Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Public safety

Watch repairman steals $180,000 from Port Richey Sears, authorities say

PORT RICHEY — For years, Salvador Cherta ran the watch repair counter at Sears inside Gulf View Square mall. But authorities say for the past three years, Cherta has quietly siphoned for himself more than $180,000 from the department store.

Cherta, 60, was arrested Tuesday and charged with embezzlement. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said he got the money by submitting false sales and repair claims to Sears. A new Sears manager noticed the invoices were extremely high — $43,000 from February to June, compared to $4,000 for similar watch repair services in other Sears stores — prompting an investigation, according to a Sheriff's Office report.

Sears declined to comment Wednesday.

Cherta, of 3886 Crescent Cove Place in Tarpon Springs, was released from the Pasco jail Tuesday on $10,000 bail. He was unable to be reached for comment Wednesday.

A report states Cherta confessed to the thefts but did not give a reason why he allegedly committed them.

Cherta's name was also in the news a decade ago, when his wife, Guadalupe Cherta, was accused of Medicaid fraud. Authorities said she fraudulently accepted more than $47,000 in Medicaid funds for their son, Michael Cherta, who has cerebral palsy, when the family didn't financially qualify for the money. The Chertas ran a medical equipment company and had $800,000 in cash. The family was on a cruise when she was arrested, authorities said at the time.

Court records state Guadalupe Cherta pleaded not guilty and entered a pre-trial diversion program. The arrest, seemingly her only one in Florida, does not show up in her criminal history records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Court records indicate the couple have had financial distress since then, including a bankruptcy.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.

Comments
Most Americans say Trump, Congress not doing enough to stop mass shootings, Post-ABC poll finds

Most Americans say Trump, Congress not doing enough to stop mass shootings, Post-ABC poll finds

More than 6 in 10 Americans fault Congress and President Donald Trump for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with most Americans continuing to say these incidents are more reflective of probl...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: Until the Parkland shooting, lawmakers ignored requests for school safety funds

Romano: Until the Parkland shooting, lawmakers ignored requests for school safety funds

His words and his pleas are similar to what we’ve heard from others in recent days.Kids deserve to feel safe when they walk into a classroom in Florida. More security is needed. More boots on the ground would be helpful. Mostly, more money must be de...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Girl, 12, sister of murder victim, calls relative after being reported missing

Girl, 12, sister of murder victim, calls relative after being reported missing

Seven months ago, Jalyssa Shannon’s older sister Janessa went missing, sparking a frantic search that ended with the discovery of the 13-year-old’s body in a Hillsborough County nature preserve and, later, the arrest of the girls’ father in her murde...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Man sought in sexual assault of woman, 71, in New Port Richey

Man sought in sexual assault of woman, 71, in New Port Richey

NEW PORT RICHEY — Deputies are searching for a man who they said broke into a home and raped a 71-year-old woman on Monday.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said the woman was checking on a home at 7437 Heather St. for the homeowner at about 8:15 a.m...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Police identify man found dead in Tampa apartment

TAMPA — Police on Monday released the identity of the man who was found dead inside an apartment last week.Officers said it was Abdirashid Ali, 50, who was discovered around 3 p.m. Friday at The Courtyard on the River Apartments, 5217 Sonora Court.De...
Published: 02/19/18
Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors

Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors

DUNEDIN –– Pinellas sheriff’s detectives spent their weekend luring in unlicensed electrical, plumbing and other home improvement contractors to a vacant home wired with cameras.It took only hours before a stream of people arrived to work on the outd...
Published: 02/19/18
Video: Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in brief court hearing

Video: Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz in brief court hearing

PARKLAND — Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz has appeared in court for a procedural hearing. Cruz said nothing at Monday’s hearing in Broward County Circuit Court, the first he attended in person and not via teleconference from jail. He ke...
Published: 02/19/18
Teachers say Florida shooter’s problems started in middle school, and the system tried to help him

Teachers say Florida shooter’s problems started in middle school, and the system tried to help him

PARKLAND, Fla. — The real problems started at least as early as middle school and quickly intensified. There were the vocal outbursts, disturbing drawings of stick figures with guns, constant disciplinary issues. There were threatening statements wri...
Published: 02/19/18
This gun owner said the Parkland shooting was the last straw. So he turned his rifle over to deputies

This gun owner said the Parkland shooting was the last straw. So he turned his rifle over to deputies

The Parkland school shooting inspired a Florida gun owner to turn his beloved AR-57 over to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office."As I struggle to make heads or tails of another senseless mass shooting in the USA, I can no longer offer only my ‘though...
Published: 02/19/18
Candlelight vigils tonight in Tampa Bay, statewide for Parkland shooting victims

Candlelight vigils tonight in Tampa Bay, statewide for Parkland shooting victims

Several vigils are being held in the Tampa Bay area and throughout the state to honor the 17 victims of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.The Florida PTA is organizing the statewide vigils, which will begin at 7 p.m. u...
Published: 02/19/18