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Father lives with luxury, $224,000 child support bill

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

As a Clearwater Beach man enjoys a waterfront home, his ex-wife and two daughters, one with kidney troubles, struggle to get by.

Dana Carl Sjostedt lives in a $316,000 waterfront home with a pool and boat dock in the Island Estates community of Clearwater Beach.

He has been spotted in recent months driving a black Jeep and a Mercedes-Benz around town and rubbing elbows with a number of Clearwater's tailored suits.

In April, he told the Times he was the developer eager to establish a restaurant called Shooters on the beach.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Todd is running short of cash. Her water was turned off last week. Bills go unpaid and troubles abound as her daughter battles a kidney-related illness.

Sjostedt, to whom she was married 12 years, owes her $224,000 in back child support for the couple two children. She has hired a lawyer but still hasn't collected.

The man who once made more than $200,000 one year may live like a king, but, on paper, it's hard to say whether he has any worldly wealth.

The house on the water?

He lives there, but a company called Clearview Holdings owns the property, according to the Pinellas County appraiser's office. The president of Clearview Holdings could not be located.

The Jeep, the Benz?

Records show no such cars registered in Sjostedt's name.

The Shooters deal?

Sjostedt's signature is nowhere on official documents for companies Mandalay Bay Dockside Dining and Shooters Clearwater Beach. Jon Dana Sjostedt _ Dana Sjostedt's 24-year-old son from a previous marriage _ is the listed president.

A mutual friend introduced Sjostedt and Todd at a swank restaurant in the Washington, D.C., area. He was tall, blond and said he was a developer, Todd recalls. "He was a high-roller," she said. Not long after they met, he whisked her off to the Caribbean for a brief trip.

Three months later, they were man and wife.

"The marriage was good in the beginning, but then it got rocky," Todd said. "The finances were kind of shaky."

Todd didn't work outside of the home and left the finances up to her husband, she said. Several years into the marriage, Todd remembers heading for preschool with her oldest daughter one morning. But instead of her Mercedes, Todd found a baby seat, a briefcase and other incidentals sitting on the ground. They had been left inside the car the night before. She ran into the house and called police to report it stolen.

As it turned out, the car had been repossessed, Todd said.

"He didn't tell me the truth" about the family's finances, she said.

Things worsened, Todd said. She learned from a neighbor that the family's house had been advertised for sale after going into foreclosure. "My neighbor told me, "Your house is up on the courthouse steps tomorrow.' "

The marriage was shaky in other ways. According to records, Sjostedt was the one who filed for divorce twice. The couple did not follow through the first time, but the second attempt was finalized in early 1996.

Todd said the marriage went sour because she was fed up with the financial situation.

The relationship has gotten no better. This year, Sjostedt was able to get a restraining order against her, saying she threatened him and came to his home uninvited.

Neither Sjostedt, his son Jon, nor his lawyer would answer questions for this story.

In 1995, as the separated couple haggled over child support, court records show Sjostedt worked for a Colorado company called Telectronics Pacing Systems. Documents show Sjostedt made about $216,000 in 1994. A court ordered him to pay $5,000 a month for child support and $2,000 in alimony for two years.

Records show Todd was making about $7 an hour as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines, where she still works today.

With her job and the income from child support, Todd figured she could afford to pay $1,600 a month to live in Tampa's Hyde Park area. Her youngest daughter is 10 and has a kidney-related illness that requires frequent medication and doctor's visits, Todd says. Meanwhile, the other daughter is 15 and has begun visiting her father. She enjoys the trips to the gym, the swimming pool and other amenities that come along with visiting her father, Todd said.

Todd doesn't believe her ex-husband is broke or that her former stepson is the mastermind behind Mandalay Bayside Docks and Shooters Clearwater Beach.

At least at one point, J. Dana Sjostedt, the son, and Lisa Ann Sjostedt, his sister also from an earlier marriage, had a joint bank account, court files show. From June 12, 1999, to July 12, 1999, someone withdrew $11,000 in debits from the account, which maintained a daily balance of about $25,000. The money included plane tickets, restaurant tabs, and hotel bills in Tampa, Key West, Georgia, Alabama, Oregon and Texas.

"This kid gets out of college . . . lives with his dad, and he's a mogul?"