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Arrest made in torching of Hernando School Board candidate's SUV

SPRING HILL — A Spring Hill man who has twice served prison time for arson was arrested Thursday in connection with last week's torching of a sport utility vehicle owned by a Brooksville businessman and Hernando School Board candidate, authorities say.

Anthony Thomas Tarduno III, 38, is suspected of setting fire to Gus Guadagnino's Infiniti on the night of July 19 while it was parked in the alley behind Jerry's Place, a popular bar on Spring Hill Drive, Hernando sheriff's officials said Friday.

Tarduno was arrested at a home on Wiltshire Avenue in Spring Hill. The home, listed as Tarduno's address, is about a mile north of Jerry's Place.

Video surveillance released by the Sheriff's Office earlier this week showed a man authorities said was responsible for the fire. The man came out of the bar about 11:10 p.m., walked over to a trash bin and pulled out a bag filled with Pepsi cans, pieces of paper and other bits of trash, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The man stuck the bag of garbage around the right rear tire and lit it. He remained for a few minutes until the smoldering caught fire, then left.

After releasing the video, the Sheriff's Office received several tips implicating Tarduno, according to a news release. Detectives learned that he had been drinking at the Battered Mug on Mariner Boulevard that evening, then walked to Jerry's Place and started drinking shortly before Guadagnino arrived.

Tarduno admitted to drinking at both bars, but claimed he had blacked out during the time frame of the fire, officials said.

Records show he convicted on an arson charge in Hernando County in 1995 and sentenced to a year in prison. He was convicted of the same crime again in 1999, also in Hernando, and sentenced to five years. He was released in 2003.

Later, Tarduno was convicted of burglary with assault and served about five years in prison. He was released in March 2011, records show. His most recent arrest came in November, when he was charged with indecent exposure in Hernando County.

Guadagnino, the semiretired owner of Joni Industries and Seaboard Pencil Co., said Tarduno's name is not familiar and he hasn't been able to come up with a connection that would explain why he might want to damage his property.

"I keep on coming up empty," he said. "It boggles my mind."

Guadagnino is one of four candidates for the District 4 Hernando County School Board seat on the Aug. 14 ballot.

Tarduno remained in the Hernando County Detention Center on Friday in lieu of $25,000 bail.

News researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431.

Arrest made in torching of Hernando School Board candidate's SUV 07/27/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 27, 2012 6:22pm]
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