Saturday, June 16, 2018
Public safety

Fugitive mortgage broker linked to investment scheme arrested in Tampa

TAMPA — A fugitive mortgage broker who attorneys said bilked small-time investors out of more than $350,000 peddling risky and unlicensed home-loan securities was arrested Monday night in Tampa.

Tampa police stopped John Steve Tsavaris, who was driving a Jeep Wrangler with an expired license plate, about 7 p.m. near Gandy Boulevard and S Himes Avenue, Hillsborough sheriff's records show.

Tsavaris, 67, had been wanted since January, when a Pinellas County judge found him in civil contempt. Tsavaris was transferred to the Pinellas County Jail, where he remained Tuesday.

Tsavaris repeatedly avoided a 2012 order to pay back two Florida investors who were taken in by the same kinds of "toxic" mortgage-backed securities that helped usher in the housing crisis, court records show.

Though Tsavaris was not licensed to sell securities, court records show, he employed a "smile and dial" boiler room to peddle them. Sellers promised that the securities, backed by bundles of homeowners' mortgage payments, would net investors strong profits, like 11 percent returns.

Tsavaris' Home Saving Mortgage Corp. coordinated thousands of subprime home loans and refinancings across the state before crumbling during the housing crash.

The Largo brokerage had, during the frothiest days of the housing bubble, employed a large-scale telemarketing operation that could make a quarter-million calls a week.

One investor, a Tampa elementary school teacher who met Tsavaris at a "self-development transformation seminar," was 28 when she invested $225,000 that she and her husband had inherited after her mother's recent death, depositions show.

Another investor, an 81-year-old widow in Cocoa Beach, took out a reverse mortgage on her paid-off condo and invested more than $133,000 — all while attorneys said Tsavaris knew his investment operation was falling apart.

Comments
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: 3 hours 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: 5 hours ago
St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

ST. PETERSBURG — Police arrested a man Friday in connection with a 31-year-old sexual assault case and believe he’s connected to other unsolved cases from decades ago.Anthony Stokes, 56, faces a charge of armed sexual battery, according to St. Peters...
Published: 06/15/18
Records detail Wrigley heir’s $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

Records detail Wrigley heir’s $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

ODESSA — One day in the summer of 2014, Helen Rich spotted a Facebook post about an aging black Labrador in Kansas named Lady who badly needed a new home. The author and heir to the Wrigley gum fortune had recently lost her own Black lab. Rich decide...
Published: 06/15/18
Hillsborough Hispanic women targeted in lottery scam

Hillsborough Hispanic women targeted in lottery scam

TAMPA — Maria Pena-Lebron, 83, was walking out of Fresco y Mas with her groceries in May when she was approached by a woman wearing a straw hat, who pleaded with her for help. The stranger claimed to be an undocumented immigrant and therefore unable ...
Published: 06/15/18
Tampa fire captain demoted for stripping off shirt, daring homeless man to fight

Tampa fire captain demoted for stripping off shirt, daring homeless man to fight

TAMPA — Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Jeremy Finney was, by all accounts, a model firefighter — until he lost his cool. The outburst cost him two ranks.Finney has served nearly 16 years in the department and was a member of the Tactical Medical Response Te...
Published: 06/15/18
Coaster that derailed in Daytona Beach had reported safety issues in 2017

Coaster that derailed in Daytona Beach had reported safety issues in 2017

DAYTONA BEACH — Two roller coaster riders fell 34 feet (10 meters) when their car derailed and was left dangling from the track, and firefighters used ladders to pull eight others to safety high above the Daytona Beach Boardwalk. "The front car which...
Published: 06/15/18
Largo man accused of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend’s toddler

Largo man accused of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend’s toddler

A Largo man is facing kidnapping and attempted murder charges after authorities say he took his ex-girlfriend’s 2-year-old child last weekend and rammed another man’s car to get away.Johnny A. Wise, 27, was arrested late Thursday on Williams Drive ne...
Published: 06/15/18
Charges dropped against two UCF fraternity members accused of rape

Charges dropped against two UCF fraternity members accused of rape

ORLANDO — Prosecutors have dropped charges against two University of Central Florida students — one of whom is from Hillsborough County — who were accused of raping a woman at a fraternity party.The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Orange-Osceola St...
Published: 06/15/18
2 killed when vehicle struck by train in Polk County

2 killed when vehicle struck by train in Polk County

FROSTPROOF — Two people were killed when their vehicle was struck by a train early Friday morning.Polk County deputies say the crash occurred on westbound U.S. 98 near Western Avenue just after 3 a.m.Westbound lanes on U.S. 98 are expected to be clo...
Published: 06/15/18