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Business dispute lands couple in jail

A dispute between two Pinellas County business partners spread to Crystal River this week when one partner and his wife tried to drive two company trucks away from a motel parking lot while the employees slept inside, authorities say. Almern Eugene Lang, 58, of 5275 39th St. S in St. Petersburg, and his wife, Betty Sue, were arrested Wednesday, and both were charged with two counts of grand theft after they tried to leave the motel with the vehicles.

The incident is the latest in a series of run-ins between Lang, vice president of GarrLan Systems Inc., and his partner, Rod Garry.

Garry is president of GarrLan, an Indian Rocks Beach company formed in 1989 to install fiber optic cable systems. Garry said Thursday the two have had "a falling out," but they have been trying to settle their differences.

"We were close (to reaching a settlement)," Garry said. "But Mr. Lang, in his infinite wisdom" decided to handle it his own way.

Crystal River police records show officers arrested Lang and his wife at the Seven Rivers Motel on U.S. 19 after they allegedly tried to take two company trucks from GarrLan employees Lawrence A. Conzett and William Duffy.

The two workers are in Citrus County installing a fiber optic cable system for a Florida Power project.

The workers told police they awoke about 5 a.m. Wednesday to the sounds of the International CB tractor-truck rig and Ford F-150 pickup starting. Lang was driving the rig, while Mrs. Lang drove the pickup. Both vehicles contained more than $1,600 worth of tools and equipment belonging to Conzett and Duffy.

As Lang backed the rig away, he struck a driveway overhang, causing $2,500 in damage. Garry said Lang will be responsible for paying for the damage because the company insurance won't cover it.

Officers arrived to find the rig blocking the driveway in front of the motel office and the blue pickup parked in the exit lane facing U.S. 19.

Lang told police, "My attorney said I could get this property. I want to call my attorney."

William Holland, a Tampa lawyer who has been representing Lang throughout the dispute with Garry, was not available for comment Thursday.

Garry alleged that Lang has taken more than $250,000 worth of equipment from job sites in Largo and Tallahassee, loaded it into a truck and stashed the truck somewhere in the North Suncoast area _ but Lang won't say where, Garry said.

According to Garry, about a half-dozen company employees are searching open fields north of Pinellas County for the truck and its expensive contents.

The situation is "sticky," Garry said, because Lang is still the company's vice president. Had the employees' equipment not been in the trucks, Lang wouldn't have been arrested for grand theft.

After the latest incident, Garry said he thinks "we'll probably get to the bottom of it real soon."

Pinellas County authorities said Thursday that they are investigating the disappearance of Garry's personal property, as well as GarrLan Systems' corporate goods.

Lang and his wife are each being held in the Citrus County Jail on $4,000 bail.