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Probe into candidate's old firm continues

State Attorney Brad King says his office still is conducting a criminal investigation into business practices at Innovative Technology Inc., which until recently was operated by legislative candidate Dean Beagle. King first acknowledged that an investigation was under way into Innovative Technology last August when he successfully fought a subpoena seeking records held by his investigators.

Wednesday night, King said that the investigation remains open.

"That is an active file," King said. "It is something that we are still working on, although I can't tell you much more than that."

Beagle, 60, resigned as president of Innovative Technology in December and announced on Tuesday that he plans to challenge state Rep. Chuck Smith for the District 47 House seat representing all of Hernando County and parts of Pasco and Sumter counties.

Beagle, a Republican, said during a news conference announcing his

candidacy that he did not think any of the previous investigations into Innovative Technology would affect his campaign. On Thursday, he maintained that he knows of no wrongdoing committed at the company during the five years he worked there.

"I'm relatively certain that in the five years I have been with this company that there is nothing that has gone on that I would mind having people come in and see for themselves," Beagle said. "In fact, I think that many of us here feel that we'd be delighted to have our day in court. That's what corporate attorneys are for."

While Beagle resigned as president of the company in December, he has been retained by Innovative Technology founder Dennis Wilfong as a consultant. Beagle still works out of an office at the company's headquarters on Grove Road near Brooksville.

King declined to specify what complaints his office had received about Innovative Technology, and Beagle said he was not sure what investigators could be interested in learning about his operation.

"There has never been any indication with regard to an ongoing

investigation of us," Beagle said. "We haven't received any requests for information of subpoenas or anything like that."

The company, which installs business telephone systems and markets a lightning surge protector, has survived several investigations into its business practices.

At one point in 1988, the Florida Department of Revenue, the Florida Attorney General's Office and the office of the U.S. Postal Inspector were conducting separate investigations into Innovative Technology.

Those investigations focused partly on whether distributors of the

company's lightning surge device, called "The Protector," were making false claims that the device could save electricity.

Other investigations were made into complaints from distributors for Innovative Technology that they paid thousands of dollars to secure exclusive marketing rights for The Protector, only to have sales agents from the company's Brooksville base move in and undercut their prices.

But nothing has come of any previous investigations into the company, although an investigation into a similar company run by Wilfong in Virginia led to charges that he sold securities without a license.

Wilfong eventually was fined $4,000 and placed on three years' probation before moving to Florida and opening Innovative Technology in 1980.

Beagle, a history teacher and former aide to an Ohio congressman, is related to Wilfong and joined the company in 1984 as a salesman in the business telephone division.

Beagle eventually rose to the company's presidency in 1987, where he worked until his resignation in December.