The arrest of a former sex offender in March raised hints of “public corruption” in Tampa city government and impinged on city politics during the recently concluded, contentious City Council race.
Last week, city officials confirmed there is an ongoing investigation in the matter by the Tampa Police Department, but would provide no details, nor would State Attorney Susan Lopez’s office.
The hints came from a court filing by the State Attorney’s Office seeking to seal a search warrant in the arrest of John Ring, also known as Gio Fucarino, on charges of failing to provide some of the information required to be filed by registered sex offenders. He has pleaded not guilty.
In the filing, requested by the Tampa police, the state attorney asked that the warrant be kept secret in part because during the search, “potential evidence suggesting public corruption within the City of Tampa was located.”
Ring was convicted in 2010 for sending a text to a 17-year-old girl asking for sex and pornographic photos and served three years in prison. Since then, said his lawyer, Anthony Rickman, Ring has continually met the many periodic registration requirements for sex offenders.
In the last couple of years, he has become involved in Tampa politics and civic life, showing up at community and political events and becoming a board member of the Italian Club.
He was re-arrested March 17, soon after the March 7 council election and five weeks before the April 25 runoff.
“Although he has been doing everything he needs to do for 13 years, he’s alleged to have failed to meet some of the requirements,” said Rickman. “They’re alleging he didn’t provide an updated cell phone number, updated business address and updated Instagram account,” although he provided other information, including his Facebook account.
Rickman said he has no idea what the “evidence suggesting public corruption” refers to and denied Ring was involved in corruption — “We have no indication that he is the target of any investigation of public corruption.”
Within days of his arrest, his ties to the campaigns of both incumbent council member Lynn Hurtak and Mayor Jane Castor, the domestic partner of the daughter of Hurtak’s opponent Janet Cruz, became part of the acrimonious campaign, with each side seeking to tie him to the other.
Hurtak and council member Guido Maniscalco both quickly returned contributions from Ring. Hurtak’s campaign noted Ring’s listing as a host for a Castor campaign event and publicized photos of the two together and claimed Castor had introduced Ring to Hurtak.
A spokeswoman for Lopez confirmed that the investigation was initiated by Tampa police. Castor spokesman Adam Smith said city officials wouldn’t discuss what he called an “ongoing investigation” by the police.