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Plaintiff wants TV news anchor added to suit

Published Sep. 13, 2005

Court papers filed this week allege that WTOG-Ch. 44 news anchor Barbara Callahan helps her husband run an illegal international plastic surgery business out of their waterfront home.

Callahan called the allegations outlandish and false and referred further questions to her Tampa attorney, Glenn Burton. Burton said legal opponents of Callahan's husband are unfairly dragging her and her financial assets into a dispute that is none of her doing.

Daniel Callahan lost his thriving St. Petersburg plastic surgery business and his license to practice medicine in 1995, after the Florida Board of Medicine accused him of taking sexual advantage of patients and giving female patients and employees money in exchange for sexual favors.

Five former employees sued and won more than $20-million in trials where Callahan didn't show up to contest. They are now trying to collect, which brings them to Barbara Callahan and her financial dealings.

A motion filed Tuesday in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court seeks to add Barbara Callahan to the lawsuit against her husband by former employee Linda Kennedy. The motion says Daniel and Barbara Callahan operate a business called Escape to Beauty, which offers $1,000 tummy tucks and $3,500 breast enhancements in Mexico. An 800 number advertised in the Yellow Pages leads callers to a telephone at Barbara Callahan's home on Coffee Pot Bayou in northeast St. Petersburg, according to the motion filed by St. Petersburg lawyer Thomas McGowan. (McGowan occasionally represents the Times on First Amendment matters.)

Either Barbara Callahan, her husband or another woman answer the phone, take down medical information and make arrangements for surgery in Mexico, the motion says. Daniel Callahan, a veteran pilot, then flies groups of patients to Isla Mujeres, where the patients pay him cash.

The motion alleges the Callahans have placed some of the cash in offshore accounts to hide it from the Internal Revenue Service.

Because this activity is illegal, the motion says, Barbara Callahan's home should be subject to collection efforts, as should the Barbara Danahy Callahan Family Trust, which the motion says benefits from the plastic surgery business and is under the control of Barbara Callahan.

If she is made a defendant in the suit, her wages could be subject to garnishment, McGowan said.

Daniel Callahan, who invoked the Fifth Amendment several times during a deposition, could not be reached and his St. Petersburg attorney, Thomas Wadley, declined to comment. McGowan "has gone to great lengths to allege that (Daniel Callahan) is committing crimes," Wadley said. "As long as those allegations are being made, it doesn't serve any purpose to answer them."

Burton strongly denied all the major allegations against Barbara Callahan.

The Callahans "are taking a media beating, especially because of her media profile, and it just isn't right," Burton said. "These things they are saying about her are simply untrue."

Barbara Callahan has properly paid all her income tax, has no money in any offshore account and is not helping her husband do anything illegal, Burton said.

If the 800 number rings at her house, she answers and takes a message, Burton said. "She is not part of a business. She lives in a house where a phone rings."

Only Barbara Callahan contributes to the trust, which contains money for the couple's teenage son, he said. "Barbara never did any of that stuff. Why is she going to be destroyed by association?"

At a hearing Monday, Burton will ask Circuit Judge Thomas E. Penick Jr. to limit McGowan's ability to delve into Barbara Callahan's finances.

McGowan's law firm represents all five women who won judgments from Callahan. Though the motion to add Barbara Callahan as a defendant applies only to Kennedy's case, the women have an agreement to split money collected in any of the suits, McGowan said.

Mike Conway, general manager of WTOG, declined to comment.