Jade Isaacs - 7/10 - SaintPetersBlog

Jade Isaacs

Clearwater woman claims Honeywell unfairly fired her over depression

A 15-year employee at a Clearwater manufacturing plant claims she was fired due to depression.

Honeywell International is being accused of violating the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA) which serves to protect individuals within Florida from discrimination because of their race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap or marital status and protect their interest and personal dignity.

Ivonne Gonzalez began working for Honeywell in August 2000. She was terminated in November 2015.

Gonzalez suffers from a disability that qualifies as a handicap under the FCRA. The company was aware of Gonzalez’s depression. However, her disability did not stop her from performing the job for the 15 years she was with the company.

On Nov. 3, 2015, Honeywell place Gonzalez on a mandatory leave of absence. To be reinstated, she would have to complete an employee assistance program, EAP. After completing the EAP she was cleared to return to work by her doctor. Nevertheless, the company refused to reinstate her.

Gonzalez claims to have been discriminated against based on her depression.

She requests compensation for lost wages and benefits, reinstatement to the position or front pay, compensation for emotional distress, and attorney’s fees and costs. In the suit filed Nov. 7, 2016, Honeywell is being sued on two counts of FCRA violations and one count of FCRA retaliation.

Honeywell operates in over 70 countries and has over 129,000 employees. It has offices and a manufacturing plant in Clearwater on US Highway 19 N. In 2015, the company had $38.6 billion in revenue.


Order Sons of Italy chapters quarrel over St. Pete charter property, copyright

After attempting to break away from the national and state chapters, a local Sons of Italy charter has failed to turn over property that belongs to the fraternity.

Grand Lodge of Florida, Order Sons of Italy in America is now suing Sons of Italy of St. Petersburg on six counts.

In the suit, Grand Lodge requests the court deem them rightful owners of the property.

The hierarchy of the Order Sons of Italy in America, OSIA, is as follows: The Supreme Lodge, the Grand Lodge, and the Local Lodge. Grand is a state-level lodge; it oversees all local lodges in the state. Local lodges are subordinates to the Grand Lodge.

On June 6, 2006, the St. Petersburg Lodge purchased a property at 2500 34th St. S. in St. Petersburg. The funds used to buy the property were raised in relation to OSIA.

Before its succession, Sons of Italy of St. Petersburg was known as Order Sons of Italy in America, John Paul I Lodge #2427, St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Local Lodge filed documents with the State of Florida to change its name on Oct. 13, 2014. They did this before receiving approval from the Supreme Lodge or Grand Lodge, a direct breach of the laws of OSIA.

The Grand Lodge didn’t learn of the St. Petersburg charter’s decision to withdraw from the National Order until Oct. 27, 2014. From that point, the Sons of Italy of St. Petersburg refused to pay any fees to the Grand Lodge.

By March 2015, the Grand Lodge attempted to notify the Local Lodge that its withdrawal was not recognized by OSIA.

In June 2016, the property on 34th Street South was refinanced by the newly named St. Petersburg club.

The Grand Lodge dissolved the Local Lodge in September 2016. Now, the St. Petersburg club was notified that all property was to be turned over to OSIA. The club has yet to turn over any property.

All lodges must follow the clubs’ constitution and laws.

The St. Petersburg charter was formed in early 1979 and thereby adopted all laws of OSIA.

Part of the governing laws of the fraternity states:

“All the property of the dissolved Local Lodge, namely: The Charter, paraphernalia, and funds in its possession, including real and personal property, except for funds due the Supreme Lodge or the Grand Lodge, shall be taken into custody and administered by the Supreme Council or by the Grand Council …”

OSIA has copyrighted names, statements, service marks, service names, images and intellectual property of the Order. Copyrighted material includes:

Copyrighted material includes the names Sons of Italy, Sons of Italy in America, and OSIA.

By continuing to use the Sons of Italy name, the local club is also in violation of copyright laws.


Homeowners denied mortgage reduction program accuse Bank of America of fraud

Twenty homeowners are suing Bank of America for fraud after the bank denied them a program that would lower mortgage payments.

Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) was designed to help homeowners affected by the market crash in 2008. The program would reduce monthly mortgage payments to 31 percent of the borrower’s pretax monthly income.

Eligibility for the program is based on five factors:

— You struggle to make mortgage payments due to financial hardship

— You are delinquent or in danger of missing payments

— Your mortgage was set before 2009

— Your property isn’t condemned

— You owe less than $729,750 on the property

Mortgage companies across the nation took part in the HAMP program.

In April 2009, HAMP was adopted by Bank of America. In exchange, the government provided the bank with hundreds of millions of dollars, says the suit.

Bank of America never trained its employees on the proper procedure for handling HAMP applications. The company contracted Urban Lending Solutions to help sort through the thousands of HAMP applications received.

According to multiple sworn declarations from past Bank of America and Urban Lending employees, a fraudulent scheme was enacted by the institution.

Employees were instructed to delay HAMP applications by telling customers they were still under review even if they were not. The company then began a procedure they called a “blitz.” Blitz’s occurred nearly twice a month. During a blitz, employees would deny all files over 60 days old. These “old” files were caused by employees not submitting them promptly and had nothing to do with borrowers slacking on turning in forms. Forms that were filed correctly went through Urban Lending. Underwriters looking over cases wouldn’t know to check Urban Lending’s database to find the forms and would presume that the application wasn’t ever completed.

