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Stephen Ayoub, father of Safety Harbor commissioner, has hearing in fraud case

SAFETY HARBOR — More than four years ago, Janis English handed over more than a quarter-million dollars to the father of Safety Harbor Commissioner Joseph Ayoub.

Stephen Ayoub was to use the money to pay English's bills, keep her financial affairs in order and do anything else she requested.

English's daughter, Denice Galbreath, said the elder Ayoub did anything but and now her 67-year-old mother lives on $602 a month.

"I called him every single day," Galbreath said. "I sent him an e-mail every single day. I have over 300 e-mails that I sent him and I have over 100 responses from him assuring us we'll get the money next week, next week, next week. I went to his house. I knocked on his door. Finally, I told him you've left me no choice."

Pinellas County sheriff's deputies arrested him Jan. 22 on a charge of uttering forged bills, checks, drafts, notes — a third-degree felony.

In court files, detectives with the Clearwater police say Ayoub tendered a fraudulent promissory note to English for $156,230, the amount he owed her. The note appeared to be notarized, but was actually photocopied.

At a pretrial hearing this morning, English may or may not get some relief.

"We are working diligently with the State Attorney's Office to reach a global settlement in this matter," Jay Hebert, Ayoub's attorney, said Wednesday evening. "We're probably going to be continuing (the hearing) another week or two because we're finalizing the details. There's always a chance it could get worked out in the morning."

The elder Ayoub said English isn't the victim; he is.

"I'm being forced into a settlement," he said. "I'm being extorted. Surely you are aware of Ms. English's implications and the fraud that she has committed."

Beyond a 1987 bankruptcy, a check of English's background came back clean.

Reached Wednesday afternoon, Commissioner Joseph Ayoub said he didn't have any comment about his father's legal problems.

Chief assistant state attorney Bruce Bartlett said nothing suggests "any involvement whatsoever of the son."

• • •

Galbreath said she didn't want to handle her mother's financial affairs; she wanted an expert to do that.

She said she had other things to worry about. Her mother was recovering from a stroke and her daughter was recuperating from a car accident that left her severely burned. "I had my hands full," Galbreath said. "He had come highly recommended."

She said she didn't check the background of Ayoub or his company.

Things started out well in 2005, Galbreath said. Ayoub paid all of her mother's bills on time. Then, in October 2008, one of English's checks bounced. Her mother had never bounced a check. Galbreath said she called Ayoub, frantic.

"When I called him," she said, "he goes, 'I'm sorry. No big deal. I'll take care of it. I made a mistake and sent it from the wrong account.' "

She didn't know that in August 2008, Pinellas County sheriff's deputies had arrested Ayoub on an insurance fraud charge, an incident Hebert hopes to resolve as part of the global settlement. In that case, court records show, Ayoub tried to get Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. to reimburse him for nearly $700 in falsified charges he said he incurred after a car accident.

Galbreath said she asked, pleaded, then demanded Ayoub return the remainder of her mother's money.

She and her mother met with Ayoub at his Clearwater home and he agreed to draw up a promissory note for them, according to an affidavit from the Clearwater detective assigned to the Ayoub case.

A Clearwater police investigation would later find that a Washington Mutual Bank employee "did notarize something for Stephen Ayoub but she did not notarize the promissory note shown to her."

According to the affidavit, "The notary signature and notary stamp had been removed from the document she had actually notarized and Stephen Ayoub placed it in a promissory note and photocopied it."

• • •

Galbreath said the last four years have put a strain on her life and her mother's.

Medical expenses after her mother's stroke have gone unpaid. "She owed a physical therapist thousands of dollars," Galbreath said.

Repairs to a hole in her mother's roof have gone unattended. "When it rains," she said, "it's like a monsoon in her house."

She looks forward to a resolution in the case. "It's ridiculous that my mom has had to suffer," she said.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Stephen Ayoub, father of Safety Harbor commissioner, has hearing in fraud case 03/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 8:20pm]
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