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A routine traffic stop of a luxury sports car revealed the first clues leading to charges of tax crimes against a St. Cloud-area man suspected of running an unlicensed motor vehicle business.

Grady A. Shearer, 33, of Foley, Minn., was charged last week in Ramsey County District Court with 53 counts of failing to pay or collect and remit sales and use tax, and four counts of failing to file individual income tax returns.

Shearer was charged by summons and is due in court Oct. 24.

"We vehemently deny the allegations," said his attorney, Anthony Bussa. He said he expects his client to be vindicated.

In an interview Wednesday with the Star Tribune, Shearer defended his business practices and said he saw another vehicle sales company in Minnesota handling its tax obligations the same way.

"I did basically the same thing they were doing," he said. "If the tax is not collected at the time of purchase, the buyer is responsible to pay the tax."

According to the criminal complaint:

Although he did not have the dealer's license required in Minnesota, Shearer sold vehicles, outdoor recreation equipment and other items through Facebook and Instagram while living in St. Cloud and Foley.

He failed to collect and remit sales tax for these transactions from January 2018 to May 2022. Shearer also failed to file individual income tax returns for 2018 through 2021.

In total, his tax bill adds up to more than $222,000, when including in penalties and interest.

Authorities became aware of Shearer's operation after a state trooper in April 2020 stopped the driver of a Lamborghini Gallardo, a luxury sports car that had neither license plates nor proper registration.

The patrol reviewed the vehicle's title history and saw that Shearer claimed to have bought the car for $20,000 in 2019, "even though the fair market value was approximately $85,000."

Recognizing the difference between the purchase price and the car's estimated value, the patrol suspected Shearer was trying to avoid paying sales tax on the vehicle. That led to Shearer's vehicle sales on Facebook and Instagram.

Shearer said Wednesday that he had the car fixed up after he bought it and that it was worth no more than $45,000 when he sold it.