BK owner arrested

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

FRANKLIN—The owner of several shuttered Burger King restaurants in Hampton Roads, including the franchise in Franklin, was arrested over the weekend and faces 11 felony counts of failure to pay the city’s meals tax.

Samina Azhar, 54, was taken into custody at her Smithfield home, according to Capt. A. Howell of the Smithfield Police Department. She was released on $7,500 bond.

Each of the 11 felony counts represents one month where the meals tax was not paid to the city. According to warrants issued by the city, the taxes went unpaid in September, October and November of 2007, and for the first eight months of 2008. The total amount of tax revenue due to the city is $64,521.28.

“A meal tax is considered a trust tax in Virginia, so the failure to pay that tax once it’s been collected from the customer is considered an embezzlement,” said Taylor Williams, Franklin’s city attorney. “A restaurant is supposed to collect the tax and hold it, then when it files the meal tax return, it pays the tax at that time.

“Failure to pay a meal tax when it’s due is felony embezzlement if it is more than $200.”

Franklin requires restaurants in the city collect a 6.5-percent tax on meals served.

The businesses are expected to file tax returns to the Commissioner of the Revenue by the 20th of each month, and to pay the taxes to the treasurer by the same date.

“When they closed up (the Franklin franchise) and we weren’t getting any further response, I went ahead and swore out criminal complaints,” Williams said.

Azhar has also been charged with one misdemeanor count of operating a business without a license.

“You cannot acquire a business license if you have other taxes due to the city,” Williams said. “(Azhar) made an application for a business license and paid money that would have been owed for the business license, but it wasn’t applied to the business license; it was applied to taxes that she owed.”

Azhar’s first court appearance is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday in General District Court.

Howell said Azhar was also served with two warrants from Chesapeake. Several calls to the clerk’s office in Chesapeake seeking details over that city’s warrants were not returned.

Azhar Holdings, LLC operated six Burger King franchises, one each in Franklin, Windsor, Chesapeake and Smithfield, and two in Suffolk. All of the restaurants closed on Oct. 24.