TAMPA — Lee Bentley has been on the job for 21 months as the region's top federal prosecutor and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December, but Thursday delivered the fanfare.
U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch attended Bentley's ceremonial investiture as U.S. attorney for Florida's Middle District. It was an occasion marked by moments solemn and jovial.
Lynch didn't speak publicly but sat beside Bentley and his family in a room packed with judges, lawyers, law enforcement agents, and local dignitaries. ...
TAMPA — Two Belleair Beach scientists were found guilty in federal court Friday of securing $10 million in research grants through wire fraud and identity theft, in large part by fabricating documents showing that others endorsed their work.
Matt Aldissi and Anastasia Bogomolova could face up to 22 years in prison and be ordered to repay the grants.
The verdict came late Friday after a monthlong trial and more than a day of jury deliberations. In its immediate aftermath, Bogomolova appeared to temporarily lose consciousness and paramedics were called to the courtroom....
TAMPA — She recalls, as a kid, coming home to an empty refrigerator in a house where food stamps were traded for crack.
She tells of selling her body at 12 or 13 to survive.
Rashia Wilson denies that she grew up to dub herself the queen of tax refund fraud on Facebook.
But she did enjoy the Audi, the big TV, the house, the parties and feeling special over a $2,000 Louis Vuitton bag, a lifestyle she maintained by stealing the identities of scores of victims....
TAMPA — Longtime Tampa police confidential informer Rita Girven pleaded guilty Monday to two federal charges relating to $33,002 in stolen identity tax refund fraud.
Girven signed a plea agreement in February admitting that she obtained personal identities from genealogy websites and "one or more conspirators who had access to law enforcement databases."
The case against Girven is part of a larger investigation that has targeted, among others, former Tampa police Detective Eric Houston, who was fired from his job but has not been charged....
TAMPA — Seven kilograms of cocaine cruised to Tampa from Honduras last week aboard the luxury liner Norwegian Sun, but minus the fresh ocean view. Authorities say the powder traveled in spandex underwear worn by four male crew members.
They made the mistake of appearing unduly anxious on cell phones Sunday outside a port-side Hooters restaurant, inviting surveillance from Homeland Security Investigations agents....
TAMPA — Self-described tax fraud queen Rashia Wilson got no breaks Thursday in a federal courtroom, where a judge under orders to reconsider her prison sentence again imposed 21 years.
U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. listened to Wilson's hard-luck tale of growing up on her own from age 12 and turning to crime to feed herself. But he reminded her that she stole from the very government that later provided her public assistance. ...
TAMPA — Bernadette Demps-Jackson, 41, went to federal prison last year for her role in a stolen identity tax refund fraud scheme.
On Wednesday, her daughter agreed to join her.
Makaeia Demps, 25, of Palm Harbor, pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft, the same charge that landed her Gibsonton mother a mandatory two-year sentence.
Demps, who will be sentenced later this year, admits in a signed plea agreement to cashing and spending proceeds of tax fraud....
TAMPA — Rent an Impala for two days but don't return it.
Take the car and $137,600 in counterfeit cash on a road trip to Walmart to load up on printer ink. Take the printer, too. Leave $100 bills taped on the scanner.
Inside, get caught stealing ink. Outside, fail to stop the tow truck that followed the car's GPS.
But for those acts, described in a federal complaint, Larry Theodore Smith might be living large....
TAMPA — Incarceration has bought Rashia Wilson something that $3 million-plus in tax refund fraud never delivered: a GED.
She is scheduled to be resentenced Thursday. An appellate court decided a judge made technical errors when ordering her to prison for 21 years back in 2013.
Defense attorney Andrew Greenlee noted in a recent sentencing memorandum that Wilson, now 29, entered prison with a 7th grade education and has since obtained her high school equivalency diploma....
TAMPA — An appellate court has taken an interest in the case of Cortnee Brantley, whose former ties to cop killer Dontae Morris led to a prison sentence she has not yet served.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals posted a notice on its website Friday that it will hear oral arguments in the case.
That means Brantley's attorney, Grady Irvin Jr., will have a chance to further challenge a verdict that a U.S. district judge once called plausible by the "thinnest of legal threads." Irvin argued in his written appeal that the case was selectively prosecuted and insufficiently proven. ...
TAMPA — A longtime Tampa cop and a police informer both admit in signed plea deals to riding a wave of tax refund fraud, one saying she cashed U.S. Treasury checks held as evidence and the other saying she filed claims using stolen identities.
Federal charges against former Tampa Police Department Cpl. Jeanette Hevel and ex-informer Rita Girven were made public Thursday, the same day the plea paperwork was filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office....
TAMPA — Dead men don't help friends apply for grants.
That's one reason a pair of Belleair Beach scientists are on trial in U.S. District Court, accused of identity theft and wire fraud in a conspiracy to snag $10 million in federal research money.
Before it's all over, as many as 288 government witnesses over two months are expected to take the stand against Matt Aldissi and wife, Anastasia Bogomolova, whose companies benefited from programs aimed at fostering small-business innovation....
TAMPA — A former property accountability manager for U.S. Central Command's J6 directorate was arrested Friday on a federal charge of stealing five computers from CentCom, court records show.
Scott Duty, 48, of Riverview was indicted Feb. 12 by a grand jury but the indictment was kept sealed until his arrest.
The thefts occurred on or around April 15, 2013, the indictment states....
TAMPA — Emergency room physician Anthony Davis has seen a lot of overdose cases. When he does, he checks to see who prescribed the drugs.
One name grew familiar: Edward Neil Feldman.
Fourteen months ago, Davis told the Florida Department of Health that he was sick of seeing the Pinellas Park doctor's overmedicated patients.
Davis likened Feldman to a drug pusher and said patients claimed he prescribed the pain killer oxycodone in powdered form....
TAMPA — Thieves collected at least $940,715 by using smartphones to deposit money orders they, in essence, borrowed from the U.S. Postal Service, federal documents charge.
A grand jury in Tampa indicted five men Wednesday on conspiracy and bank fraud charges, providing a glimpse of a scheme, reportedly ongoing since 2010, that capitalized on two conveniences of commerce.
Many banks allow customers to deposit checks remotely, using cellphone applications. Customers retain the checks....