Saturday, June 16, 2018
News Roundup

Attorney: Criminal charges likely for resigning Port Richey mayor

PORT RICHEY — An attorney says federal prosecutors will likely file criminal charges in the coming weeks against Richard Rober, the Port Richey mayor who resigned this week amid an IRS inquiry into unpaid taxes.

"I'm anticipating they will be charged with failing to pay taxes and filing a false tax return," said Douglas de Vlaming, the Clearwater attorney representing Rober and his wife, Averill. "I think it's a very sad situation for which they are taking full responsibility."

De Vlaming said the U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating his clients. Officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office and IRS declined to comment.

It remains unclear how much income the couple failed to report, but de Vlaming said simply paying back the IRS would not be enough to avoid criminal charges.

"It doesn't work that way," he said. "The message is make sure you disclose all your income."

Rober, 52, announced his resignation Wednesday evening in City Hall, reading a prepared statement with his wife by his side and supporters in the room. He told the Times afterward that the IRS audit stemmed from a civil lawsuit filed in 2009.

The Robers are former owners of Gator Water and Wastewater Management Inc., a Pasco utility contractor. After Rober first took office in 2007, the couple sold their business to a Hudson utility operator known as Florida Utility Group Holdings Inc., with a promise that their company was free of all debts.

But the lawsuit claims a closer review by the new owners revealed an orchestrated operation by Rober during his years as Gator Water vice president to funnel about half a million dollars of company money into a personal fund he hid from accountants, the utility and the IRS.

That lawsuit is still pending, but has been put on hold for more than a year, according to Florida Utility Group's attorney John Colton. Now the lawsuit may be put off longer as they await the outcome of Rober's possible federal legal troubles, according to Colton.

Colton scoffed at Rober's explanation that his tax problems stemmed from the lawsuit.

"It stems from him not paying his taxes," Colton said. "I can say that my client was terribly surprised at what he found when he bought this company."

This is not the first time Rober has been investigated over financial dealings.

In 1994, he was arrested and charged with two counts of grand theft and two counts of perjury in Hernando County, where he helped his father run a business called Rober Construction. Authorities at the time said Rober signed paperwork that falsely stated that subcontractors had been paid for work on an office building.

Rober said his father's death in the summer of 1994 sent the company into financial disarray, leading to bankruptcy for the business.

On Thursday he said he fully cooperated with authorities in Hernando, and that the 1994 arrest was the only mechanism authorities had to begin the process of paying the subcontractors, which he said he welcomed.

Rober said he entered into a court diversion program in which he could make payments to the subcontractors, which eventually amounted to around $38,000. He said he does not remember the final adjudication in the case, but he had the matter expunged around 2007 or 2008.

"It was clear I never took any money from anyone," he said.

Rober said he has garnered support from the community since announcing his resignation, but left it up to others to decide what the public's perception of him may be. In the meantime, he said, he and his wife continue to work at their jobs: He is a salesman for BETER Mix concrete company, and his wife is a personal trainer.

"Maybe this is another hurdle we have to get past. Sometimes those hurdles will try you," Rober said. "But I want to make it clear that we are taking full responsibility for this."

Times staff writer Lee Logan and researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

Comments
Catholic diocese celebrates 50 years in Tampa Bay and forges plan for the future

Catholic diocese celebrates 50 years in Tampa Bay and forges plan for the future

ST. PETERSBURG — At his installation as spiritual leader of Tampa Bay’s Catholics, Bishop Gregory Parkes promised to take time to get to know his people, listen to what they had to say and work to discern a plan for the future.On Sunday, 17 months la...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Peering into the crystal baseball to see what Rays could look like in 2019

Peering into the crystal baseball to see what Rays could look like in 2019

The Rays are still talking, as they should, about playing for something this season. The reality is that almost every move they've made, going back to the end of last season, and in some cases further, has been about 2019 and beyond.Clearing out vete...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A fentanyl death. A crackdown on opioid dealers. Will it help?

A fentanyl death. A crackdown on opioid dealers. Will it help?

TAMPA — Loueita Hargens had known for years how her son Bradley Dykes would die. She had seen him cycle through drugs of choice, had lost track of the number of times he’d wound up in the hospital or prison.A recovering alcoholic herself, she cut him...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays lose again to Yankees, this time 4-1

Rays lose again to Yankees, this time 4-1

NEW YORK – The Rays had their problems against the Yankees again Saturday, losing 4-1.This one was pretty much a lost cause all the way around, as they didn't pitch well, didn't hit much until the ninth and didn't look good in the field.The res...
Updated: 2 hours ago
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Updated: 3 hours ago
A woman went to check her corn - and was swallowed by a python

A woman went to check her corn - and was swallowed by a python

For the second time in barely more than a year, an Indonesian villager has been swallowed whole by a python.Wa Tiba, 54, left her home on Muna island to visit her cornfield on Thursday night, according to the Jakarta Post.The field was about a half m...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Mazzaro’s Italian Market closed after Friday night warehouse fire

Mazzaro’s Italian Market closed after Friday night warehouse fire

ST. PETERSBURG — Mazzaro’s Italian Market will be closed throughout the weekend after a warehouse fire broke out Friday.A St. Petersburg Police officer noticed smoke coming from the market at 22nd Ave. N around midnight Friday, said St. Petersburg F...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Climate change is moving fish around faster than laws can handle, study says

Climate change is moving fish around faster than laws can handle, study says

Fish don’t follow international boundaries or understand economic trade agreements. Different species live in regions all over the globe. If that wasn’t complicated enough, they also migrate as they age."It’s like trying to raise cattle when you’ve t...
Updated: 6 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Yankees, trying to break through

For starters: Rays at Yankees, trying to break through

UPDATE, 11:49: Cash said he played Cron at 1B in an effort to get him more involved in the game, indicated he may do so again Sunday (with Bauers off vs. LH Sabathia) and should have done so more as Cron struggled. … Cash reiterated that CF Kev...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

SAN FRANCISCO - The cold, steely arm of Fernando the Barista swirled the foam of my matcha latte, set it down gently, and waved goodbye from inside a glass case. San Francisco, 2018. Where you can get robot pizza and robot salad, and now, a robot mat...
Updated: 8 hours ago