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Police: Well-traveled con man takes Tampa woman for $115,000 in Super Bowl tickets

Thomas Coelho duped a woman out of $115,000 worth of Super Bowl tickets, police say.

Thomas Coelho duped a woman out of $115,000 worth of Super Bowl tickets, police say.

ST. PETERSBURG — Unpaid debts. Broken promises. Criminal charges.

Authorities say Thomas Coelho, a 40-year-old St. Petersburg ticket broker, has left behind a trail of legal and financial carnage in five states.

His latest mess, police say, is right here in Tampa Bay.

Coelho was arrested Thursday on a charge of scheming to defraud, accused of agreeing to sell $115,000 worth of Super Bowl XLIII tickets for a Tampa woman.

Rosy Conto, 55, said he never paid her a cent — but he did bounce two $30,000 checks.

"The guy is a liar," she said. "You can't believe a word he says."

Conto, who owns her own construction firm, said she bought the tickets as a fundraiser for Diddy's Good Life Experience bash in Clearwater during Super Bowl week. She said she was on the sponsorship committee.

But the plan fell through, she said, and she was stuck with 24 tickets she had bought with her own money — 16 were for a whole luxury suite. She said Coelho was supposed to sell the tickets online at StubHub to help Conto recoup her losses. Instead, police say she lost the tickets and her money.

She said he ignored numerous calls she made demanding her money back. During a call she made in April, Coelho said he couldn't talk. He said he was in Augusta, Ga. — at the Masters.

"I'm like son-of-a-gun," Conto said. "I'm suffering, I have to make payroll and you're at the Masters?"

St. Petersburg Detective Randy Adams believes Coelho sold the tickets and pocketed the money. He also seems to tell the same story whenever he's in trouble.

"He admits he got the tickets, he admits he sold the tickets, he admits he gave her rubber checks," the detective said. "But it's the same thing. He always says, 'It's a big misunderstanding. Nothing happened here.'

"But then I started looking into him and it was obvious this guy causes problems wherever he goes."

There's the broken promises of revitalizing downtown New Haven, Conn., in the 1990s with a comedy club headlined by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld. There's also a conviction for larceny in Connecticut, a civil suit in Massachusetts and the failed purchase of Sarasota News & Books, according to news reports.

Last year, Coelho left a St. Petersburg restaurant group after his past was unearthed by the St. Petersburg Times.

"He likes to rub elbows with the rich and nearly famous in the Tampa Bay area," Adams said.

The detective also found 10-year-old arrest warrants for Coelho out of California on charges of larceny, grand theft and violating his probation.

In those warrants he's known as Thomas Jurewicz. Police say Coelho is his wife's last name. The married father of two is being held in the Pinellas County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Police: Well-traveled con man takes Tampa woman for $115,000 in Super Bowl tickets 07/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 9, 2009 10:44pm]
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