ARCADIA, Fla. - The former owner of an Arcadia institution is under investigation by the Florida Department of Revenue. They say Carl Wiley stole nearly $80,000 of sales tax revenue, while running Wheeler's Café.
Wiley is facing misdemeanor and felony charges for tax evasion. But he says the thousands worth of sales tax was for the sole purpose of keeping the doors of the long-standing business open through the tough economy.
Controversy is normally not on the menu at Wheeler's Cafe in Arcadia, which first opened up in 1929.
"It's just a hometown restaurant," longtime customer Ronnie Brown said.
But now, there's some turmoil in town. Wheeler's is the focus of a Department of Revenue Investigation. Former owner Carl Wiley was booked at Desoto County Sheriff's Department on charges of stealing nearly $80,000 worth of sales tax money. He collected it during his three-year run with the restaurant.
"Every dime we didn't pay either went to payroll or went to keep the establishment at that time open," Wiley said Friday.
While Wiley admits he got behind on filing his taxes with the state, he intends to pay every penny back.
"I'm just taking it day by day, and I'm doing everything I can to work with the state," Wiley said.
In the meantime, Wheeler's is under new- yet familiar- management. The previous owners are back in the business, doing everything to restore stability in the small town establishment.
"We just weren't going to let it close. Whatever we had to do to keep it open, we were going to do that," current owner Martha Craven said Friday.
As for Wiley- he heads to court later this month to face the charges.
"If you do wrong, you gotta pay the consequence. I did wrong, so I'll have to pay whatever consequence there is," Wiley said.
If convicted, Wiley could face up to 15 years in prison.
Wiley ran for Desoto County Sheriff back in 2008.