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John Paul Heintz, accused of defrauding Web site and software clients, is held on grand theft charges

A 59-year-old St. Petersburg man accused of defrauding a businessman for money to help his Internet business now faces five counts of grand theft in related schemes.

John Paul Heintz, of the 5100 block of Sandpiper Lane S in Dolphin Cay, was being held in lieu of $235,000 bail after police arrested him Sunday on the latest charges.

Heintz's clients — an array of well-to-do figures that include doctors, lawyers, bankers and other savvy businesspeople — say he conned them out of millions of dollars through software and Web site proposals that were faulty or never materialized.

Heintz left a trail of tears behind him from Illinois to Michigan to Florida, as he promised lucrative returns for investors and a boost in sales from Web sites for his clients.

But many say they were left empty-handed, including a retired Illinois couple that lost $450,000 — their entire retirement. The couple said they trusted him in part because their daughter and Heintz's daughter trained to ride horses together, so they thought they knew him.

Police first arrested Heintz on April 1 on charges he stole $25,000 from St. Petersburg businessman William Nelms, who thought he was investing in a business venture. Nelms got a letter acknowledging receipt of the money that was supposed to give him a 1.25 percent interest in one of Heintz's businesses, but little else followed other than unfulfilled promises.

Nelms and others say Heintz appeared well-to-do and his affable personality warmed people to him. Over bottles of wine and pricey restaurant meals, he played a high-rolling businessman. He drove a black 2002 Lexus 470 sport utility vehicle and at times sported a pin-striped Armani suit as he persuaded clients to invest in his business or allow him to build their Web sites.

But clients began complaining that Heintz wasn't delivering. He showed a pattern over 20 years of questionable dealings that led to arrests in Illinois, lawsuits and divorce from his first wife.

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332.

John Paul Heintz, accused of defrauding Web site and software clients, is held on grand theft charges 07/26/09 [Last modified: Sunday, July 26, 2009 11:24pm]

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