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Hillsborough deputies: Counselor who shot man in her office had filed false insurance claim

TAMPA — Deputies have arrested the mental health counselor they say shot a 30-year-old man Monday — but on charges unrelated to the shooting.

While investigating the shooting, detectives say they came across evidence that counselor Sarah A. Hughey, 49, and an unnamed witness sold some of her gold jewelry at a flea market. Then, deputies say, she filed a false police report and false insurance claim on the jewelry.

Deputies have previously reported that Hughey shot ex-prison inmate Arthur Cornelius Howard in the shoulder while the two were alone in her office Monday. No one has been charged in the shooting, which is still under investigation.

Authorities have not elaborated on the pair's relationship, though in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Howard's sister described a personal relationship dating back to Howard's release from federal prison in December.

The sister, Delphanie Thompson, said she saw her brother and the counselor together about a dozen times. She said she saw them hold hands and kiss, and the three went to Ybor City and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

On Wednesday, deputies interviewed a witness who, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter, had "been involved in an intimate relationship with Hughey" for about six months."

She declined to name the witness or say if it was Howard.

She said that based on the witness' statements and ensuing investigation, deputies believe that on Sept. 27, Hughey and the witness went to her Apollo Beach house and retrieved several pieces of gold jewelry. Then they drove to the International Flea Market at 11309 Nebraska Ave.

The witness sold the jewelry for $2,900 at the flea market, deputies reported.

Then on Sept. 29, deputies say, Hughey reported that someone had burglarized the canal-front home she shares with her husband, Robert Hughey. She said she had lost nearly $14,000 in items, including several pieces of 22-carat gold jewelry.

The next week, she filed a claim with her insurance company and got $1,925, deputies said.

Hughey was arrested about 3 p.m. Thursday in a traffic stop near Big Bend Road and Interstate 75. She faces charges of insurance fraud and filing a false report to law enforcement.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Hillsborough deputies: Counselor who shot man in her office had filed false insurance claim 10/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 21, 2011 9:11am]
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