PORT RICHEY — Until last year, Kenneth Zydor was known for his spectacular fireworks displays, which lit up his Miller's Bayou neighborhood every Fourth of July.
Last summer, the pyrotechnics stopped without warning, along with the annual Fourth of July bash Zydor threw at his big house. There were none this Fourth of July, either. Nothing but the sound of a single gunshot: Early Sunday, Zydor was shot in the chest, leaving him in critical condition at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.
As Zydor's condition improved to fair Tuesday afternoon, details of the shooting — and of his relationship to the man who police say shot him, James Flareau — remained elusive.
Port Richey police arrested Flareau, 49, just minutes after a witness called 911, then charged him with attempted murder. But they have not released a motive.
They say Flareau and Zydor were engaged in a "wrestling match" outside Zydor's house at 5040 Miller Bayou Drive just before 5 a.m. Sunday. Then Flareau pulled out a silver 1380 ACP caliber pistol and shot Zydor in the chest once, according to a police report.
"I just shot him," Flareau reportedly told a witness. "He put me down."
Flareau put the pistol down and waited as three Port Richey police officers arrived to arrest him.
Both men are natives of the Long Island town of West Islip, N.Y., and moved to Pasco County, where they live within 5 miles of one another — Zydor on Miller Bayou, Flareau at 8230 Pala Court.
Flareau, who records show has run a variety of local lawncare and medical technology businesses but is now unemployed, has no previous record of criminal history in Florida. Details of his life on Long Island are unknown.
But Zydor made headlines up there two decades ago for masterminding an ATM fraud scheme that netted him $200,000 in cash.
Until 1989, Zydor was the No. 2 computer expert in Citibank's ATM security department, but was fired for excessive absences, according to a September 1992 Newsday report.
In 1992, he was convicted of using his computer expertise to program the ATMs to issue money without recording the transactions, then collected $200,000 from nine Citibank machines between April 1988 and December 1989. Federal prosecutors accused him of using the money to feed his crack cocaine addiction.
"Kenneth Zydor's incessant drug use is the underlying motive for the crimes charged in this case," government papers filed in federal court said.
He was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
The year Zydor began his ATM scheme, police raided his home in an unrelated drug case and found 14 people living there, using drugs, according to the Newsday report.
By 2001, Zydor and his family — his wife, Christine Zydor; his son, Kenneth Zydor Jr.; and his daughter, Stephanie Zydor — had left Long Island to start a credit card processing company they called #1 Worldwide Payment Systems in New Port Richey. The company was dissolved in 2002, but the Zydors founded another company, Merchants First Corp., in 2004.
Zydor met Flareau through Flareau's sister-in-law, Susan Flareau, who worked for one of Zydor's companies at one time.
In 2005, Zydor bought the two-story, three-bathroom home with a pool, sundeck, jacuzzi, dock and seawall on Miller Bayou Drive with wife, Christine, for nearly $1.23 million.
The Zydors' Port Richey neighbors said Kenneth Zydor rarely socialized with the other Miller Bayou households.
"I only met him when he first moved in," said Chester Jasak, who lives four doors down, echoing other neighbors.
Still, he was known around the neighborhood for his loud parties, although neighbors said recently he cut back on the parties and the stream of people who used to come to his house from the early morning until late at night.
That changed early Sunday, when his house became a crime scene full of police and medical personnel.
Times staff writers Drew Harwell and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.