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Patty Ryan, Times Staff Writer

Patty Ryan, a Florida native, grew up in Pinellas Park. For more than three decades, she has lived in Tampa, where she's a reporter for the Times. She joined the staff as an editor in 2001, after 22 years at the Tampa Tribune.

Her work has been honored by the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors and the Florida Society of News Editors.

She graduated from the University of South Florida.

Phone: (813) 226-3382


  1. Palma Ceia church hit with $2.1 million tax lien; ex-business manager admits to theft


    TAMPA — A year after a $58,000 check for a roof repair bounced, the former business manager at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church has admitted in a federal plea agreement to skimming $82,835 from church accounts.

    Juliet Suzanne Ellis, 45, could face up to 20 years in prison on a wire fraud charge.

    And now the church has an even bigger problem.

    Days ago, the Internal Revenue Service filed tax liens against Palma Ceia United Methodist totaling more than $2.1 million for unpaid payroll taxes and penalties from June 2007 through June 2014....

  2. Sentence in Tampa tax fraud case hits a new high: 27 years


    TAMPA — James Lee Cobb III, a felon with a collection of 7,000 Social Security numbers, was sentenced this week to 27 years in prison for leading a scam to claim $1.8 million in tax refunds using stolen identities — while also illegally owning guns.

    Victim records were taken from the James A. Haley VA Hospital, the Florida Hospital Tampa (formerly University Community Hospital), a medical billing company and out-of-state ambulance services, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office....

    James Lee Cobb III, 37, had pleaded guilty to tax fraud and illegal possession of firearms
  3. Sex versus security clearance: Feds say Riverview man lied


    TAMPA — A Riverview man has been accused of lying to federal authorities about his sex life while trying to get a job.

    When Jeffrey F. Bohn sought national security clearance in June 2010, he didn't disclose his contact with a foreign national with whom he was "bound by affection," a grand jury alleges.

    Three times since then, he disavowed such ties.

    The government isn't naming the foreigner — identified only as "Individual A" — or providing context that might fully explain why the matter escalated to charges punishable by up to five years in prison. Bohn, 55, said "that he did not know or have sex with Individual A" when "he in fact knew and had sex with Individual A," the four-count indictment states....

  4. Palm Harbor oncologist accused of deceiving patients, Medicare with unapproved cancer drugs


    TAMPA — A Palm Harbor oncologist sold discounted foreign-labeled cancer drugs for more than three years without federal approval or patient knowledge, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.

    Dr. Diana Anda Norbergs of East Lake Oncology is accused of administering at least $700,000 worth of the drugs and then billing Medicare as if she had used higher-priced U.S. versions.

    "The purity and efficacy of these prescription drugs were of the utmost importance for patients' care," the record states....

    Dr. Diana An?da Norbergs operates East Lake Oncology.
  5. Doctor loses millions, indicted accountant dies, federal tax case comes to a halt


    TAMPA — Look up tax preparer Peter J. Pinaud online and you'll learn he went to prison in the 1980s for refund fraud.

    Would you trust him with your taxes? Professionals in the Tampa Bay area did, and some are suffering the consequences.

    Dr. James St. Louis, founder of the Laser Spine Institute, was duped out of at least $2.8 million in 2010 and 2011 after Pinaud falsified returns and stole payments intended for the IRS, federal and state court documents allege....

    Dr. James St. Louis of the Laser Spine Institute lost millions, it is alleged, to a tax accountant’s scheme.
  6. Former Tampa gold trader admits he conspired to defraud bank of millions


    TAMPA — Former coin dealer Mark Yaffe admits in a court paper that he conspired to defraud an institution that had extended his now-bankrupt National Gold Exchange $35 million in credit.

    Federal authorities filed a criminal charge against him Thursday, along with a signed plea agreement that calls for up to five years in prison.

    Yaffe is known locally for building a 29,000-square-foot Avila estate modeled after a 17th-century palace, which he lost to foreclosure in 2013, after the exchange filed for bankruptcy, declaring $36 million in debts....

  7. Clearwater woman gets two years for ties to tax refund theft


    TAMPA — A Clearwater woman was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday for aggravated identity theft after she was found with two debit cards that contained proceeds of tax returns filed in the names of other people.

    Makaeia Demps, 25, apologized for her conduct and told a federal judge she was ready to straighten out her life.

    Attorney James Armington said her life took a turn for the worse when she met Carlos Oscar Johnson, a Pinellas nursing assistant now serving eight years for stolen identity refund fraud....

