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BE WARY OF OIL SPILL SCAMS, STATE WARNS

State officials Friday issued a consumer warning to be wary of companies offering beach cleanup jobs for a fee. Cynthia Lorenzo, director of the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, cited reports that some Floridians have paid fees to submit applications or undergo training for oil spill-related jobs, only to later discover the advertised jobs were not available or the training not as described. AWI, which oversees unemployment issues, has been working with the state's network of workforce boards to connect job seekers with contractors who have been certified by BP to help recover from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Available jobs are listed through floridagulfrecoveryjobs.com, the state-run website. According to the state, more than 10,850 positions are currently advertised and nearly 31,000 people have been referred to positions through the site. People who believe they may have been victimized should contact the Attorney General's Fraud Hotline at 1-866-966-7226, the Florida Department of Agriculture's Consumer Hotline at 1-800-435-7352, or the Chief Financial Officer's Consumer Helpline at 1-877-693-5236.

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Pinellas gets $1.15M for tourism ads

Pinellas County has heard from Gov. Charlie Crist's office it will receive $1.15 million to market the area to summer visitors. The money will come from a $25 million emergency fund bankrolled by BP to help Florida tourist destinations hurt by the oil spill in the gulf. The cash will double the county's summer advertising campaign, which primarily targets travelers in the bay area and Central Florida. This week, Crist asked BP for an additional $50 million for tourism advertising. "We will go after (a share of) that just as hard,'' said David Downing, deputy director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Visitor Bureau. "This $1.15 million is not a stopping point.''

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Ex-Ocala mortgage CEO enters plea

Lee Bentley Farkas, the former head of Ocala-based Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, a mortgage lending company accused of scheming to steal more than $500 million from the government's financial bailout fund, pleaded not guilty Friday in Alexandria, Va. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema set a Nov. 1 trial date.

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Correction

The print edition headline of Robert Trigaux's On Business column Friday misidentified the title of departing St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce chief John Long. He is CEO and president.

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GAS WATCH

The price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas in the Tampa Bay area:

FRIDAY

$ 2.633

THURSDAY

$2.637

MONTH AGO

$2.653

YEAR AGO

$2.623

RECORD

$4.009*

* July 16, 2008

Source: AAA/Oil Price Information Service

To find the cheapest gas where you live, visit money.tampabay.com

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