Once rising political star Angelo Cappelli returns from prison to work for St. Petersburg political consultant

ST. PETERSBURG — Convicted of theft and perjury, disbarred and divorced, onetime rising local political star Angelo Cappelli has landed in an unlikely place.

His employer: Republican political operative Nick Hansen's Poli Solutions Consulting.

Cappelli began working for the 27-year-old Hansen's firm while on work release from prison and continued after his sentence was complete, court records show.

Cappelli has a Safety Harbor office at the business of another friend, real estate executive Peter Monroe, who lost a 2006 bid for the Senate. Monroe is one of Hansen's corporate clients.

Hansen and Monroe, chief executive of National Real Estate Ventures, created the job to help Cappelli get back on his feet before he was released in July, according to records in Cappelli's divorce case.

Hansen's firm, incorporated in St. Petersburg, worked for Mayor-elect Bill Foster's campaign in the final months of this fall's election. Before that, Hansen worked for unsuccessful mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons and as a field operative for presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Hansen is currently helping St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker with his bid to be St. Petersburg College's next president.

Cappelli, 40, did not return numerous phone and e-mail messages. Friends and observers say he has tried to restart his life without politics.

"Angelo has paid his debt and deserves the opportunity to work and provide for his family," Hansen said in an e-mail to the Times. Cappelli is assigned to work with Monroe and "is not affiliated or involved in any political work," Hansen wrote.

Hansen declined to elaborate on what Cappelli does for Monroe's firm.

A former investment adviser and lawyer, Cappelli lost a 2006 bid for the Florida House despite financial advantages and heavy-hitter support from Republicans. He had been a fixture at charity events, giving him a background that made him appealing to political leaders.

Then the bottom fell out. In 2007, he was convicted of grand theft and perjury for pocketing more than $100,000 from the estate of a deceased bank client when he worked at SunTrust Bank.

Disgraced after pleading guilty and repaying the money, he went to prison in January 2008. He was assigned to a Brevard County work camp where he would get served with divorce papers. He served 542 days, a sentence reduced by 96 days for good behavior.

By the time he was freed this July, however, he already was working with Hansen and Monroe, records show. Cappelli joined Hansen's company through a work-release program in Largo, where he was transferred in December 2008.

Monroe, whose company is a nationwide buyer and seller of distressed residential and commercial properties and mortgages, didn't return a message seeking comment.

Political discomfort

Politically, Cappelli's name remains radioactive.

Foster paid $4,500 to Hansen's firm's Safety Harbor address in September and October, according to his campaign finance reports. But Foster said Cappelli was never part of his campaign.

"Quite frankly, that would have made me very uncomfortable," Foster said.

Gibbons said Cappelli, who remains a good friend, also had no role in his campaign.

"That was by choice — his choice," Gibbons said. Cappelli, he said, "is a good man, who served his time. … He's trying to move on with his life in a positive manner."

Baker didn't return a message seeking comment, but Hansen said his work for the mayor's college application was done as a friend for free — without Cappelli's involvement.

Rebuilding a life

By this fall, Cappelli reported being paid $3,750 a month, taking home more than $3,000 after taxes.

It's enough to provide $200 a month for a retirement account, and pay a $40 a month gym membership, court filings say. He has to pay a $1,091 child support payment each month for his two daughters, 12 and 10.

It's a drastic financial fall.

Instead of an $880,000 home he once had built in northeast St. Petersburg, Cappelli's address now is a one-story house, built in 1974, with a red tile roof. His parents bought it for $165,000 in February. He and his wife also received $152,000 in loans from his parents to cover bills in 2007 and 2008, his divorce filings show.

Cappelli still has to resolve disputes over finances involving his divorce.

He has $13,750 in assets and the $152,000 debt, while the couple has shared property worth $75,000 overall, according to his court filings.

Cappelli was hit with a child support delinquency notice in October by the clerk's office. He owed $1,446, according to the notice.

His wife did not return a message seeking comment. But Cappelli, who represents himself in the case, disputed the notice, noting money had been garnisheed from his paycheck after the delinquency notice.

"I'm sure this is just a timing issue, but I did not want this notice to affect my credit," he wrote in a Nov. 4 letter to the court.

In a September court affidavit, Hansen's wife, Riley, promised the court Cappelli is a "hands-on" father who is "loving, nurturing and responsible." Cappelli, she said, has told people he wants to "put the past behind him."

Still, word about his work with Monroe leaked, despite Cappelli's otherwise low profile.

"Everybody has to be able to make a living," said Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield, a political consultant and Safety Harbor resident. "Angelo is a graduate of Yale University. … He is very well educated."

But does he have a political future? Brickfield demurred.

"I would imagine he's concentrating on providing a good living for his family."

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Once rising political star Angelo Cappelli returns from prison to work for St. Petersburg political consultant 12/26/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 28, 2009 7:12am]

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