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Southern Indiana politician, business owner facing felony charges for theft related to taxes

The exterior of Garrett's General Grocery in Utica, Indiana.
Aprile Rickert
/
LPM
Utica Town Board Member Frankie Garrett is facing multiple felonies after police say he failed to properly track and pay sales tax from his business, Garrett's General Grocery, over several years.

A Utica Town Board member is facing felony charges after police say he failed to track and pay all the sales tax owed from his small business over several years.

Frankie Garrett, who owns Garrett’s General Grocery in Utica, was charged with 11 felonies Monday — including corrupt business influence and theft — following an investigation that started two years ago.

The store, which opened in 2019 to replace the long-shuttered Brendle’s Grocery, stocks and sells items including package alcohol, tobacco products, deli food, toiletry, auto items and canned foods.

Some of those items are exempt from sales tax, but many are not. Indiana State Police say between March 2019 and June 2023, Garrett underreported more than $575,000 in taxable sales, leading to $40,251 in unpaid sales tax to the state. They say in some cases, taxable items were misclassified as tax exempt.

Investigators say he also failed to maintain proper business records for examination by the Indiana Department of Revenue, which assisted in the investigation. They say he kept no general ledger, sales and purchase journals or profit and loss statements.

Garrett’s accountant told police Garrett sent him screenshots on his phone of the sales and exempt sales for the last 30 days, “which may or may not be for each calendar month,” according to court records.

Investigators reviewing information from the cash register used at the business found that of the 52 months they looked at, 16 had information that was either missing or incomplete.

Garrett appeared in court Monday in Clark County, where a not guilty plea was entered. He was booked into jail and released on his own recognizance.

Aside from his business and political work, Garrett has also been involved in transforming the former Utica elementary school into a community center through the nonprofit Utica United Inc., the News and Tribune reported in August.

Guidestar.org, which provides public information on nonprofit organizations, does not yet show financial statements for Utica United Inc. The organization was formed in November 2022.

Garrett was elected to the Utica Town Board in 2019. His term ends in a few weeks after he failed to win a new term last month. Board President Steve Long declined to comment on the charges to LPM News Monday.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.