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Largo police arrest girl, 15, who said her coach raped her

The 15-year-old girl told a harrowing story about how she fought with a teacher as he ripped off her clothes and raped her.

Then she told another story, changing the name of the teacher. Finally, she identified her attacker as yet someone else, her high school coach.

"She brought up an authoritative figure," Largo police Sgt. Ed Buyers said. "We had to be very careful and thorough."

The investigation took a sharp turn, however, after investigators determined the student at a high school in mid-Pinellas County had lied to them. According to police, she was trying to ruin the coach's career.

Police arrested the girl Wednesday and charged her with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor. She was released to the custody of her mother. Her name was not released because of her age. The coach's name is being withheld because of the nature of the charge.

According to the sergeant, it became clear to investigators that the rape allegations were false after she changed her story three times and talked to the coach during a monitored telephone call.

"She wanted to ruin his career because she didn't like him," Buyers said. "He was rude to her, and he's not a nice guy, according to her and her mother."

Jade Moore, Pinellas County teachers' union spokesman, said false accusations against teachers happen two or three times a year, but he had not heard of a student being charged.

"How about that," he said. "That's unusual. It's probably past time for something like this to happen."

The investigation began March 4 when the girl told the school resource officer that she had been raped by a teacher at the teacher's apartment. When the student was asked to write what happened on a statement, she changed her story and named another teacher.

The third story was an allegation that her coach raped her once in his apartment and once at school. The different stories made investigators suspicious.

"We talked to her and talked to her about telling the truth," Buyers said. "We told her we would arrest her if she was lying."

Investigators arranged for the girl to make a "controlled" telephone call, which is recorded and monitored, to the coach May 6. The sergeant said she did not follow instructions about what to say. The coach hung up when she brought up sexual intercourse.

"The controlled phone call shows us early on if the guy is really a bad guy," Buyers said. "It was quite apparent he, in fact, had no knowledge of what she was talking about. It was clear he was innocent."

The coach reported the call to school administrators and then the school resource officer. Investigators met with him and told him about the allegations, which he denied.

Buyers said investigators then interrogated the girl, who admitted she was not telling the truth. He estimated the investigation cost $725.

"She was making this all up as she went along, but we had to be careful," Buyers said. "It boiled down to, she wanted to play . . . and she didn't want to play for him."