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GAS PRICES FALL BELOW $3 IN THE TAMPA BAY AREA

Numbers we like to see: The average price of regular unleaded gas in the Tampa Bay area has plunged through the $3 mark on its way down. On Friday, regular unleaded cost $3.065 on average, based on the daily AAA Oil Price Information Service survey. By Monday, the average had fallen to $2.935 a gallon. That's a drop of a whopping 84 cents a gallon in a month and only 15 cents higher than the price a year ago. Fill 'er up.

Banker Coon pays the price for fraud

A rich man's lifestyle proved fleeting for Phil Coon, the former Coast Bank executive docked up to $1.5-million after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering as part of a home flipping venture with St. Petersburg builder Construction Compliance Inc. Coon ran the Bradenton bank's mortgage division and conspired with John R. Miller, head of Tampa's American Mortgage Link, to charge CCI customers an extra 1 percent commission. As part of a federal plea deal that could keep him out of prison, Coon agreed to forfeit assets that included his Bradenton home, bank accounts, pearl and diamond earrings worth $9,000, and a $21,000 piano. Coon's scheme enlisted hundreds of investors to build CCI houses in Sarasota County for no money down. When prices tanked and investors bailed, Coast Bank held tens of millions of dollars in bad loans. It was acquired for pennies on the dollar last year by First Banks of St. Louis.

Cowboys, Yankees form unusual team

A new joint venture between strange bedfellows - the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys - had its roots right here in Tampa. The baseball and football franchises on Monday said they formed a company to handle all of the concessions, catering and retail merchandising at each team's new $1-billion stadiums. The company, called Legends Hospitality Management, was created by the Yankees last year to handle food and beverage stands at their training facility in Tampa - now called Steinbrenner Field.

Banker is blunt on government

It's a rare bank CEO who speaks his mind about the federal government these days in the midst of a $250-billion injection of taxpayer funds into banking industry. Enter North Carolina's BB&T chief executive John Allison (he steps down at the end of this year), who had plenty to say to the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce. Allison, whose bank so far has avoided the mortgage market pain suffered by many institutions, said initial efforts by the feds to rescue the economy were misguided and added to public anxiety, reports say. The latest move to inject money directly into banks was necessary, given the government's poor earlier response. "It is necessary, given the unnecessary government-caused panic," said Allison, who added: "I think George Bush has been one of the worst presidents in history, but this is not his fault."

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