TAMPA — Mail carriers rank among the nation's most trusted workers. They brave snarling dogs and inclement weather. But beneath the rain-resistant, snow-sturdy exterior, some are crooks.
In the past five years, 2,848 U.S. Postal Service carriers, clerks and truckers have been convicted of charges relating to mail theft. In Florida alone, they stole cash, checks, gift cards, diamond rings, computers, gaming devices and a microwave oven....
In deal, trading firm founder admits fraud
Another founder of a defunct day trader firm admits to defrauding investors in a federal plea agreement filed Tuesday. Albert Scipione operated Traders Cafe in downtown Tampa with Matthew Ionno, who pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Scipione, charged with the same count Friday, is scheduled to enter a guilty plea Dec. 5.
The firm touted low fees for investors willing to pool their money. But the two men defrauded investors of $473,742, court records state. They each face up to five years in prison. Ionno is to be sentenced Jan. 14....
TAMPA — When a federal judge sentenced pharmacist Christopher Switlyk to prison last year for his role in one of the nation's largest illegal pill mills, she faulted the U.S. Attorney's Office for not seeking forfeiture of the Tampa man's license.
"I just have a serious concern about him ever working as a pharmacist again," U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington said repeatedly during the hourlong hearing....
TAMPA — The night before he shot his wife and two teenagers in the head, Darrin Campbell insisted that the family gather for dinner and spend time together in their leased Avila mansion.
His order for a family meal was so out of character that the wife and daughter told their friends.
No one could have predicted the gunshots or the flaming horror that engulfed the home at 16223 Sierra De Avila the next morning. But for weeks before the May 7 murder-suicide, Campbell's loved ones had been noticing unusual behavior, according to investigative reports. ...
TAMPA — A former investigative journalist lost his bid Tuesday to fix Congress from the inside.
By a 3-2 majority, voters reelected Republican Congressman Dennis Ross to represent U.S. House District 15, a two-county district that stretches from Lutz to Bartow.
Democratic challenger Alan Cohn, a former TV reporter, did slightly better in his home turf of Hillsborough County than in Polk County, where Ross lives, but not nearly good enough....
TAMPA — Four people with varying roles in doomsday prepper Martin Winters' scheme to arm a citizen militia and inflict harm on law enforcement learned their fates Friday.
Three will go to prison for firearm crimes. Of those, two were felons who illegally had guns: Jason Swain, 33, and James Beebe, 56. U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara sentenced Swain to three years in prison and Beebe to 18 months. Nicholas Hall, 23, got a year and a day for falsifying gun paperwork, and straw buyer Desiree Beebe, 23, got three years of probation....
TAMPA — Donald Gallagher, a former American Airlines pilot convicted of child pornography, says he lies in bed at night wishing he could turn back time.
"I had everything in the world going for me," he said.
Instead, he will lose years to prison. A federal judge Thursday sentenced Gallagher, 52, to 21 years of confinement for producing explicit images of two girls in 2011 at his St. Petersburg home, while also collecting and distributing the work of other child pornographers. ...
The 15-year-old girl wasn't real. Her online willingness to fly to Louisiana for a sexual liaison with an Air Force staff sergeant was all part of a Tampa-based sting.
But there's nothing fake about the federal prison sentence handed out this week to the sergeant. Steven Richard Romel, 32, will serve 11 years for enticement of a child for sex.
Romel answered a Craigslist ad last fall. It had been placed by a male federal agent who pretended at first to be an 18-year-old Kissimmee girl before confiding that "she" was actually 15. None of it was true....
TAMPA — A former Pasco County middle school teacher has pleaded guilty in federal court to online enticement of two minor girls for sex and now faces 10 years to life in prison.
His intended victims, ages 13 and 15, lived in Belize.
David Wendel Thompson, 49, of Seffner used Facebook to try to coax the girls to have sex with him, promising money, according to his plea agreement. ...
TAMPA — A Lithia mother tapped the identities of three daughters while falsifying paperwork to obtain weapons for doomsday prepper Martin Winters, federal court records state.
Ellie Elizabeth Saldana, 42, admits in a plea agreement filed Monday that she was the straw buyer in 2011 for multiple semi-automatic AR-15-type rifle purchases funded by Winters.
Federal authorities call Winters leader of the River Otter Preppers, a group that advocates preparation for an end-times event foretold in the Bible's Book of Revelation. He discussed plans to kill law enforcement agents, the government alleged, and later pleaded guilty to creating and possessing unregistered destructive devices....
U.S. House | District 15
Alan M. Cohn, a former TV investigative reporter, takes on incumbent Dennis A. Ross, a former state representative first elected to Congress in 2010. Cohn, a Democrat, lives in Hillsborough County. He supports increasing the minimum wage and says it's time the middle class got an economic recovery like Wall Street did. Ross, a Republican, lives in Polk County. He touts cuts in federal spending and wants to simplify the tax code. By Patty Ryan, Times staff writer...
TAMPA — Ophthalmologist Ashish Sanon, born in India and trained in Canada, did well for himself among the cataracts, glaucoma checks and drooping eyelids of Citrus County.
In the past five years, he billed $5 million, enough to keep up homes both on Clearwater Beach and at the Black Diamond Ranch golf course, records show.
His tale has all the markings of an American success story, except — as the government reminded him this month — he isn't an American. Nor does he have a green card. ...
TAMPA — Chuma Osuji worked in a gas station after he arrived from Nigeria at 20. When he got sick, he couldn't afford a prescription.
He became a doctor and, as a hobby in 2002, started African Ambassadors, a charity for people without health insurance.
But now he's in danger of losing his medical license over alleged violations of drug laws.
An indictment unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court accuses Osuji, 51, of distributing controlled substances without legitimate medical need. ...
TAMPA — A man accused of scamming Apple stores out of $309,768 in merchandise admits to the deeds in a signed plea agreement.
Sharron Laverne Parrish Jr., 24, of Tampa is scheduled to plead guilty Oct. 3 to wire fraud, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.
When his debit card purchases were declined, he pretended to call banks and then relayed phony override codes to store clerks, the government alleged. Parrish admitted to employing the scheme 42 times in 16 states....
TAMPA — Last year, a Riverview woman collected $1,351 a month in housing assistance from the federal government while also falsely claiming federal tax refunds totaling $61,544, authorities allege.
Ronika Paris, 35, didn't tell the Tampa Housing Authority about all of her bank accounts, the government says, and so now she faces extra federal charges.
Paris, arrested Friday, was indicted by a grand jury this week on eight counts of wire fraud, eight counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of access device fraud and two counts of making false statements....