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Man, 59, charged with grand theft in Internet swindle

ST. PETERSBURG — Authorities on Wednesday arrested a St. Petersburg man in connection with an Internet business that doctors, lawyers and bankers say was used to con them out of millions.

John Paul Heintz of the 5100 block of Sandpiper Lane in the upscale Dolphin Cay neighborhood was taken to the Pinellas County Jail and released on $50,000 bond.

The grand theft charge lodged against Heintz, 59, is related to an incident that occurred April 19, 2004, according to the Pinellas Sheriff's Office.

On that date, Heintz, took a $25,000 investment check from St. Petersburg businessman William Nelms. Nelms received only 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.

Over bottles of wine and pricey meals at restaurants like St. Petersburg's Parkshore Grill, Heintz played a high-rolling businessman. He drove a black 2002 Lexus 470 sport utility vehicle and at times sported a pinstriped Armani suit as he persuaded smart, well-to-do clients to invest in his business or allow him to build their Web sites.

"He's such a slick guy, he's going to get your money one way or another," Nelms said after learning of the arrest.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office conducted the investigation as reports in the St. Petersburg Times revealed that Heintz had run numerous business deals that victimized people in three states. Victims included a retired couple in Illinois who invested their entire savings with Heintz and a former bank executive who lost more than $250,000.

"I think it was frustrating to realize that I had put confidence in somebody that was so misplaced," said James Mitchell, the former banking executive. "I'm satisfied that he's not going to any longer be able to hurt people."

Heintz could not be reached for comment.

He recently criticized the news reports about him to a reporter, saying "You assassinated me. … It was an assassination."

Wednesday's arrest is the culmination of two decades of troubles for Heintz.

They began with a series of financial judgments that were followed by personal and business bankruptcies and theft, and assault and weapons charges in the early to late 1990s outside Chicago.

A bespectacled, fast-talking man, Heintz had started computer businesses that proposed to offer software programs and services to other companies.

One of his ideas was the development of a payment system that Mitchell, the banker, described as a precursor to ­PayPal. Though individuals invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into his effort, nothing ever materialized.

His first wife divorced him. He then married Tania Untulis, his daughter's horse riding instructor, who is still his wife.

Together the couple bought pricey homes in the suburbs outside Chicago and in Union Pier, Mich., even as he owed more than $100,000 in back taxes. And he went into business offering Web site development to businesses and individuals.

But, again, he didn't pay his bills or employees he hired.

With lawsuits beginning to hit him, Heintz sold his Illinois and Michigan homes and moved to St. Petersburg, all the while pursued by American Express and other creditors for tens of thousands of dollars in bills. Employees also were after him for unpaid wages and identity theft.

When he came to Florida, he paid cash for a $855,000 home and began working a whole new set of targets.

Nelms, the St. Petersburg businessman, was among the first, with the loss of his $25,000 investment. He thought he might never see justice until media reports told his story.

"It was nice to see that the media actually protected the public," Nelms said. "John Heintz would have continued going on with his plan."

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

Man, 59, charged with grand theft in Internet swindle 04/01/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 10:27pm]
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