Two Marlton car washes received a visit Friday from a state tax investigator in a black Jaguar after a caller told Gov. Christie on a radio show Thursday night that a car wash in the township was not making customers pay sales taxes.
The sudden visits surprised the owners of Promenade Car Wash and Marlton Classic Car Wash-Lube, both of whom said they charge the tax.
"It came out of left field," said Mike Ambrosini, who owns Promenade, on Route 73. He showed an investigator from the Treasury Department's division of taxation his cash register and business certificates.
"It's just kind of a little upsetting," Ambrosini said. "I'm an open book. I have nothing to hide."
The order to investigate appears to have come directly from Christie.
During New Jersey 101.5's Ask the Governor talk show, a man who identified himself as "Dan from Marlton" said a car wash "around the corner" had a register sign that said customers could avoid the tax if they paid with cash.
"They're stealing money from the state," the man said.
"I'm very interested," Christie responded. "I'd love to have our consumer affairs people, if you're listening out there, Attorney General Hoffman, it would be interesting to go to that car wash in Marlton.
"Listen," Christie continued, "it's been a long time since I've been in law enforcement . . . but there's something that strikes me as wrong about that."
Christie then said acting Attorney General John H. Hoffman's office and the state treasurer, Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff, would follow up.
"Whoever owns this car wash," Christie said, "is in a world of hurt right now."
But whether that car wash exists remained unclear Friday.
There are only two car washes in Marlton, according to the owners, and the investigator, Francis Massaquoi, visited both.
Massaquoi left the businesses his card. Reached by phone and asked about the investigation Friday, Massaquoi said he did not know what a reporter was talking about.
"I can't disclose anything with you," he said before referring the call to a supervisor.
A spokesman at the Treasury Department declined to comment. A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said, "Our policy is, we don't confirm or deny investigations."
A spokesman for Christie said, "We don't have additional information to offer at this time."
Gerry Barton, owner of Marlton Classic Car Wash-Lube, on Route 70, said he hoped the rumors were untrue. He charges a fixed price of $7, which includes tax, he said.
Barton said he was surprised his business was questioned, particularly by an investigator driving a Jaguar. "The whole thing's pretty bizarre," he said.
It's unclear whether the investigator's vehicle was personal or from the state. A Treasury Department spokesman did not respond to a query about state employee vehicles.