Tucker Duke’s founder busted on tax charges again

in Apolitical/Top Headlines by

The former owner of the briefly popular and now-defunct Tucker Duke’s Lunchbox restaurant in Tallahassee was arrested Friday on felony tax evasion charges. 

Brian Cartenuto, 35, of Niceville, was booked on five counts of refusing to pay sales tax or file returns and one count of failing to remit sales tax between $20,000 and $100,000, court records show. 

He was released from the Leon County Jail on a $1,000 bond per count, records show. 

Cartenuto didn’t turn in roughly $23,000 in tax due from October 2014 to February 2015, according to a probable cause affidavit

Though Cartenuto has other Tucker Duke’s locations, the charges were connected to the Tallahassee operation, which closed permanently after a February 2015 kitchen fire.

He also was arrested on tax evasion charges last September in Okaloosa County, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. He has eateries in Niceville, Deerfield Beach and Boca Raton, according to a website.

For a hot minute on Tallahassee’s restaurant scene, he ran the restaurant—billed as a “Southern-style burger gastropub”—at 224 E. College Ave. The arrest report said his landlord there was Southern Strategy Group, the capital’s premier lobbying firm. 

Cartenuto, a graduate of the prestigious Johnson & Wales culinary arts program, initially made a splash. He was billed as a culinary wunderkind with Food Network bona fides, including twice being a winner on Cutthroat Kitchen.” 

Matt Willard, Cartenuto’s Tallahassee-based attorney, could not be immediately reached. 

Department of Revenue employees had been in contact with Cartenuto since January 2015, trying to get him to pay the tax due, the report said. Cartenuto kept promising to file returns and pay his taxes “as soon as possible.”

Investigators later looking through his bank records found that Cartenuto “had enough funds in (his) account to pay … the taxes due during this period,” according to the affidavit.

An initial hearing in the case has not been set.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.