Jannus Landing future in peril after operator's arrest on charge of not paying taxes

ST. PETERSBURG — The man who runs Jannus Landing is accused of falsifying state records, under-reporting taxable revenue and in some cases failing to report anything he made off the concerts there.

John C. "Jack" Bodziak is even accused of paying sales tax to the state with bad checks — repeatedly. He kept bouncing checks, the state says, even after being warned he'd face criminal prosecution.

Apparently Bodziak didn't heed those warnings. He was arrested Wednesday for grand theft, accused of systematically defrauding taxpayers out of $250,165 the state says his businesses owe in unpaid taxes.

If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison. But Bodziak's troubles are not his alone. Jannus Landing's future also could hang in the balance. If Bodziak becomes a convicted felon, state law says he won't be able to serve alcohol at Jannus Landing or any of his downtown bars.

If the state doesn't start getting its money back, it could shut Jannus Landing down.

"If he's working with us in anyway, that's good," said Jim Evers, an official with the Florida Department of Revenue. "If not . . . we can get a judge to put him out of business."

• • •

Court records obtained by the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday offered new details into the case against Bodziak:

Jannus Landing, at 220 1st Ave. N, includes two unincorporated businesses: the Tamiami Bar and Detroit Liquors.

According to the state, Jannus Landing has a "history" of paying its sales tax with checks "returned for insufficient funds."

The Florida Department of Revenue started investigating Bodziak after the agency said he ignored warnings to stop sending bad checks to the state.

So investigators subpoenaed Jannus Landing's financial records and state filings. The revenue listed in corporate records didn't match the income that Bodziak reported to the state, according to court records.

Bodziak under-reported $3,006,237 in taxable revenue from June 2004 to June 2007, those records show.

The venue was supposed to send $389,674 in sales tax to the state. Instead, court records show it sent just $139,509.

The rest, $250,165, went into Jannus Landing's own bank account, the investigator wrote, a "financial benefit . . . to which it was not entitled."

• • •

The investigator also interviewed two former bookkepers.

One ex-bookkeeper who worked from 2000 to 2004 said Bodziak told her to "change sales figures to report less sales tax," court records show.

The bookkeeper warned against it, but Bodziak "did not believe he would be caught."

Another former bookkeeper who worked there from July 2004 to June 2007 said Bodziak never asked him to change any sales figures. But that bookkeeper also said he never tallied revenue from concert tickets.

Bodziak, the bookkeeper said, told him that money was reported to the state by a different company, Jannus Landing Productions, Inc.

But the state said that company never paid any sales taxes.

• • •

Bodziak was released from jail on bail Wednesday. He could not be reached for comment. His cell phone voice mail was full so no message could be left.

Jannus Landing remains open, an unnamed employee told the St. Petersburg Times Wednesday.

The state prefers to strike a deal with businesses to get its money back. But if criminal charges don't inspire cooperation, the state has other ways.

"If they're not complying, if they're stealing state taxes from us," Evers said, "then it's incumbent on us to put them out of business."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Jannus Landing future in peril after operator's arrest on charge of not paying taxes 05/28/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 29, 2009 9:42am]

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