  8. Buju Banton avoids gun charge in new deal


    TAMPA — The imprisoned reggae star known to the world as Buju Banton has made a deal with prosecutors that eliminates a pending gun charge and frees him in less than four years.

    He'll quit filing appeals. In exchange, the United States will stop trying to hold him accountable for a gun carried by another man in the cocaine conspiracy that sent Banton away for a decade.

    Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, could have faced an additional five years if convicted....

  9. Sons sold cocaine as Tampa Deeper Life pastors ministered to addicts


    TAMPA — While a Tampa pastor and his wife were selling religion as a way to get off drugs, three of their adult sons were selling something else: cocaine.

    They got caught.

    Marvin Jefferson, 47, Shannon Jefferson, 33, and Jimmy Lanier, 37 — each adjudicated guilty of drug trafficking after pleas in June — have now begun to learn their fates in federal court.

    The three are the sons and stepson of Deeper Life Christian Church patriarch Melvin B. Jefferson, whose fellow pastor and current wife, Brenda Jefferson, is Lanier's mother....

    Shannon Deon Jefferson
  10. Have a plan for Sparky, Felix, too


    Advice from the dog: Cultivate an inland friend, a tolerant one with a home that is high and dry. Do it now before a storm comes barreling up the coast.

    For pet owners, hurricane season requires extra thought.

    Those who plan ahead may land places in kennels, rooms in pet-friendly hotels or enjoy the hospitality of friends.

    Those who don't, by default, toss their pets' safety to the wind, as some learned the hard way when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast 10 years ago, leaving hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats to perish....

    Don’t let your dog end up like this one carrying government issued rations in its mouth after Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.
  11. Clearwater minister accused of aiding tax refund scams totaling $755,900


    TAMPA — The pastor of a small Clearwater church admits in a federal plea agreement to cashing $755,900 in tax refund checks that were obtained using stolen identities, while keeping a "small portion" for himself.

    Sylvester Banks Jr., 56, is scheduled to make his first appearance in court Wednesday and plead guilty to theft of government funds, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison....

    It is not clear whether Sylvester Banks Jr. used a bank account linked to the Bible Church of God in Clearwater or a personal account. He admits in a federal plea agreement that he cashed $755,900 in fraudulently obtained tax refund checks.
  12. Child porn confession puzzle keeps federal probe of freed Bradenton woman alive


    TAMPA — One day a photograph of a woman and a toddler girl, neither identifiable, appeared in the e-mail account of a Queens, N.Y., police sergeant. The photo depicted intimate conduct that most would find disturbing.

    Authorities alleged that the sergeant had solicited women to create such images.

    For eight months starting in June, federal prosecutors in Tampa acted on a New York law enforcement theory that the adult in the photo was a Bradenton medical worker who sometimes babysat for a friend and had met the cop online....

    Renee Kimberly Gregg was cleared in February.
  13. Woman from Tampa meat market brawl in tax fraud trouble


    TAMPA — Jacqueline Renee Wimbush's last claim to fame was getting a fingertip bitten off during a 2008 brawl over who was next in line at an East Tampa meat market, an incident that put her finger on the news.

    This time, the IRS got the finger.

    The 46-year-old woman collected at least $41,476 in tax refunds that were filed using stolen identities, according to a signed plea agreement filed this week in U.S. District Court in Tampa....

    Jacqueline Renee Wimbush's last claim to fame was getting a fingertip bitten off during a 2008 brawl over who was next in line at an East Tampa meat market, an incident that put her finger on the news. [Times (2008)]
  14. Spring Hill woman accused of bomb threats to U.S. base in Japan


    TAMPA —Two recent bomb threats at an American military base in Japan were written by a Spring Hill woman trying to make her estranged husband look bad in a custody battle, federal court records allege.

    In January and again last month, someone claiming to be the husband, Takashi Numata, used an untraceable email service and threatened to blow up Misawa Air Base, which is 400 miles north of Tokyo....

  15. Woman, 19, sues TPD, claims now-fired cop caused head injury


    TAMPA — A 19-year-old woman sued the Tampa Police Department and one of its former officers in federal court Wednesday, alleging that he slammed her head to the pavement on Valentine's Day a year ago, causing serious injury.

    Rachel Stockwell, then a University of Tampa student, was forced to withdraw from school because of cognitive impairment and also suffers from facial paralysis, her attorney wrote in the federal complaint....

    Rachel Stockwell’s mugshot, taken after her 2014 arrest, shows a badly swollen eye.