Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Arrest puts familiar Tarpon Springs name Fred W. "Bill" Howard back in news

TARPON SPRINGS — Fred W. "Bill" Howard made a name for himself in his native Tarpon Springs as a real estate developer in the 1980s.

But he left the area after a series of controversies, from his dealings with the Church of Scientology to a failed business venture that ended in bankruptcy, several longtime Tarpon Springs residents said this week.

"He disappeared off the face of the Earth," said City Manager Mark LeCouris. "I hadn't seen him in over 20 years."

Howard, 62, who rose to prominence in the 1980s, made headlines again this week when he was arrested Tuesday at his Tarpon Springs home, accused with three other men of defrauding Florida investors out of $1.3 million by selling fraudulent promissory notes.

The grandson of the late Fred H. Howard, a four-term Tarpon Springs mayor for whom Fred Howard Park is named, he was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on Tuesday and transferred to Sarasota County, where the warrant for his arrest originated, on Thursday.

He was being held in the Sarasota County Jail in lieu of $44,000 bail Thursday evening.

The fraudulent investments were sold through offices and employees of First Liberty Group LLC, where Howard worked as a salesman, according to Mike Morrison, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

• • •

Howard attended local schools before becoming a well-known real estate developer in the 1980s.

In 1978, while serving as the president of the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce, he was elected to the City Commission and served until 1981.

But rumors of Howard's connections to the Church of Scientology began to circulate during his tenure on the commission. Howard, some said, was trying to help the church buy property in Tarpon Springs.

"I always thought, for the city, he did a great job," said Jim Kolianos, who served on the commission with Howard. "I know there were some shady things, and we busted him pretty good about being a Scientologist. It was taboo back then."

In September 1980, as some community leaders were expressing their disapproval of the church, Howard released a statement that said he had taken some Scientology courses and had found the church to be "positive" and "ethical."

He later said that he never became a church member and that he decided not to run for another term on the commission because of the controversy his statements had stirred up.

Also in 1980, Howard, called "Young Bill" by many in town, was accused by three of his fellow commissioners of violating the state's Sunshine Law. He was accused of approaching them privately to lobby for a zoning change that would benefit one of his clients. The zoning change was not approved, and the commissioners declined to file a complaint.

Legal and financial troubles began to mount for Howard by the mid 1980s.

He was convicted of drunken driving in 1984 and 1987. In the later case, Howard was later charged with violating the terms of his probation, accused of failing to comply with a judge's order that he remain on house arrest for one month.

In a February 1987 St. Petersburg Times article about the violation, Howard denied the allegation, saying, "It's popular and fashionable to get Bill Howard right now. I'll be glad when that's over."

A judge sentenced Howard to another year of probation with several restrictions on his activities. Instead, Howard chose to spend 30 days in jail.

Between the DUI arrests, in 1985, he was cited for leaving the scene of an accident after his Mercedes was found crashed into a utility pole. Howard was not with the vehicle, but came to the scene later and told police the car had been stolen.

He was charged with filing a false police report, but the case was dismissed, court records show.

• • •

Howard also came under fire for some of his business dealings with Anclote Property Corp., a real estate development firm he formed with lifelong friend John Tsavaris.

When reached by telephone Thursday, Tsavaris said he was too busy to talk, but said he had not heard of Howard's arrest.

"Fred's a nice guy and a good friend, and I wish him well is all I can tell you," he said.

The company developed a solid reputation in the city, where it developed one of the largest subdivisions, built condominiums overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and spearheaded the renovation of the old Tarpon Springs Arcade building.

But by 1986, Howard and the company were in trouble.

Performers and vendors at a spring festival sponsored by Anclote Property complained that Howard did not pay them as promised.

The city paid the bills until Howard eventually came up with the $11,000 about nine months later.

Meanwhile, Howard's company was being sued for nonpayment by various creditors. In March 1987, Anclote Property filed for bankruptcy, listing debts of $12.9 million and assets of $11.8 million.

The corporation was officially dissolved in 1988.

Howard disappeared from news articles and Pinellas court records shortly thereafter.

So, too, did he disappear from Tarpon Springs, those who knew him said Thursday.

Former Mayor Anita Protos said she hadn't seen him "in years" until she ran into him at Publix a few months ago.

"I didn't even know he was back in town until I read (about his arrest) in the paper," Kolianos said.

Rita Farlow can be reached at or (727) 445-4157.

Arrest puts familiar Tarpon Springs name Fred W. "Bill" Howard back in news 03/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 18, 2010 8:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trumps travel ban to be replaced by restrictions tailored to certain countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, the New York Times reports, citing officials familiar with the plans.

    President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans said Friday. The new restrictions, aimed at preventing security threats from entering the United States, could go into effect Sunday after the conclusion of a 90-day policy review undertaken as part of the administration's original travel ban. Though the restrictions would differ for each country, people living in the targeted nations could be prevented from traveling to the United States or could face increased scrutiny as they seek to obtain a visa. [Associated Press]
  2. New World Brewery is closing. Where will all its concerts go now?


    Ever since it was announced that New World Brewery was closing its beloved Ybor City location and relocating to a spot farther north, there’s been an outpouring of nostalgia from artists, promoters and fans throughout the Tampa Bay music scene.

    Allison Weiss performed at New World Brewery in 2015.
  3. Farewell, New World Brewery: 11 Tampa music scene regulars toast a beloved venue


    It's hard to put into words what New World Brewery has meant to the Tampa music scene over the past 22 years.

    Matt Burke and Have Gun, Will Travel, shown performing at New World Brewery in 2009. Burke credits the venue with shaping how the band wanted to develop.
  4. Betsy DeVos rescinds Obama-era rules on campus sexual assault


    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said over and over again that sexual assault on campus is an issue she wants to get right.

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
  5. In dollars: How valuable are Florida's university football programs?


    The University of Florida football program is valued in a new study at $682 million, making it the most valuable university team in the state but still worth far less than several college programs topping $1 billion. Four years ago, UF's program was valued at just under $600 million.

    The University of Florida football program is valued at  $682 million, making it the most valuable by far in the Sunshine State. Pictured are UF cheerleaders leading the crowd in a Gator cheer on Clearwater Beach last December during the Outback Bowl Beach Day on Clearwater Beach. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]