TAMPA — For two years Daphne Jones has dispatched landscaping crews to dozens of Hillsborough County schools where they mow grass, trim weeds and make the grounds suitable for children.
Jones, 41, is the owner of On-Point Group, part of a privatization experiment school officials say is saving taxpayers money and helping small businesses.
But the Tampa Bay Times found that most of the workers Jones has sent to campuses have criminal convictions on their records. ...
TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Host Committee raised most of its money for the Republican National Convention outside of Florida, and most of the companies that got that money were based outside the state, too.
Of $52.4 million that the committee spent to support the convention, $11.5 million — or about 22 percent — was spent in the Tampa Bay area, according to the committee's financial report to the Federal Election Commission....
In the months leading up to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, local boosters talked a breezy, confident game: Fundraising? Going well. No worries.
Privately, it was much harder than they let on.
Recession-battered companies that gave to previous national political conventions were sitting this one out. Companies in major regions of Florida seemed indifferent to their sales pitch. (Hello, Orlando? Disney? Universal?) ...
TAMPA — A $5 million donation from Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson and another $4.6 million from St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards and his companies propelled the Tampa Bay Host Committee over its $55 million fundraising goal for the Republican National Convention.
In all, the nonprofit, nonpartisan host committee took in nearly $55.9 million to support the Aug. 27-30 convention held in Tampa, according to a finance report filed Wednesday night with the Federal Election Commission. ...
On Mother's Day in May 1984, a young lawyer in Arizona named John Donald Cody sent flowers to his mom in Clearwater.
Then he vanished.
Sought by the FBI for stealing and suspected espionage, Cody became a phantom who eluded capture for nearly three decades.
On Oct. 1, almost 30 years after he vanished, federal officials announced they'd finally caught their man. Now 65, he is sitting in a jail cell in Cleveland, charged with running a charity scam in Tampa under the alias Bobby Thompson. ...
The mystery of Bobby Thompson's identity has been resolved.
But the answers just lead to more questions.
Officials with the U.S. Marshals Service announced Monday that the man who used the Thompson alias while running a multimillion-dollar veterans charity from Tampa for nearly a decade is John Donald Cody, a former military intelligence officer who is also a wanted man. ...
Jon Stewart's Daily Show showed a woman snatched into the air by a giant palmetto bug. E! News sent Ross Mathews to Skin Tampa for a lap dance. And Piers Morgan talked to the Hollywood Reporter about canoeing the Hillsborough River and its "alligator-infested mangroves." (Thanks, Piers!) Yes, the eyes of the world turned to the Tampa Bay area last week for the Republican National Convention. But what everyone reported, tweeted and told the folks back home didn't necessarily come from the Chamber of Commerce script. The reviews aren't just a matter of civic pride. They're key to the prize that local leaders hoped to win from landing and hosting the convention: a giant-sized boost to the area's profile, increasing tourism, repeat visits and corporate recruitment. "When you say Florida, you're not just going to think about Miami and Orlando," said Ken Jones, president of the Tampa Bay Host Committee. "You're going to be hearing about Tampa Bay more and more." So how did Tampa Bay fare?...
THE VILLAGES — It's happy hour on a steamy summer evening and the band is playing covers of Jimmy Buffett, Pat Benatar and Aerosmith.
Couples sway to the music. Others shuffle in an uneven line dance.
As the sun goes down at the Villages, a 55-and-up retirement community, a crowd slathered in sunscreen ambles about, tossing back vodka and gin-and-tonics (easy on the tonic). ...
CLEVELAND — He had at least $1 million in cash, believed to be from donors who thought they were giving to the U.S. Navy Veterans Association. But he lived like a pauper, stocking up on beef jerky and bumming meals at homeless shelters.
He had a suitcase full of stolen birth certificates and credit reports, enough identities for a lifetime on the lam. But he used the same names repeatedly, leaving a trail of bread crumbs for investigators to follow....
Debunking alias after alias, investigators inch closer to Navy Veterans charity impostor Bobby Thompson02/15/12 Human Interest
He has assumed the identities of a full-blooded Choctaw in Washington state, a policeman who died on the job in Tennessee and a disabled veteran in New Mexico.
He stole other names as he needed them — one to vote in a Florida election, another to donate cash to an Ohio politician.
In Tampa, he was Bobby Thompson.
No one knows the real name or whereabouts of the scruffy, bearded man who ran the U.S. Navy Veterans Association until the charity collapsed under scrutiny in mid 2010. He is now a fugitive, wanted by federal officials on charges of money laundering, fraud and identity theft. ...
Time may be running out for Bobby Thompson, who has been a fugitive from the law for more than a year.
The one-time Tampa resident, accused of raising nearly $100 million through a sham veterans charity, disappeared in 2010 just before he was indicted in Ohio on charges of fraud and money laundering.
Now it appears Thompson may be hiding in New Mexico, where the U.S. Marshals Service believes he has changed his physical appearance and adopted stolen identities to avoid prosecution. ...
TAMPA — He is the cameraman in a few YouTube videos showing terror suspect Sami Osmakac railing against infidels. At times, he and Osmakac trade places, one filming and the other talking.
His rhetoric is as passionate as Osmakac's. He too tells Muslims to follow a righteous path and criticizes nonbelievers. But Russell Dennison said he is something Osmakac isn't — a proud American....
PLANT CITY — A man sought for questioning in connection with a double homicide over the weekend was shot and injured by an assailant Monday night, according to Plant City police.
Rubin Brooks Jr., 47, was shot twice in the upper body just before 7:30 p.m. at 1704 E Alabama St., which records show was his last-known residence. His male attacker was on the loose Monday night.
Police believe the shooting was "retaliatory" because people in the neighborhood have been saying Brooks was somehow involved in the deaths of Faye Kitchen, 59, and Shannon "Fonko" Thomas, 33, said police spokesman Tray Towles....
Perhaps no one has fought harder to legitimize the exploding Internet sweepstakes cafe industry in Florida than Allied Veterans of the World & Affiliates.
Allied, one of the state's largest sweepstakes cafe operators, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on state lobbyists and contributed $25,000 for a Gov. Rick Scott inauguration event. It has battled local sheriffs and slapped Seminole County with a federal lawsuit. Its former public relations firm was once headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll....
10/07/11 Real Estate
Last year, Olga Aponte sold the New York home she had owned for 32 years and paid cash for a foreclosure house in Kissimmee. The 67-year-old wanted a solid retirement investment. For months, she lived in peace.
That was, until she learned about the intruder. It happened this summer, when her son saw the name of a stranger on her property records, on a deed filed one month after she bought her house: Jacob Franz Dyck. ...