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Florida Charges Vision Airlines With Grand Theft

Carrier Had Tried To Create A Hub In The Florida Panhandle Near Destin

A failed effort to establish a hub at Northwest Florida Regional Airport (KVPS) near Destin and Fort Walton Beach has led the state of Florida and Okaloosa County to file grand theft charges against Vision Airlines.

The airline began making the move from charter and sightseeing operations to regularly scheduled service in December, 2010, with its first route being between Louisville and Atlanta. It tried to grow aggressively in 2011, opening routes to nearly 24 additional destinations in the span of just a week. One of its hubs was to be the recently-completed KVPS.

But the carrier ran into problems, and failed to pay the county and state more than $117,000 in Passenger Facility Charges (PFC) that it collected while operating in Florida. Airlines must collect the fees and remit them to the proper governments within 30 days of collection. The Associated Press reports that Vision told the county several times that the money was on the way, but it did not arrive as promised.

The day after filing the grand theft charge, Vision had a check delivered overnight in the amount of $117,659.98 to the airport, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. The paper even ran a photo of the check on its website.

But while the county said it is happy it's finally collected the debt, Vision may still face criminal charges, along with fines for not remitting the PFCs in a timely way. Florida State Attorney Bill Eddins said that paying what it owed would certainly be a mitigating factor, but that the airline should reimburse the state for the cost of the investigation which was conducted jointly by the state and the county.

FMI: http://sao1.co.escambia.fl.us/default.htm

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