Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Former Hernando builder faces jail time

BROOKSVILLE — Steven Bartlett once lived a lavish lifestyle fueled by one of the greatest housing booms in Hernando County history.

Tales of the Coral Bay home builder's epic spending on motorcycles, craps tables and luxury trips illustrated how many people in the area profited from the influx of homes a few years back.

And now, in a fitting parallel to the larger housing industry, Bartlett finds himself in the tank.

He celebrated his 41st birthday in jail after a jury found him guilty of bilking thousands of dollars from hundreds of customers in Hernando and Pasco counties who never received the homes they were promised.

This morning, Bartlett, former president of Coral Bay Construction Inc., will learn how many more birthdays he'll spend behind bars.

Senior Circuit Judge William Swigert will sentence him on one felony count of grand theft of $100,000 or more. The minimum punishment is two years in prison; the maximum is 30.

Assistant State Attorney Phil Hanson will recommend that the judge give Bartlett a minimum of 10 years. A presentence investigation by the state probation office suggested that he serve 20 years.

Prosecutors will also ask a judge to order Bartlett to pay restitution to his customers, though the issue will probably get settled in a future hearing. Total losses for the 100-plus victims — homeowners and subcontractors, alike — are estimated at more than $4-million.

Pessimistic that Bartlett will ever satisfy the debt, prosecutors favor punishment ahead of payment.

"I think it's a pipe dream to think that he can make any meaningful restitution," said Assistant State Attorney Mark Simpson, who oversaw the case as head of the public integrity division. "The only way he is going to pay for what he did is time off his life."

Most victims feel the same. Dozens are expected to attend the hearing, which was moved to a larger courtroom to accommodate the crowd.

Among them will be Ann Marie Galea, who paid Coral Bay $26,000 toward a new home and only received a cleared lot.

"I just don't believe it was bad business and he didn't know what he was doing," she said, reciting Bartlett's defense argument. "I think he should receive a substantial sentence."

Galea, 63, said that she is disabled and that her condition was made worse from all the stress she endured during the building process. For her, no punishment can return what she lost.

"It's taken a toll on my health, and unfortunately I can't put that behind me," she said.

Bartlett's attorney, Donald Harrison of Tampa, did not return calls seeking comment. He is expected to argue for the minimum sentence so that Bartlett can work to pay restitution.

Ahead of this morning's hearing, Harrison sent the judge nearly 40 character reference letters in support of his client. They came from family members and friends, along with former customers who were pleased with Coral Bay's work.

Annette Shanley of Weeki Wachee is one of Bartlett's supporters who wrote a letter. She said in an interview that Bartlett built her two homes and went out of his way to meet her needs.

"Steve is not a person that takes from somebody. Steve is a giver," she said.

Debbie Boilore of Brooksville said Bartlett built numerous homes for her and her family in recent years. Like Shanley, she doesn't think Bartlett deserves prison time.

"I feel if the judge gives him a lesser sentence he's still young enough to do something with his life and pay restitution," she said.

The letters sent to the court also demonstrate the effect any sentence would have on Bartlett's family.

His 17-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, said she is devastated by the thought that her father won't be there to see her graduate from high school next year.

"Our house isn't the same without my father here," she wrote. "It's full of sadness and helplessness."

John Frank can be reached at or (352)


Former Hernando builder faces jail time 04/15/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 20, 2008 10:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here

    The Heater


    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, they better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher they can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep paying tech expert suspected of stealing House computers?


    The following is from the Miami Herald:

  3. GOP senators blink on a big chance to repeal 'Obamacare'


    WASHINGTON — After seven years of emphatic campaign promises, Senate Republicans demonstrated Wednesday they don't have the stomach to repeal "Obamacare" when it really counts, as the Senate voted 55-45 to reject legislation undoing major portions of Barack Obama's law without replacing it.

    U.S. Sen. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) talks with reporters as he walks to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington, DC. [Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
  4. Rick Baker's debate answer revives painful St. Pete controversy


    ST. PETERSBURG — Former Mayor Bill Foster fired one of his top administrators, Goliath Davis III, six years ago for disobeying an order to attend the funeral of a slain police officer.

    St. Petersburg police officers stand by two caskets before the beginning of the 2011 funeral services for Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD   |  Times]
  5. Plan your weekend July 28-30: Comic Con, Lady Antebellum, Margarita Wars, Tampa's Fourth Friday


    Plan your weekend

    Geek out

    Tampa Bay Comic Con: The fan convention returns to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend, bringing actors Val Kilmer, Kate Beckinsale, Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek's Lt. Uhura), Khary Payton (Ezekiel in The Walking Dead) and the …

    Ibri Day poses for a photo at opening day of the 2015 Tampa Bay Comic Con at the Tampa Convention Center. (Friday, July 31, 2015.) [Photo Luis Santana | Times]