Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF police turn over bike case to state prosecutors

TAMPA — University of South Florida police have asked state prosecutors to decide whether a university vice president should be charged in a bike theft.

Dr. Abdul Rao, senior associate vice president for research at University of South Florida Health, was captured on surveillance video last week accompanying a man as he removed a red mountain bike from the loading dock at the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Center & Research Institute.

Rao has admitted a lapse in judgment, but maintains he was lending the bike to a "semi-homeless" man who does odd jobs for him.

He said the man, Victor Waiters, 45, told him the bike would help him replace his ID and get to County Line Road to work.

Rao said Monday that he has bought Waiters three bikes in the past and decided this time to lend him one of the bikes from the loading dock — bikes he said he thought were abandoned.

But Tim Boyd, the graduate student who owns the bike, said that when the video surfaced, Rao tried to pressure him to drop the charges, chalking it up to a misunderstanding.

Boyd declined.

Lt. Meg Ross of USF police said Monday that the agency has turned over the case to the State Attorney's Office because the charge would amount to misdemeanor petty theft.

Meanwhile, USF administrators are reviewing the incident to determine what, if any, discipline is warranted.

University spokesman Michael Hoad said that while the incident itself does not amount to a serious crime, its implications upon his position of leadership warrant a second look.

"It's the circumstance of it being a student (who is the victim) and him (Rao) having admitted a lapse in judgment," Hoad said.

Rao said he learned only Wednesday of concerns about the bike. He said Waiters was on his way to return it at that point.

Rao said he contacted YouTube to have the video removed from its Web site. A second version of the video, however, popped up Friday. It shows Waiters and Rao looking over bikes at the loading dock before Waiters walks one down the ramp and both men leave.

Rao, hired in 2006, has taken a paid leave from his job while the police and university review the incident. His contracted salary is $269,280, plus administrative stipends totaling $115,000, for a total compensation of $384,280, according to the university.

He said that while he takes responsibility for making a bad decision, he thinks the flap over the bike opened floodgates to those who were unhappy with him for making changes at USF.

"This is an opportunity for people who are not supportive to take a stab at me," he said.

Boyd's bike is valued at about $100, according to a police report.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at or (813) 226-3383.

USF police turn over bike case to state prosecutors 02/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 16, 2009 11:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. World's plastic waste could bury Manhattan 2 miles deep


    WASHINGTON — Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than 2 miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.

    Plastic trash is compacted into bales ready for further processing at the waste processing dump on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus.
  2. Sen. John McCain's type of cancer did not slow Tampa woman


    TAMPA —When 35-year-old Beth Caldwell heard about Sen. John McCain's brain tumor this week, she hoped he would stay positive.

    That's what helped her, she said.

    Throughout her battle with brain cancer, Beth Caldwell, 35, keeps her sons Gavin, 10, and Triston, 7, on her mind.
  3. A week later, the lengthy, costly rebuilding plan for the Pasco sinkhole begins

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES — A week after a massive sinkhole opened in Pasco County, county officials have begun planning the long-term cleanup, which could take months and millions of dollars.

    A sinkhole in Land O'Lakes, Fla., is seen Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The sinkhole ?‘ already one of the largest in Pasco County in decades ?‘ measures about 235 feet in width and 50 feet in depth, with the potential to expand further.
  4. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection


    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  5. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix


    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]