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Tax collector will lead statewide tax association

Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden was sworn in Wednesday as president of the state association that monitors issues relating to tax collection and motor vehicle and other licensing.

Among other things, the Florida Tax Collectors Association identifies priorities to press before legislators. It also has a staff that provides assistance on issues common to the state's 67 tax collectors.

Belden will serve a one-year term. He said he hopes to implement a three-year plan that includes identifying legislative priorities and customer service initiatives that could serve as a model to tax collectors.

He has been developing the plan while serving on the association's board since 2002.

4 men accused of stealing

electronics, software

TAMPA _ Four men from New York were arrested Tuesday night in the parking lot of Best Buy, 1725 N Dale Mabry Highway, after Hillsborough sheriff's detectives searched their blue minivan and found $10,000 in electronic and software goods, according to a sheriff's report.

The men _ Jason Balchus, 29, Albert Guadeanoli, 30, Joseph Neary, 23, and Fredrick Romano, 27 _ each face a charge of third-degree grand theft, a felony. A sheriff's report said detectives were in the parking lot of the adjacent Wal-Mart conducting an investigation when they noticed the "suspicious" minivan with one man inside. Then detectives saw three men giving hand signals to the man in the van as they entered Best Buy.

A few minutes later, detectives said, they saw the three men come out with their jackets stuffed with stolen merchandise. Detectives surrounded the van, looked inside and found about $10,000 in stolen goods, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Rod Reder said.

The men were arrested, and detectives searched the Pinellas County motel room where they were staying but found nothing more. The investigation is continuing.

Ex-employee accused of

stealing Mustang logos

BRANDON _ A former Brandon Ford parts department employee was arrested Tuesday accused of prying the horse-shaped metal emblems off the sides of several pricey Roush Mustangs and selling them for $40 each.

Ronald S. Ellsworth, 36, of 705 W Kentucky Ave., faces a charge of grand theft and 20 counts of dealing in stolen property, jail records show. Ellsworth, who currently works in the sales department at Courtesy Lincoln, was arrested there Tuesday afternoon. Detectives are still looking for the man they say bought the emblems from Ellsworth between May and June and resold them at local car shows for about $100 each.

Sheriff's spokesman Reder said his agency began investigating the case when Brandon Ford officials reported that several Roush emblems were pried off cars right after Ellsworth quit his job there. Brandon Ford is one of nine Florida dealers that sells the special-edition Mustang, according to the Web site for Jack Roush, the professional drag racer and NASCAR team owner whose company created the high-powered Roush Mustang, which sell for more than $40,000.

Deputies seek suspect

in sexual assault

TAMPA _ Hillsborough sheriff's detectives are looking for a young man who broke into a southern Hillsborough apartment early Tuesday and raped a 15-year-old girl.

According to the sheriff's office, the suspect entered the apartment in Oak Creek subdivision off Riverview Drive, about 5 a.m. He grabbed a knife from inside the apartment and confronted the girl, who was sleeping when he broke in, then raped her and ran away.

He is described as a Hispanic or light-skinned black man with a thin build and short, curly black hair. He is between 19 and 22 years old, and at the time of the attack wore a gray shirt with a red shirt on top and a white rag on his head. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at (813) 247-8200 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-873-8477.