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FORMER FIRE OFFICIALS WON'T FACE CHARGES

The FBI finds gifts to them weren't illegal.

Three former Tampa fire inspectors won't face criminal charges following a federal probe of gifts from a sprinkler system company.

"The FBI did investigate, and we decided to decline any prosecution," said U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Steve Cole.

Federal authorities and Tampa police decided to investigate last year after questions arose about two longtime inspectors taking unauthorized gifts from Advanced Engineered Systems (AES).

City rules prohibit officials from accepting gifts related to their job duties that could be inferred as an attempt to influence someone.

The scrutiny prompted inspectors Manuel T. Perrone and Toy K. Pelaez to retire. Carlos Llerandi, a third inspector, retired a month later, in January 2008, after a demotion to firefighter. All three were in charge of reviewing and regulating work plans and permits for AES.

Authorities said Llerandi accepted hockey tickets from AES. Officials said Perrone accepted entry fees for golf tournaments and the use of a 30-foot boat made available by AES. Pelaez was accused of accepting hockey tickets from AES several times in one year.

"We reviewed the information that was provided. After the review, our investigation did not identify the violation of federal law," said Tampa FBI spokesman Dave Couvertier.

Darrell Smith, chief of staff for Mayor Pam Iorio, said even though the FBI determined there was no criminal wrongdoing, that doesn't mean the three did nothing wrong.

"Documentation indicates there were violations of city personnel policies," Smith said. "Those principally involved timekeeping problems where they were reported to be at work but in fact were not."

Times staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this story. Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

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