Make us your home page
Instagram

Presidential pardon brings relief, stirs regret, Wesley Chapel man tells radio station

The Wesley Chapel man who received a rare presidential pardon this week called his earlier felony a "youthful indiscretion" that happened after he got mixed up in the wrong crowd.

He was 31 and had just started a small business three years earlier. His daughter was nearly 5. He said he made a dumb decision that he still regrets.

"A friend of a friend told me how I could make a lot of money if I wanted to help out in a drug operation with some marijuana," he said. "I said, 'Sure, for a bunch of money I'll give it a shot.' "

Dennis Bulin, the owner of a nationally recognized scuba equipment company based in Zephyrhills, was not eager to talk about the offense. He refused several interview requests from the Times and other media outlets. But he agreed to tell his story to Todd Schnitt, a conservative radio host on WFLA-AM 970. The two men have known each other since 1996. Their interview ran on the air Tuesday afternoon.

Bulin, 61, described a 1982 operation in which he was hired to help unload a plane filled with more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana as it landed in Alabama from Colombia. Informants in the operation tipped off federal authorities, who were on the scene when the plane landed.

Several people were arrested, though Bulin said he managed to escape and go back to Florida.

"Needless to say it scared the living daylights out of me," he told Schnitt. "I just decided this is not for me. I certainly got away from those people and that crowd."

Nearly five years later — three weeks before the statute of limitations would expire — he was arrested on a charge of conspiracy to distribute drugs. Shortly afterward, in March 1987, he was sentenced to five years of probation and had to pay a $20,000 fine.

After the sentence, his life became much more public. He built Zeagle Systems Inc. into a multi-million dollar company with products sold all over the world. He is the owner of several patents, and divers credit the company with introducing innovative products such as a vest with a rip cord that allows a diver to surface quickly in an emergency.

After his probation ended, he applied to the Florida Parole Commission to have his civil rights restored. His clemency was approved by Gov. Lawton Chiles and the Florida Cabinet in October 1992. But his rights would still be restricted if he ever moved from Florida, and he still couldn't own a gun.

Late in the Clinton administration, he applied for a presidential pardon. In the radio interview he described a 15-20 page application asking dozens of personal questions and requesting several references.

Then he waited. Bulin said he got a call from the federal Pardon Attorney's office about two years ago, and the lawyer asked a few basic questions. On Monday his cell phone rang with a Washington, D.C., number. He couldn't take the call because he was at a physical therapy appointment.

He went back to his office and got the good news.

"I had to pick myself up off the floor," he said. "I about fell out of my chair. It was the last thing on my mind."

Bulin is one of 22 people pardoned during President Barack Obama's time in office. That's out of 4,625 applications.

"I felt like I was worthy of (a pardon)," he told Schnitt. "I was a good person. I've been a good boy for many, many years."

He added: "It kind of solidifies everything I've been doing for the last 30 years to get my life back in order."

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6236.

Presidential pardon brings relief, stirs regret, Wesley Chapel man tells radio station 11/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 7:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Despite soaring home prices, Tampa Bay still an affordable market

    Real Estate

    Times Staff Writer

    Finally, some good news for Tampa Bay home buyers. Despite rising prices, the bay area remains relatively affordable compared to many other parts of the country.

    Despite rising prices, the bay area remains relatively affordable compared to many other parts of the country. [Associated Press file photo]
  2. National economy off to a luckluster start this year

    Business

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy got off to a lackluster start during the first three months of 2017, though it enjoyed more momentum than earlier estimates indicated.

    he U.S. economy got off to a lackluster start during the first three months of 2017, though it enjoyed more momentum than earlier estimates indicated.
[Associated Press file photo]
  3. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  4. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks

    Business

    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  5. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times