TAMPA — A former community service officer for the Tampa Police Department pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to mining law enforcement databases to help a friend commit stolen identity tax refund fraud.
Tonia Bright, 53, is the second person to make a deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office in an investigation that has already sent police informer Rita Girven to prison. Former Detective Eric Houston and his wife, former Sgt. LaJoyce Houston, await trial on related charges....
TAMPA — Michael Vincent Ramos had no criminal record, tested negative for drugs and had a mother vouching for him at his bail hearing Thursday.
But a judge couldn't overlook the eight pipe bombs that led Ramos to court. "I consider this a red flag, and I'm going to order him detained," Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson said.
Ramos, 24, was arrested Monday after Kenneth O'Neill, a business associate at a body armor company, tipped authorities to an illegal cache of homemade weapons at Ramos' Tampa home....
Feds say MacBook, iPad linked to ex-cop Eric Houston's iCloud account were bought with tax refund fraud money02/02/16Criminal
TAMPA — School uniforms, Swarovski crystal jewelry, a MacBook Pro and a new iPad were among purchases linked to a pair of ex-Tampa cops during a federal investigation of stolen identity tax refund fraud.
Those details emerged Tuesday after a grand jury filed more charges against Eric Houston, 54, and LaJoyce Houston, 49, a former detective and sergeant at the Tampa Police Department. They are targets of an inquiry that already has sent one woman to prison, with orders to pay the IRS nearly $2.4 million in restitution....
Scheme nets nearly 8-year sentence
Bobby Muhammad, 25, of Tampa was sentenced to nearly eight years in prison Monday for his role in a scheme that netted $650,631 in tax refunds using stolen identities, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Co-defendant Tiffani Pye Williams, who once lived with him, according to court records, is already in prison.
Muhammad pleaded guilty in October to theft of government property and identity theft, based on attempts to seek more than $3 million in refunds from 2011 to 2015. Only a portion were paid....
TAMPA — A woman whose 2010 traffic stop set in motion the roadside killings of two Tampa police officers by her then-boyfriend was put in federal custody Monday to begin serving a one-year prison sentence.
Cortnee Brantley was convicted in 2013 of concealing, after the fact, that Dontae Morris was a felon with a gun when he shot Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis in 2010. But she remained free until she lost an appeal....
TAMPA — Kathryn and Glenn Jasen sold their Spring Hill home to a man with a fiancee and five children, without disclosing the $154,745 sinkhole claim they had made on it. Because loan money crossed state lines, the deception amounted to federal wire fraud, a jury decided.
It was a crime. But one worthy of prison? A prosecutor said yes, and sentencing guidelines suggested at least two years. ...
TAMPA — Two Tampa men were ordered to federal prison Thursday for their roles in a stolen identity tax refund fraud scam that victimized more than 250 people and netted more than $400,000.
Kareem Spann, 21, of 2018 E Powhatan Ave., was sentenced to seven years, and Cedrick Brown, 22, of 8416 N Mulberry St., was sentenced to 10 years and four months.
Working with others, they used stolen identities to request more than $2 million in refunds, a plea agreement states. Tampa police discovered some of the evidence — debit cards loaded with refunds, identities from medical records — while searching a home and a car in 2013....
TAMPA — Suspect Derrick A. Price didn't spit, didn't kick, didn't threaten. He knelt and then lay on the pavement, hands outstretched, when arrested by sheriff's deputies in a community south of Ocala.
Then he was beaten.
"Stop resisting!" at least one deputy called out, as Price reacted to the blows.
Five ex-Marion County deputies now face possible prison terms. As they captured Price, video captured their conduct....
TAMPA — A Spring Hill couple in trouble for concealing a sinkhole claim when selling a home saw the prospect of prison fade Tuesday but not go away.
Kathryn and Glenn Jasen, convicted of wire fraud in October, are expected back in court as soon as Thursday for the continuation of their sentencing.
The Jasens pocketed a $154,745 insurance settlement in 2010 and spent only about $30,000 on repairs before selling the house in 2014 and denying knowledge of sinkhole claims....
TAMPA — He called himself a red-blooded American while threatening to kill children and old people as they practiced religion.
"I'm bringing it to you, baby," he said.
Martin Alan Schnitzler, 43, of Seminole, claimed those words — and others too vulgar to print — as his own in a federal plea agreement filed Monday.
He admitted that he obstructed religious freedom on Nov. 13 by leaving voice mail death threats at two Pinellas County mosques, prompting one to cancel services and both to seek extra security....
TAMPA — Detective Jeanette Hevel used to be proud of her Tampa Police Department uniform. She taught her girls that cops are heroes. And in 2004, she was named officer of the year.
"I look at the picture every day," she told a judge while choking back sobs Thursday at her sentencing in U.S. District Court.
Hevel's future was once secured by a now-forfeited pension package that could have been worth $2 million, her attorney said. Then came the felony conviction....
Ex-chiropractor Alex Petro owns a luxury waterfront home in St. Petersburg that he offers to tourists for up to $9,999 a week.
He once ponied up a $190,000 deposit on a $1.9 million penthouse in the ill-fated Trump Tower Tampa.
But the public got overlooked in the high rolling.
Petro, 51, never repaid his federally backed student loans, a lawsuit states. Not a dime.
Now, the government has come calling, suing him in U.S. District Court in Tampa for $167,000, a sum that includes 3 percent interest on debts dating back to the 1990s, when he was a student at Life University in Georgia....
TAMPA — Three times in eight months, a different adult son of a pair of Tampa pastors has faced a federal judge to be sentenced for a role in the same drug conspiracy.
Shannon Jefferson, 33, learned Friday that he must spend three years in prison. In October, step-brother Jimmy Lee Lanier, 37, was sentenced to 19 years. And in May, Marvin Jefferson, 48, who had spent three months in jail awaiting trial, was sentenced to time served and four years of supervised release....
TAMPA — Former U.S. immigration officer Jeffrey F. Bohn was ordered Thursday to serve six months in prison for lying to investigators about a sexual relationship with a foreign national who sought help to keep her young son in the United States.
U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven expressed skepticism over aspects of the immigrant's story, noting that she lied about becoming pregnant by a vasectomized Bohn. But the judge gave him a sentence at the high end of the guideline range, declining a request for probation....
Challenger to Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober not happy about collapse of federal Lifeline case he once prosecuted01/06/16Criminal
TAMPA — An aspiring Hillsborough state attorney expressed disappointment and harsh words Wednesday after the collapse of a U.S. Justice Department fraud case he helped shepherd for two years.
"I'm disappointed whenever scam artists who steal millions of dollars from taxpayers go free," said former federal prosecutor and newly announced political candidate Andrew H. Warren.
The case in question? Federal authorities had alleged, since 2014, that three businessmen siphoned $32 million from Lifeline, the nation's low-income phone subsidy program. In the end, no one was convicted....