Monday, December 18, 2017
Public safety

Prominent Pinellas lawyer Robert Tankel charged with molestation

For years, Robert Leon Tankel has been known as one of the most aggressive lawyers representing homeowners associations. Ownership groups had no stronger ally. Those who fell behind on their homeowner's maintenance fees or assessments had no stronger foe.

On Tuesday afternoon, authorities delivered Tankel to a new home, at least for the moment — the Pinellas County Jail.

BACKSTORY: Pinellas lawyer takes foreclosure fight to ethical edge, experts say

Tankel, 57, faces a charge of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child. The incident occurred as part of a Big Brothers Big Sisters outing to Bright House Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater, authorities said.

According to an arrest report from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Tankel touched the genitals of a boy younger than 12 years old over the boy's clothing and also rubbed the boy's thigh.

"Big Brothers Big Sisters makes child safety our priority," Susan Rolston, the chief executive officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County, said to the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday in a prepared statement. "We have zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. Big Brothers Big Sisters has designed a child protection system in collaboration with experts all over the country."

"This is really hard for our agency," she added. At the Big Brothers Big Sisters national convention, the Pinellas chapter recently won the "highest quality award," Rolston said.

Although he was along for the outing, Tankel was not currently matched with any child, she said. A previous match had ended.

Tankel is known as one of the state's fiercest advocates for homeowners associations. On his website, he assures associations that "We understand that it is hard to get blood out of rocks," and urges clients not to "let delinquent clients bulldog your business."

Born in Chicago, he graduated from the University of Florida's law school in 1981, and went to work for Becker & Poliakoff, which represented community associations. Four years later, the firm put Tankel in charge of opening branches in Clearwater and Fort Myers.

He founded his own law firm in 1995, and quickly gained a reputation as a zealous advocate for associations. When homeowners don't pay their fees, Tankel told the Times in 2011, they set off what he called "the race to the courthouse steps," trying to get their money before banks can foreclose the properties.

Tankel's slash-and-burn tactics got him suspended for 15 days in 2003 over what the Florida Bar called "harassment and intimidation" and making false statements to board members who had been removed from a Tarpon Springs homeowners association. He served 18 months' probation after he served the suspension.

According to his website, Tankel lives in Dunedin "with his wife of 28 years, Terri, and their Golden Retriever Roxie."

Times staff writer Laura Morel and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.

Police: Woman killed in Clearwater drive-by shooting while daughter, 10, in back seat

Police: Woman killed in Clearwater drive-by shooting while daughter, 10, in back seat

CLEARWATER — A Palm Harbor woman was killed in a drive-by shooting while riding with her husband and 10-year-old daughter in a Nissan Sentra late Sunday, police said.Elizabeth Rosado, 30, was in the front passenger seat of the sedan, which was headed...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road closed after crash involving motorcycle

TAMPA — A portion of Lutz Lake Fern Road is closed in northwest Hillsborough County following a crash involving a motorcycleHillsborough County deputies say the roadway is expected to be closed between Sunlake Boulevard and Cypress Green Drive for th...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Missing Child Alert canceled for Homestead boy, 13

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 13-year-old Homestead boy.According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, John Noble-Sinclair had last seen Sunday in the area of 300 block of Southwest 4th Avenue.The case has been resolv...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Deputies seek suspects who fired shots into crowded Northdale nightclub

TAMPA — Hillsborough County deputies are searching for the suspects who fired shots inside a crowded nightclub in Northdale early Monday morning.According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, deputies patrolling the area heard shooting coming...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Hudson woman killed in Pasco motorcycle accident

A Hudson woman was killed Saturday night in Pasco County when the motorcycle she was a passenger on struck a truck.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Patrick McKinney, 29 and of Hudson, was driving his 2003 Kawasaki motorcycle southbound on U.S...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Search continues for suspect in fatal Clearwater drive-shooting

CLEARWATER — Police continue to search for the suspect after a woman was killed Sunday night in a drive-by shooting.Authorities said the shooting occurred around 8:15 p.m. in the 1500 block of Scranton Avenue.An unidentified 30-year-old woman was kil...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Wesley Chapel woman, 28, dies after crashing motorcycle

LUTZ — A 28-year-old motorcyclist died Sunday after she crashed near Lutz Lake Fern Road and Apian Way, Hillsborough deputies reported.Erica Kristen Rodriguez of Wesley Chapel was riding a Kawasaki motorcycle with a small group of motorcyclists eastb...
Published: 12/17/17

Woman, 24, hit by Land Rover, in critical condition

LARGO — A 24-year-old woman is in critical condition after she was struck by a vehicle Saturday night, police said.Khadijah Wood was walking through the parking lot of the Sandy Lane Apartment Homes on Belcher Road about 7:30 p.m.At the same time, Ju...
Published: 12/17/17
Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

A first-degree murder suspect remains at large almost a week after the fatal shooting of a Winter Haven father.The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says Johnny Ray Owsley’s murder of 35-year-old Adam Thrower, called "Cook" by friends, involved Owsley’s e...
Published: 12/17/17

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital Saturday afternoon.About 12: 45 p.m., Terry Lee Bronschidle, 70, of Tampa was driving his Chevy Traverse south on...
Published: 12/16/17