The news coursed through the city Monday: FBI agents had descended on the Seminole Heights home of Tampa City Council member Lynn Hurtak and seized her husband’s phone, computer and more.
Last week, the elections office in Tampa disclosed an investigation into “criminal cyberactivity” — someone illegally breaching its computer system.
And following the March arrest of a Tampa political player with a hidden past, court records indicated “potential evidence suggesting public corruption within the City of Tampa” found during the investigation, according to a court filing.
So far, there is no evidence that any of these Tampa incidents are related. But not since the days of Steve LaBrake — the Tampa housing director who with his wife was sentenced to prison in 2005 in a bribery scandal — has Tampa’s political scene faced this much scrutiny.
Newly elected Tampa City Council chairperson Guido Maniscalco said he read the news of the FBI raid Monday on social media and was stunned, “like anybody would be.”
“The agencies involved, we just have to let them do their job,” he said.
The council member’s husband
The Tampa Bay Times broke the news Monday that at least a half-dozen FBI agents had executed a search warrant at a pink Seminole Heights bungalow that’s home to Hurtak and her husband, Tim Burke.
Burke, a former journalist who runs a media business, told the Times that only his personal and business devices were taken and he didn’t believe the search was related to city business. He said the search warrant had his name on it. No details of the investigation have been publicly disclosed.
Mayor Jane Castor said Tuesday that Tampa police were not involved, and that she found out about it Monday.
The Tampa player
Giovanni Fucarino — Gio to his friends — had become a political fixture in recent years and served on the board of Ybor City’s Italian Club. He was a host at Castor’s reelection kickoff and on the host committee for a Hurtak campaign event.
So locals were stunned at the news of his arrest in March: Fucarino — actually John Robert Ring Jr. — was charged with failing to register as a sex offender. According to records, he served three years in prison after he asked a 17-year-old girl for pornographic photos and sex and was nabbed in a sting.
Then came the political aftershock: The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office got a judge to seal the search warrant in the case because “potential evidence suggesting public corruption within the City of Tampa was located.”
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Officials have confirmed an ongoing investigation by Tampa police.
A week after the City Council’s April runoff elections, Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer announced that an unauthorized user had illegally accessed files on a shared drive of the office’s network.
Latimer said the user did not get to the voter registration or ballot tabulation systems. The breach was reported to multiple agencies, including the FBI, and is under investigation. No other details, including when this happened, were given.
Asked Tuesday if this had any connection to Monday’s FBI raid, Latimer said: “It’s a law enforcement investigation I’m not at liberty to comment on.”
Ongoing DOJ probe
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice continues to investigate a Tampa police program in which officers alerted landlords when their tenants were arrested and encouraged eviction.
An investigation by the Times found that officers sent hundreds of letters that encouraged landlords to evict tenants based on arrests, including cases where charges were later dropped. About 90% of tenants flagged to landlords were Black renters, despite Black residents averaging only 54% of all arrests in Tampa over the same period.
As part of its investigation, the Department of Justice is seeking input from those who were affected by the program.