Police say report of unwanted visitors at Port Richey mayoral candidate's home was unfounded

Police say Dale Massad refused to fill out a voluntary statement about the incident.
Police say Dale Massad refused to fill out a voluntary statement about the incident.
Published Aug. 27, 2015

PORT RICHEY — On Aug. 5, former City Council member Dale G. Massad filed prequalifying papers to run for mayor of Port Richey. The next morning, police responded to an alarming call from a woman living at the retired doctor's house.

People had entered Massad's home on Hayward Lane, she said.

For nearly an hour, Port Richey police looked for the people Massad said had come into his house — people he believed to be in his air-conditioning return or in his attic. Officers found no one. Meanwhile, Massad, 64, talked about a sleepless night of partying, and police say the woman who made the call admitted to using cocaine.

Massad — who last week qualified for the Oct. 13 mayoral election and who currently serves as chairman of the Port Richey Port Authority Board — declined to discuss the incident with the Times. He said he is committed to staying in the mayor's race.

It was about 9:15 a.m. Aug. 6 when police arrived at Massad's house, according to a Port Richey Police Department incident report. They first found the woman, whom the Times is not identifying, who said "multiple" homeless people were living under a tree in the front yard, under a dock, in Massad's boat and in the home's air-conditioning ventilation system.

The responding officer, Joseph Esposito, checked the exterior of the house and found no one, then asked if Massad was available. Inside, Massad came out of a bedroom with a spotlight aimed at the ceiling, Esposito wrote in his report.

"They are in the air-conditioning vents! There's two white guys and a black guy," Massad said, according to the report.

Esposito looked at Massad and found his eyes to be "dilated and bloodshot" and asked if he had been drinking alcohol or using drugs.

"You know I like to party, but I would tell you if I was," Massad responded.

Massad then gave the officer permission to search the house to look for the people. Esposito reported that when he entered the master bedroom, he found Massad on a step stool looking down into an air-conditioning return. He had a firearm in his hand and said, "He's down in there."

Esposito responded by asking Massad to disarm himself, which he did. The officer then asked if he could unload the weapon.

"Absolutely, I understand, if I was you I would think I am crazy, too," Massad said.

Esposito checked the air return and found no one. Then Massad turned the search to the attic, which arriving Sgt. Lloyd Johansen canvassed. He found no one.

The officers then returned to the woman living with Massad, asking whether she had taken any medications or drugs.

"I will be honest, I took a small line of cocaine this morning," she said, according to the report.

Esposito asked if Massad had "taken part in the drug usage," and she did not answer. She said there "was no more cocaine left" and didn't know whether there were any other illegal drugs in the house.

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Massad denied using any illegal drugs but told police he "does take prescription medications, which were observable throughout several rooms in his residence (bedroom and kitchen)," Esposito wrote in his report. "They kept me up all night. I haven't slept yet."

Massad "kept referring to him and (the woman) partying, and having their sexual relations interrupted, all the while feeling uneasy by the 'suspects' watching him," Esposito wrote.

"They must have left, but I will tell you they were there," Massad told the officers.

Both Massad and the woman refused to fill out voluntary statements about the incident. Esposito wrote that because of a lack of evidence, and because neither Massad nor the woman appeared to be "harmful to themselves or others," no action was taken.

After reviewing the report and talking with his officers, Port Richey police Capt. Bill Ferguson told the Times that a more thorough search of everything in the home did not occur because the officers saw no illegal drugs or paraphernalia in plain sight. The woman's comment about cocaine use did not give officers probable cause to search deeper, Ferguson said, and Massad's behavior did not indicate that he might be a danger to himself or others.

"He seemed to be coming down from whatever they were on," Ferguson said. "Initially, he was a little high-strung. After the officers were talking to him, it seemed like he was coming down a little bit."

The incident was not the first time Port Richey police have been to Massad's house this year.

In May, officers responded to a theft call after Massad called 911 to report that a woman staying at his house had broken into his safe and taken $2,500, 34 Vicodin pills and 27 Valium pills.

Massad told police that when he confronted the woman — who was not the one involved in the Aug. 6 incident — she departed but left behind a box that contained the money and pills.

In addition to the police calls this year, Massad, who served on the Port Richey City Council three times between 2000 and 2008, has drawn public scrutiny several times over the years.

In 2009, Massad reported to police that a friend had stolen a gun from his pickup in his garage. The friend later used the gun to commit suicide.

In 1992, Massad voluntarily surrendered his license to practice medicine in Florida after the state found him to be "a serious threat to the public."

Two years earlier, a 3-year-old girl had died after Massad used laser treatment on birthmarks on the child's face. A Florida Department of Health report stated the child died from Lidocaine toxicity when a dentist over-administered the drug, which Massad had requested to ease the girl's pain during several laser procedures.

When asked about the case by the Times at the time of his appointment to the council in 2000, Massad said: "I practiced 18 years without a complaint. This one thing was tragic and devastating."