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....
TAMPA — Seattle engineer James Webb Baker Jr. grew so frustrated over reports of a Democratic voter purge in Florida in 2012 that he retaliated by mailing fraudulent elections letters to GOP donors questioning their citizenship and right to vote.
Now he's the one shut out of the system, convicted of a felony and unable to participate in America's political process.
Baker, 59, was sentenced Wednesday to three years' probation, starting with six months of home detention, after he pleaded guilty in May to voter intimidation and fraud related to identification documents....
For eight weeks, two crews of a KC-135 Stratotanker performed the military's version of a high-wire act. In midair, they refueled jets that were targeting Islamic State militants in Iraq and supported missions that dropped humanitarian aid.
On Tuesday they came back down to earth, to a nation that awaits President Barack Obama's next move in the region, and to friends and family members who were thrilled to see them....
TAMPA — A federal grand jury indicted Sharron Laverne Parrish Jr. this week on wire fraud charges, ramping up the pending federal case against a man accused of scamming Apple stores in 16 states out of $309,768.
Forty-two times, he bought Apple merchandise using debit cards from closed or inactive bank accounts, the Secret Service alleges. After initial denial of a transaction, he would pretend to call the card issuer and then provide an override code to the clerk, the government alleges....
TAMPA — Five Tampa Bay area residents face federal charges in a sweep of Social Security fraud that, in some cases, caught adults living for years off the checks of their deceased parents.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Walking Dead, turned up more than $1 million in benefits fraud by 18 people in the Middle District of Florida, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced.
In signed plea agreements, Donna Bennett, 68, of Dunedin and James Birney, 47, of Oldsmar each admitted to collecting their late mothers' Social Security benefits. Bennett, whose mother died in 2009, collected $60,581 and Birney, whose mother died in 2008, collected $95,556, the government alleges....
TAMPA — The long-stalled appeal of Cortnee Brantley was set in motion Wednesday after a federal circuit judge denied her attorney's eighth request for a delay.
A one-year prison sentence looms over Brantley. She was convicted in 2013 of helping to hide that ex-boyfriend Dontae Morris was a felon with a loaded gun when he killed two police officers in 2010. A district court judge allowed her to remain free while appealing the case, but defense attorney Grady Irvin has not filed her appellate brief....
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....