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Chris’ Flowers Etc. closed again by state tax authorities

— For the second time in four years, Chris’ Flowers at 141 First St., in Liverpool, has been seized by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. The state claims the shop’s owner, Christine Wojtalewski, 46, of 5014 Homeview Drive, Liverpool, owes more than $430,300 in unpaid sales taxes and penalties.

“The tax warrants cover numerous years all the way back to 2001,” said Ed Walsh, press spokesman for the Department of Taxation and Finance.

The business was seized Dec. 27 by tax compliance agent Daniel Jensen as authorized by section 1141B of the Tax Law.

Unless the business’s outstanding tax warrant is satisfied, the state will auction off the contents of Chris’ Flowers at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 26, at 141 First St.. Mel Manasse & Son Auctioneers of Whitney Point will conduct the liquidation sale of the shop’s fixtures, equipment and inventory. A complete listing along with more than five dozen photographs of items for sale can be found at manasseauctions.com.

In April 2009 Wojtalewski was charged with second-degree grand larceny and two counts of third-degree grand larceny, all felonies. She was also charged with failure to obtain a certificate of authority to collect sales tax and nine counts of failure to file sales-tax returns.

At that time, the state alleged that Wojtalewski failed to report more than $1.1 million in taxable sales and failed to pay the state $83,000 in sales taxes that would’ve been shared with Onondaga County.

The Liverpool florist faced up to 15 years in prison and $200,000 in fines, but on Aug. 16, 2010, Onondaga County Judge Anthony Aloi sentenced Wojtalewski to five years’ probation after she pleaded guilty to a single count of second-degree grand larceny.

Assistant District Attorney Mary Gorman had agreed to the probation, she said, because Wojtalewski had paid back the full amount of the sales-tax theft even though she still owed more than $100,000 in penalties and fines. The defendant apologized to the court and told a probation officer that the situation “just snowballed on me.”

Wojtalewski was unavailable for comment last week, but on her business telephone answering machine she suggests customers in need of flowers should contact Rao’s Florist in Mattydale.

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