Prominent Tampa developer and political donor sued by ammunitions company

The company accuses GOP donor Bing Kearney of fraud and failing to pay a big bill.
Published January 1 2016
Updated January 2 2016

TAMPA — A local ammunition importer has filed a lawsuit against developer and prominent Republican donor Charles "Bing" Kearney, alleging that he committed fraud and cost the supplier hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In its lawsuit, Bulova Technologies Europe says Kearney tricked the company into selling him discounted, bulk rifle ammunition that he would then sell through Shooters World, his gun shop and range on Fletcher Avenue in Tampa. To sweeten the deal, Bulova agreed to host an all-expenses-paid pheasant hunting trip for potential buyers of the ammunition, only to discover that instead of buyers, the trip was actually for Kearney, his two sons and nearly a dozen of his employees, according to the lawsuit.

"It completely set (Bulova) back," said Craig Huffman, an attorney for the company. "There was a lot of lost profit."

Bulova's lawsuit revolves around a 2013 contract Kearney signed with the company for 10 containers of .223-caliber rifle ammunition, an order he later changed to 5.56-mm rounds. The contract was worth roughly $1.5 million, according to Huffman, but Kearney never paid the full amount. Instead, after three containers were delivered and paid for, he stopped making purchases.

In the lawsuit, Bulova also claims the company spent about $40,000 on what was supposed to be a marketing event but was actually a hunting excursion in New Jersey for Kearney, his family and employees. Pheasants were brought in, a bagpiper was hired to march at the start of the hunt and hotel rooms were booked, all at Bulova's expense, according to the lawsuit. The company also says that not only were there no potential ammunition buyers on the trip, but there was a rival: a representative from Remington.

The lawsuit claims Kearney's behavior was part of a pattern, a "history of defrauding other parties to which he was in contact with."

Kearney declined to comment, but he referred a reporter to a legal document filed several months ago in another lawsuit against Kearney involving the same contract for ammunition. The motion lays out Kearney's intention to sue Bulova on multiple grounds, including breach of contract and fraud.

In that document, Kearney says it was Bulova, not him, that had violated the contract by "failing to timely deliver the correct brand and quantity of ammunition." According to Kearney, the company took longer than the agreed-upon six weeks to deliver the ammunition, and by the time it did, nationwide demand for ammunition had decreased, causing the value to fall and his company to suffer "substantial monetary damages."

Kearney, 59, rose to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s when his construction, transportation and development businesses grew thanks to a booming housing market. At the same time, he became a regular contributor to the Republican Party and pro-development candidates, doling out campaign cash to Republican County Commissioners Jim Norman and Mark Sharpe, as well as Democrats like Kevin White.

Last year, Kearney and his wife gave $5,400 to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's presidential campaign.

When the housing bubble burst, the more-than-50-year-old Kearney Construction Inc., started by his father, saw its work dry up. By 2009, the business had entered bankruptcy proceedings, a process it emerged from only last year.

In 2013, Kearney and ophthalmologist Greg Henderson — who was once engaged to Attorney General Pam Bondi— opened Shooters World, a gun superstore, with clear intentions to expand. Although there is currently one location, records show Kearney has registered a Shooters World Orlando, an ammunition company called Safety First Ammo, and a business called Pack'n Heat Products.

Times senior researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Anna M. Phillips at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354. Follow @annamphillips.