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....
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....
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....
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....
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....
TAMPA — The internal theft of five laptop computers from U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base went undetected until a supplier noticed four of them advertised on eBay, according to federal court records.
A CentCom official ordered an inventory, putting it in the hands of a Riverview man who now admits to being the thief.
Scott Duty's signed federal plea agreement spells out those details and more, in anticipation of a hearing next month in which he is expected to plead guilty to stealing government property....
TAMPA — The former front man for a proposed $200 million luxury transportation mart pleaded guilty in federal court this week to stealing $29,400 in veterans benefits mistakenly paid to his deceased mother.
Elliot Kahana, 68, of Clearwater had shared a bank account with Anne Kahana.
Benefits kept arriving even after her death in April 2009, and Elliot Kahana admitted to spending them through January 2011, according to a court record....
WASHINGTON — He made the front pages of the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and USA Today for flying through protected airspace and plopping his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol. He captured air time on an alphabet of news channels for an act of civil disobedience to spotlight campaign finance reform.
And when Doug Hughes, a mail carrier from Ruskin, emerged in court after 24 hours in custody, he put speakerphones in his failing ears and faced the judge, hoping for the best....
TAMPA — Federal judges settle matters of import. They rule on terrorism, public corruption, sex trafficking and the like.
Add to the list: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
A Tampa federal judge was asked this week to grant an emergency restraining order barring the celebrity couple from ever entering Florida or appearing on Florida television.
Oddly, the petitioner was an inmate of a Pennsylvania prison, Wayne Richard Albright, 44....
TAMPA — One day last summer in a house containing drugs and guns, Kimberly Noelle Collera's handcuffs were momentarily unlocked by police so she could sign a paper.
She didn't grab for a gun.
She grabbed for euphoria.
"If I'm going back to prison, I'll at least get high before I go," she reportedly said after swallowing a handful of a drug known on the street as Molly, which increases the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain....
TAMPA — Many who risked it all to steal from the U.S. Treasury in Tampa's wave of identity theft and tax refund fraud had little to lose from the start.
Jeanette Hevel was different.
Rather than file phony claims, the veteran Tampa police detective stole checks that had been seized in police investigations. She admitted in court Tuesday to the theft of $88,505 in Treasury tax checks from a Tampa Police Department evidence room, and her formal plea agreement listed other checks totaling $13,007....
TAMPA — Matthew Donald Maxwell was broke and stressed over a new baby and a wife who complained constantly about health problems. His in-laws expected to be supported but a waiter job left bills piling up, according to court papers.
So he did something foolish: He robbed a bank.
"After that, he felt there was no turning back," attorney Frank Zaremba wrote, asking a federal judge to go easy this week on a man with a lengthy tale of woes, including eviction, depression, obsession and weight gain....
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....