In the wake of a highly-publicized crackdown on tax evaders in Italy, domestic sales of luxury sports car brands Ferrari and Maserati have fallen off sharply in the first quarter of 2012.

Italians fear the Guardia di Finanza, more commonly referred to as the tax police, after a series of sting operations that targeted high-end sports and luxury car owners. After checking on the license plates of 150 exotic cars at a posh ski resort, Italy’s tax office found that nearly 60 owners had reported incomes below 40,000 euros per year.

That incident led to further investigations throughout Italy, as well as a sell-off of high end cars. As Automotive News (subscription required) reports, the level of paranoia among Italian drivers has only increased since last year.

In Italy, Ferrari’s sales are down by 51.5 percent compared to the first quarter of last year. As bleak as that performance sounds, Ferrari’s numbers are still better than Maserati, which finds itself down by 70 percent over the same period.

Crackdowns on tax evaders are only one reason for the slump, since Italy has recently  imposed higher taxes on large or expensive cars, too. In the words of Federauto chairman Filippo Pavan Bernacchi, “These figures show how the choices made by the government are literally terrorizing potential clients.”