A Tampa police officer resigned last month after an internal investigation found that he knew as early as 2021 that a local political player known as Giovanni “Gio” Fucarino was a convicted sex offender named John Ring Jr., but didn’t tell anyone what he knew and was untruthful when investigators asked him about it later, records show.
Master police Officer William B. “Brandon” Cain resigned on May 18 after an investigation found evidence that he violated the department’s policies related to standard of conduct, truthfulness, attentiveness to duty and cooperation with departmental investigations, according to documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times through a public records request.
An attorney who represents Cain in the matter, Rick Escobar, said his client denies the allegations and that the department is using him as a “scapegoat” to shift blame from others.
The investigation found Cain knew Fucarino was a registered sex offender using an alias as early as December 2021, according to an internal department memo summarizing the findings. In the last couple of years, the man known as Fucarino had become active in Tampa politics and civic life, showing up at community and political events and becoming a board member of the Italian Club. He served as a host of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s election kickoff and contributed to City Council campaigns.
“Master Police Officer Cain was not attentive to his duties as a police officer by failing to document his knowledge or even make a supervisor aware that a sexual offender was operating a business under a fictitious name, or even investigate why a sexual offender is using a fictitious name to interact with the city and local community,” Capt. Jason Dillaha wrote to interim Chief Lee Bercaw in the summary memo dated May 12.
“Master Police Officer Cain’s failure to disclose this information led to the continued unintentional contact by other law enforcement and City officials with a person who they believed was named Gio and did not know he was John Ring, a sexual offender,” Dillaha wrote.
Tampa police launched the internal investigation into Cain as the department was investigating a tip received on March 13 that Fucarino was actually Ring, who 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.
Police arrested Ring on March 17 on charges that he didn’t give state officials an updated cellphone number, business address and Instagram account, all of which he is required to provide because of his status as a sex offender. He has pleaded not guilty.
Within days of Ring’s 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 race. Hurtak won.
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Cain, who joined the department in 2009, was assigned in February 2020 to a squad covering Ybor City and in July of last year was assigned to be the department’s Ybor liaison officer. Part of his duties included building relationships with businesses and residents in the area, according to the summary memo.
On Dec. 31, 2021, the investigation found, Cain searched state databases for a vehicle that the man he knew as Gio Fucarino, who had an office in the Italian Club in Ybor City, owned, and then searched for “John Ring” by name and driver’s license number. The way he conducted those searches, Dillaha wrote, “indicates that he knew the real identity of Gio at that time.”
Cain established a relationship with Ring, and the two men “had multiple meetings outside of work, in a non-work related manner,” including at least one lunch while Cain was off duty, the memo states. Cain told investigators his last nonduty encounter with Ring was before Cain learned he was a registered sex offender. Cain claimed he learned that information on Thanksgiving of 2022.
But in addition to the December 2021 searches, Cain ran seven license plate checks on vehicles driven by Ring between April 2020 and March 7, 2023.
During a sworn interview with detectives, Cain initially claimed to have no knowledge of Ring’s alternate identity or criminal history, according to the memo. When asked during the interview, “Do you know him by any other names?” Cain responded multiple times, “I do not know him by any other name.”
It wasn’t until he was confronted a third time that Cain said he ran a tag search in front of the Italian Club and the results showed the name John Robert Ring with a photo that looked like the man known as Gio Fucarino, the memo states.
In a statement released Monday along with the records, the department said the investigation “exposed Cain’s unwillingness to further investigate why this sexual offender was using a pseudonym to interact with the community.”
No city senior officials have been implicated in any wrongdoing, the statement said.
Bercaw said in the statement that he has turned over the findings to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI “for further review.”
“The Tampa Police Department holds officers to the highest standard of conduct, which includes a duty of truthfulness while on the job. This is what our city expects and deserves,” Bercaw said.
Escobar, Cain’s attorney, said interview transcripts do not show that his client was deceptive. Escobar said he obtained records that show Tampa police interviewed Ring 23 times in the last decade or so and were already aware that Ring was using the name Gio Fucarino on Facebook.
“You have a bunch of (department) brass and the mayor’s office that are embarrassed over the fact that they were rubbing elbows with a registered sex offender, and as a result, they have to make someone the fall guy, and the fall guy is my client,” Escobar said.
Escobar said he advised Cain to fight any disciplinary action but that Cain decided to retire rather than risk losing accrued sick pay and other benefits and spending months without a paycheck while an arbitration case was pending.
Personnel records show Cain was found to have violated policy in four previous internal investigations related to extra duty work, use of in-car recording equipment, failing to appear in court and use of his body-worn camera.
In his most recent performance evaluation in December, Cain’s supervisor called him “a committed and dependable employee, as well as an exceptional community policing officer” and noted that he was selected for the newly created Ybor liaison job because of support from stakeholders in the area. Cain took on the role “with great enthusiasm and pride,” the evaluation said.
After Ring’s arrest, state prosecutors asked a judge to seal two search warrants and related documents that police used to search his property. The documents needed to remain confidential, the state argued, because they contain sensitive information related to an ongoing criminal investigation.
The searches also revealed “potential evidence suggesting public corruption within the City of Tampa,” Assistant State Attorney Courtney Derry wrote.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michael Williams ordered the documents to remain confidential until the state releases the case evidence to Ring’s defense, a legal process known as discovery. Ring’s attorney, Anthony Rickman, demanded discovery March 30, but the evidence has not yet been made public. Attorneys for the Times on Monday filed a motion to intervene in the Ring case, arguing the records should be unsealed.
The state on May 2 formally charged Ring with three counts of not properly registering as a sex offender. There have been few public developments in the case since then. In a brief hearing last week, the judge set a new court date for July 24.
Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report.