TAMPA — Doomsday prepper Martin Winters pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to making and possessing unregistered destructive devices.
Winters, 55, of Valrico, was the subject of a June manhunt in eastern Hillsborough County before he surrendered at an FBI field office on June 18.
He led a group called the River Otter Preppers, which advocated survival preparations in advance of an end-times event foretold in the Bible's Book of Revelation, court records state. An undercover FBI agent reported that Winters talked of buried guns, booby traps and his plans to kill government agents if they raided his property....
TAMPA — A year ago, St. Petersburg landlord Michael Shimshoni backed out of a signed federal plea deal in a lead paint case that could have sent him to prison for as long as two decades.
He agreed this week to plead guilty to a lesser charge that might allow him to avoid prison and instead serve probation.
"We're very happy with it," defense attorney George Tragos said. "He believes it's fair and just."...
TAMPA — Allegations of child sexual abuse against a once-beloved private school headmaster now span 34 years and, potentially, two institutions.
James Jerome Larkin, 63, was jailed Wednesday on a charge of capital sexual battery on a 10-year-old boy in 1980.
It was the second charge in four months. A 14-year-old boy told authorities that Larkin, his school principal, had molested him just last March, which led to Larkin's arrest in April....
TAMPA — A minor traffic accident erupted into a stabbing in South Tampa on Wednesday.
In an unusual twist, police say the man with the knife immediately began to perform first aid on the man with the wound, who survived.
Robert Suarez, 36, was a passenger in his girlfriend's Audi going north on MacDill Avenue near Bay to Bay Boulevard, police said.
Traffic stopped suddenly and the Audi was rear-ended by a Toyota Avalon driven by Steven Baker, 22, police said. Both vehicles pulled into the parking lot of Bay Oaks apartments....
TAMPA — The Florida State Fair Authority will pay $72,500 to three bikers who were turned away from the 2010 fair for not removing their club logos.
Two rode with the Spirit Riders Motorcycle Ministry. One rode with the U.S. Military Vets Motorcycle Club.
All wore patches identifying their affiliations and were denied entry into the fair by off-duty sheriff's deputies on Feb. 7, 2010, when a posted policy banned "club colors" in an effort to discourage gang activity....
TAMPA — Homeland Security agents have been keeping America safe from bad makeup.
Lipstick bombs? Anthrax blush? Try counterfeit MAC.
Tina Oleszczuk, 44, of New Port Richey faces up to 10 years in prison after admitting in a plea agreement filed Tuesday that she sold at least $961,744 worth of knock-off MAC products made in China and packaged to resemble the real thing.
MAC, short for Make-up Art Cosmetics, is a subsidiary of Estée Lauder Cosmetics. Products are sold at department stores and free-standing MAC shops at high-end malls such as International Plaza....
TAMPA — He incensed real estate developers. He poured fuel on a flickering local green movement. He directed national TV cameras to sewage spills in Tampa Bay and then took the heat from hometown politicians.
Roger P. Stewart, an Air Force pilot-turned-environmentalist, kept Hillsborough County elected officials on edge for three decades in a hard-fought battle to put natural resources over profit....
TAMPA — Doomsday prepper Martin Howard Winters, the subject of a June manhunt in eastern Hillsborough County, admits in a signed plea agreement that he illegally designed and owned destructive devices.
Winters, jailed without bail since his June 18 surrender to the FBI, is the latest of six people in a federal gun investigation to strike a deal with prosecutors.
Under its terms, he must disclose the location of at least 30 semiautomatic rifles obtained through straw buyers. The government would drop two existing charges and not prosecute him for the straw purchases....
08/15/14 Public Safety
TAMPA — One Sunday two summers ago, a black teen was killed in a confrontation with police at an apartment complex a mile north of downtown Tampa.
Police Chief Jane Castor recalls her response. She walked through the complex, telling residents what she knew: Javon Neal, 16, had been armed with a shotgun. Officers defended themselves.
"As a mother, I can't imagine losing a child," she wrote days later to a Tampa newspaper that caters to black readers....
TAMPA — A New York high-security prison guard bought a purple Rapunzel costume from a Disney store and sent it to Florida in February as part of a plot to have sex with an 11-year-old girl, a federal complaint alleges.
Jude Thaddeus Grant Danahy, 34, answered an online ad last summer from a self-described single mom looking for a man to teach her daughter how to please him, the court record states. ...
TAMPA — The woman accused of frightening a 50-year-old musician and his family with hostile tweets and her knowledge of their Miami home has no history of violence, her mother says, and Florida arrest records lend credence to that assertion.
Jessica Leigh Robbins, 32, made national news after federal authorities charged her Friday with stalking Chris Cornell, lead singer for the band Soundgarden, which is scheduled to perform in Tampa Aug. 11....
TAMPA — Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and his wife pulled their children out of New York public schools, fearing that a Tampa woman would try to hurt them, according to a federal complaint that charges the woman with stalking.
Jessica Leigh Robbins, 32, may have tried to enter the couple's other home in Miami last fall, an FBI agent inferred from an Internet post obtained during the investigation....
TAMPA — Workers at a call center in Santa Ana, El Salvador, remember visits from their rich American boss. The phone company owner would arrive in a motorcade, like a president, flanked by gun-waving guards.
"He thanked us for making him a millionaire," said employee Wilbert Perez-Velasquez, 40.
The U.S. Justice Department has another explanation for the wealth of Kevin Brian Cox, 38. He is one of three men accused in May of defrauding the federal Lifeline phone program of $32.4 million by exaggerating how many customers qualified for a subsidy because they were poor....
TAMPA — Travis DeVall once described himself as a military recruiter "on steroids."
He starred in a 2009 Army Times article touting the success of the Army National Guard Recruiting Assistance program, which paid the retired service member up to $5,000 for each new recruit he found.
But the program buckled under widespread fraud, and now DeVall — a former top producer — faces federal charges that he claimed $78,000 in bonuses he didn't deserve....
TAMPA — A man ran up a $7,753.22 bill at an Apple store.
When his debit card was declined, he pretended to call his bank. He gave the store clerk a fake authorization code to punch into the card reader.
And that's how the man, 24-year-old Sharron Laverne Parrish Jr. of Tampa, scammed one of the biggest high-tech companies in the world — not once but 42 times — totaling $309,768, according to federal court records....