Make us your home page

Fraud trial for website developer John Heintz begins in Pinellas

Was it a carefully crafted scheme to defraud a veteran businessman or simply an investment gone bad?

The answer to the question about a $25,000 investment St. Petersburg website developer John Heintz received in a deal with a Pinellas County insurance executive will determine whether the 61-year-old spends up to 15 years in prison.

Prosecutor Greg Groger opened his case against Heintz Wednesday before a Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court jury, arguing that Heintz fraudulently portrayed himself as a highly educated tech entrepreneur with a multimillion-dollar business.

"What the evidence is going to show at the end of this trial is that John Paul Heintz made material misrepresentations about facts," Groger said. "He had an intent to defraud" insurance executive William Scott Nelms.

Although the trial focuses on a single grand theft charge, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office case follows a St. Petersburg Times report that Heintz had run business deals that victimized people in three states, including a retired couple in Illinois who lost more than $450,000.

Groger told jurors that Heintz touted his success in a business relationship and friendship with insurance executive William Scott Nelms. But in the end, much of what Heintz told Nelms, "simply wasn't true."

"Mr. Heintz told Mr. Nelms that he had a degree from (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). … MIT has no record of John Paul Heintz," Groger told the jury.

Daniel J. Fernandez, Heintz's lawyer, told the jury that his client denies the allegations by Nelms. Fernandez said Nelms is a savvy, educated businessman who knows how to invest.

Nelms is simply belatedly claiming fraud after failing to protect his investment, Fernandez argued.

"He never asked to see books. He never asked to see records. Nothing," Fernandez said. "He just invested $25,000, hoping to get something out of it."

In April 2004, Nelms gave Heintz $25,000 for a 1.25 percent interest in one of Heintz's business. On the witness stand, Nelms said he was looking for a return on that investment.

"I trusted John," said Nelms, who handled Heintz's insurance policy on his $1 million St. Petersburg home as well as life, health and automobile coverage. "I had no reason to not believe him."

But as details of other investment deals came to light along with questionable business ventures and Heintz's past legal troubles, Nelms and others now say they were duped by him.

The state rejected a plea agreement proposal by Fernandez that would have required restitution and a year and a day in prison. Part of the trouble for Heintz is he has past guilty pleas and convictions, including felony theft by deception, misdemeanor theft and aggravated assault.

Heintz's trial continues today and could last through Friday.

Fraud trial for website developer John Heintz begins in Pinellas 02/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 9:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Report slams Pinellas construction licensing agency and leaders

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board mismanaged its finances, lacked accountability and disregarded its own rules, according to a scathing report released Wednesday by the county's inspector general.

    Rodney Fischer, the executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, resigned in January.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Ciccio executive chef Luis Flores prepares an Impossible Burger Wednesday at the Epicurean Hotel Food Theatre in Tampa.
  3. Construction starts on USF medical school, the first piece of Tampa's Water Street project


    TAMPA — Dozens of workers in hard hats and boots were busy at work at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive Wednesday morning, signaling the start of construction on the University of South Florida's new Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

    Construction is underway for the new Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health Heart Institute in downtown Tampa. This view is from atop Amalie Arena, where local officials gathered Wednesday to celebrate the first piece of what will be the new Water Street District. The USF building is expected to open in late 2019. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]
  4. Tampa Bay among top 25 metro areas with fastest growing economies

    Economic Development

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy among 382 metro areas in the country for 2016. According to an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tampa Bay's gross domestic product, or GDP, increased 4.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 to hit $126.2 billion.

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy in the country for 2016. Rentals were one of the areas that contributed to Tampa Bay's GDP growth. Pictured is attorney David Eaton in front of his rental home. 
  5. Tampa Bay cools down to more moderate home price increases

    Real Estate

    The increase in home prices throughout much of the Tampa Bay area is definitely slowing from the torrid rate a year ago.

    This home close to Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa sold for $3.055 million in August, making it Hillsborough County's top sale of the month. [Courtesy of Bredt Cobitz]