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Second chance doesn't last long for Hillsborough County employee with checkered past

Angel Carey, 34, a senior human resources analyst with Hillsborough County, was fired May 13 after county officials said they learned that Carey faced charges of insurance fraud, theft by deception and impersonating a police officer in Philadelphia. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
Angel Carey, 34, a senior human resources analyst with Hillsborough County, was fired May 13 after county officials said they learned that Carey faced charges of insurance fraud, theft by deception and impersonating a police officer in Philadelphia. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
Published May 19, 2016

TAMPA — When she applied for a job with Hillsborough County last year, Angel Carey told her prospective employer that she had a spotty past. A background check confirmed that years ago she had been arrested on misdemeanor charges in Pennsylvania.

She had gone through some tough times, Carey told the county, but now she wanted a fresh start in Florida. She was hired in November as a senior human resources analyst.

Her second chance didn't last long.

Carey was fired May 13. County officials learned she was wanted in Philadelphia on charges that include insurance fraud, theft by deception and impersonating a police officer.

The new Pennsylvania charges came to light May 6, after she was arrested on a local charge of failure to return leased property. Deputies said she did not return rented merchandise from a Rent King store. She turned herself in to the county jail and was released after posting $2,000 bail.

Just minutes later, jail officials discovered the Pennsylvania arrest warrant, issued April 28. Carey, 34, was re-arrested and is being held in the Orient Road Jail without bail, awaiting extradition back to Pennsylvania.

"We took a chance on her," said Hillsborough County Human Resources Director Peggy Rowe. "Most of the time, when you take a chance on someone they don't let you down."

Records show that was just the latest allegation made against Carey in Philadelphia. Her troubles seemed to begin about seven years ago.

Carey's former address was a home at 518 E Washington Lane in Philadelphia. It was the same location where she operated a small private school known as the Community Comprehensive Learning Academy.

Pennsylvania court records show that in 2009, the school was struggling to pay its bills. That year, Carey was twice sued by former school employees who claimed that they had not been paid thousands of dollars for work they had done. She was also sued by a contractor who had performed roofing work on her home, but claimed Carey didn't pay more than $5,000 which was owed.

When Carey did attempt to pay the debts, the checks she wrote bounced, according to records.

In 2010, Carey was found guilty of making terroristic threats, simple assault and disorderly conduct. She received a six-month probation sentence, according to Pennsylvania court records.

The same year, she pleaded guilty to a charge of writing bad checks and received a year of probation.

In another case, she was found guilty of driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level above 0.16. Most states, including Florida and Pennsylvania, presume a driver is impaired with a level of 0.08 or greater. She got more probation.

All those crimes are misdemeanors in Pennsylvania.

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The case that has Carey awaiting extradition centers on a homeowner's insurance claim that she filed in August 2011. Philadelphia Police said the State Farm insurance company paid Carey more than $67,000 for personal property and repairs to her home.

During an investigation of the claim, Carey submitted nine receipts, which police said were fraudulent. She also lied about where she worked, claiming she was a Philadelphia police officer, and later a director of operations for Comcast, according to Philadelphia police.

The arrest warrant was issued on April 28, five months after Carey was already working for Hillsborough County.

Carey's employment application states that she worked for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority from January 2013 to May 2015, first as an executive assistant and finance coordinator, and later as a human resources compliance officer. Officials with the transportation authority confirmed that is true, but that Carey actually worked for a temp agency contracted to work with them.

She listed a bachelor's degree in business administration from Clark Atlanta University, which she obtained in 2002. She also stated she was pursuing a master's degree at the University of South Florida.

Rowe called Carey "articulate," "reliable," and "competent." Hillsborough's human resources director noted that state statute dictates that prospective employees cannot be disqualified from a job solely because of a prior criminal conviction.

None of what turned up in Carey's background screening reflected any recent brushes with the law, Rowe said.

As a senior human resources analyst, Carey made about $45,000 a year. Her duties included oversight of training, policies and programs and investigating employee complaints.

She was hired Nov. 16 and worked a six-month probationary period. Then she was being hired permanently.

Troy Reid, a Brandon man listed in records as Carey's spouse, told the Tampa Bay Times last week that Carey's arrest was a misunderstanding, the result of identity theft.

"She's an outstanding citizen," Reid said. "She doesn't have any prior record. It's a case of stolen identity."

But Hillsborough sheriff's officials said they are sure they have the right person. A former employee of the Community Comprehensive Learning Academy also verified Carey's identity when a Times reporter showed her Carey's Hillsborough County mug shot.

While she was employed, Carey had access to the personal information of county employees. Rowe said they have no indication Carey did anything untoward while on the job.

"I've got to tell you, she did a very stellar job for us," Rowe said. "This is all just surprising."

Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.