TAMPA — The niece of Lazydays RV Super Center founder Don Wallace got people's attention when she accused him of molesting her as a child and fathering her little girl.
Wallace denounced the allegations, and a DNA test earlier this year absolved him of the paternity issue.
The Tampa philanthropist may be the most prominent man Samantha Harris has accused, but he isn't the first.
Harris, who spent some of her childhood in the Tampa Bay area and now resides in Columbia, S.C., has falsely blamed at least six men for getting her pregnant, according to an investigation conducted by the Cohen, Jayson & Foster law firm, which represents Wallace.
One of those men told the St. Petersburg Times that he married Harris out of a sense of duty, only for her to claim on their Hawaiian honeymoon that she had "self-aborted" the fetus.
Harris has one daughter, 6-year-old Sabrina. Before accusing Wallace of fathering the child, Harris led another man to believe that he was the girl's father. A DNA test more than five years after Sabrina's birth proved that he was not, records show.
"Bizarre, isn't it?" said Wallace, 59.
Recorded interviews by the law firm's investigators show that Harris, 27, told some of the men that she was a child psychiatrist who was soon going to come into a lot of cash from her rich relatives. In fact, she had not graduated from college, and the money never materialized.
Authorities say she went to new extremes by filing a false police report accusing her uncle of impregnating her, then plotting with her parents to extort $1.2-million from Wallace in exchange for keeping quiet about the alleged sexual abuse.
The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office has charged Harris and her parents, Clyde and Marion "Connie" Strickland, with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion. They are set to be arraigned in court on Friday.
Extensive e-mails sent to Wallace from Connie Strickland, his sister, indicate that she knew her daughter was mentally ill. Four years ago, Strickland told Wallace that Harris had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder accompanied by borderline personality disorder.
In an August 2005 e-mail, Strickland said she had learned that lying was "a major part" of Harris' diagnosis. That same month, the mother was clearly distressed after learning that her daughter had "tricked" a man from church into having sex with her and then claimed that he had impregnated her.
"This is a lie," Strickland wrote to her daughter's counselor. She added that she needed Harris' doctor "to understand the extent of her lies and how bad they have become. ... Samantha does not appear to have a conscience."
Two men in particular felt the sting of Harris' lies — her husbands.
Allan D. Harris, an Army dentist, killed himself in July 2004 after just a couple months of marriage. In his suicide note, Harris spoke of debts his wife had accumulated during their short union and her arrest for writing bad checks.
"Samantha is dishonest and/or sick and cannot be trusted," Allan Harris wrote. "Samantha has lied to me every day I have known her."
Greg Koenig, Harris' second husband, said her parents never told him about her history of mental illness. They met at a church picnic and began dating in August 2006. Not long after, she said she was pregnant.
"I felt like it was pretty much the right thing to do to go ahead and take responsibility," he said, explaining his decision to marry Harris that December.
Koenig, 36, said Harris led him to believe she was a child psychiatrist. Her phone would ring in the middle of the night, and she would put on scrubs and tell him she had to go take care of patients. She told him she was going to become chief of staff at a medical institute after their wedding. He later learned she was a patient there.
"She was pretty believable, that's for sure," he said. "She did a good job of spinning this web."
The truth came out three weeks into the marriage. Koenig left, and the marriage was annulled.
On behalf of her family, Harris politely declined to comment for this story. In an e-mail this summer to her uncle, she blamed Wallace for teaching her to lie.
Tampa attorney Jason Rogozinski, who represents Harris and the Stricklands, said Friday that he was unaware of Harris' prior false pregnancy claims.
"As far as my dealing with her, she seems to be a very nice person," he said. "It's unfortunate that she has to face these charges and these allegations, and now she's going to be the center of a media spectacle."
Wallace, who owns the biggest mansion on Bayshore Boulevard and donates large amounts of money to charitable causes, said his older sister has long resented his Lazydays success. She feels he owes her money.
But he is at a loss to explain why she has chosen to believe Harris' charges against him, given her past.
"She absolutely, positively knows that her daughter's lying," he said. "There's no way she doesn't know."
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3337.