years I’ve worked for Rifle, I can’t recall a situation like this,” he said of the case involving Cruise Control.
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