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Kidnapper of Tampa man sought $5-million, FBI says

The man charged with masterminding the January abduction of Tampa businessman Bob Thomas demanded a $5-million ransom for his safe return, according to FBI records released Friday. The records accompanied Friday's indictment of Gene Raymond Jandreau, 51, on federal conspiracy and extortion charges. Jandreau, whom Thomas sued 10 years ago over control of a boys home Thomas financed, was arrested Monday in Miami after four and a half months on the run from the FBI.

According to a sworn statement by FBI Special Agent Brian Kensel, Thomas called his accountant, Gene Carter, around 2 p.m. Jan. 14 _ about seven and a half hours after two or three men had kidnapped Thomas from his Palma Ceia driveway at gunpoint.

Thomas told the accountant he had been kidnapped to settle a previous business deal, according to the FBI affidavit.

Thomas' son informed the FBI that the only real business dispute his father ever had was a fight with Jandreau over control of Jesus Loves You Inc., a home for retarded and severely disturbed boys.

Thomas donated money and 70 acres in northeast Hillsborough County to help start the home, and Jandreau served as director.

Thomas sued in 1981 to block Jandreau's attempted sale of the property to a different organization Jandreau solely controlled. Jandreau eventually lost any claim to the property, which now is home to a residential child-abuse prevention program.

On Jan. 15, again around 2 p.m., Carter, the accountant, received another call, which was tape-recorded. The caller claimed to have Thomas, and stated, "This was a fight between him and I . . ." and that he would call again.

At 3 p.m., the caller told Carter to go to a pay phone at a Lakeland convenience store and await a third call.

About 35 minutes later, the caller told Carter, on the pay phone, to transfer $5-million to a bank in Austria, and said that once the transfer was complete, Thomas would be released.

Carter told agents the voice on all three calls sounded like Jandreau's, whom Carter had known and done business with. Thomas' son and his secretary also identified the voice as Jandreau's after hearing the recordings.

Though 66-year-old Thomas was released unharmed about eight hours after the last ransom phone call, Kensel said Friday no money was paid for the release.

Thomas was dropped at a North Tampa shopping center shortly after midnight Jan. 16. He called his family from a pay phone and then calmly rode the 10 miles home in a taxi cab.

In the following weeks, Tampa's society and business leaders buzzed with wonder and rumor about Thomas' ordeal. He has made no public comment.

Jandreau is being held without bail in Miami and is expected to be transferred to Tampa next week.