One declaration said employees had quotas to meet for placing homes into foreclosure. They could be terminated if they did not meet the quota. Incentives, like gift cards and bonuses, were given to those who met the quota.

Many homeowners who did not receive the modification lost their homes to foreclosure.

A plaintiff in the suit, Rafael Paz, lost his home after his HAMP application was denied. Paz attempted to file the application and subsequent documents to the bank four times. Each time, he would be told the documents were either not received or were incomplete.

On one occasion, Paz was informed by a Bank of America employee that to be approved, he should default on his payments. He did as he was told, and later the employee verbally informed Paz that he was approved to begin making trial payments. Paz was never actually approved, and the trial payments he made went to other fees the bank claimed he had to pay.

By 2012, Bank of America foreclosed on his home. Each of the 19 other plaintiffs have similar stories.

In its March 2011 HAMP Performance Report, Bank of America had a conversion rate of about 30 percent. A conversion rate it the percentage of borrowers who converted from Trial Payment Period modifications to permanent modifications. Other lenders, like Wachovia Mortgage, had an 89 percent conversion rate.

In a 2013 class action against Bank of America, the Massachusetts District Court deemed it should be up to individuals to sue the institution.

SunTrust seeks to recoup $1.5M defaulted loan from Tampa wealth management firm

SunTrust Bank has yet to be paid back for $1.5 million loaned last year to a Tampa-based wealth management firm.

Five days after full payment was due, the bank filed a complaint Nov. 1 against Platinum Wealth Partners in Hillsborough County circuit court.

The suit requests judgment against Platinum as well as two other members of the company. SunTrust seeks full repayment of the loan, as well as interest and attorney’s costs. SunTrust is also calling for the court to allow the bank to recover personal property signed off as collateral for the debt.

According to the complaint, on Oct. 28, 2015, Platinum executed a commercial note with SunTrust to open a revolving line of credit for funds up to $1.5 million. The next day, Platinum gave SunTrust the right to all its assets, such as inventory, furniture, and deposit accounts.

Platinum defaulted payments in July and then again Oct. 27, by failing to pay all the funds owed by the maturity date set in the original note.

Platinum founder and CEO David Porter and George Hall, the president of private client groups, signed off as guarantors for the loan. Because the two delivered an Unconditional Guaranty to SunTrust to pay back all funds, they also are named in the suit.

The company failed to provide SunTrust with financial information regarding Hall, again defaulting under the note.

Platinum was notified of the defaults Aug. 4, but failed to pay any funds owed.

On the day the suit was filed, Platinum still owed the bank $1,488,000 for principal only. Add interest, default interest, late fees, and attorney’s fees — and that number is expected to grow significantly.

The property the bank seeks to obtain in the suit is believed to be housed in offices across the country, from Tampa to Las Vegas to Santa Monica.

Platinum Wealth Partners, which operates nine offices nationwide, is an investment-advisory firm with a home base in Tampa. In 2015, Financial Advisor Magazine ranked the company No. 10 on their list of the 2014 Top 50 fastest growing firms.


Gulfport man claims Samsung vaping battery exploded, caught fire

When someone switches from cigarettes to e-cigarettes they hope to lead healthier lives.

No one expects the change to cause them more harm.

Gulfport resident William Switzer began using e-cigarettes in 2013. He believed they were a safe alternative to aid in him quitting cigarettes.

On Dec. 2, 2015, an e-cigarette, or vaporizer pen, blew up in his pocket. Switzer suffered second and third-degree burns after both the pen and its battery caught fire.

Switzer is now suing all parties responsible for the damages he suffered on nine counts of negligence and liability. Defendants in include Vapor Road, Joyetech USA, Global Vaping, and Korean manufacturing giant Samsung Electronics.

Samsung recently has been forced to recall millions of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 cellphones, after many of them exploded and caught fire due to defective batteries. Among the e-cigarette batteries Switzer claims might have exploded in his pocket was a Samsung model INR 18650.

On Oct. 2, 2015, Switzer went to Vapor Road, an e-cigarette store on Tyrone Avenue, to buy a vaporizer system and component parts. He wasn’t knowledgeable about the batteries, so he turned to an employee for guidance. The suit claims an employee suggested he purchase the “Efest 18650 2100 3.7V 35 A” battery, the “Joyetech eVic Supreme” battery kit, and the “Sigelei Mod” vaporizer.

The battery kit included the Samsung battery that exploded in Switzer’s pocket.

Switzer followed the setup instructions that came with the device and used it as it was intended to be used.

The morning of the incident, Switzer throughout his hourlong commute to work, he used the vaporizer. When he arrived at 7 a.m., he put the pen in his front pocket. Later that morning, the explosion occurred.

Switzer was treated at Tampa General Hospital.

Vapor Road is located at 3334 Tyrone Ave., St. Petersburg. Its headquarters is in Seminole.


Tarpon Springs elementary school parents face off with bizarre mix of stalking, road rage accusations

Parents of students in Tarpon Springs are going head to head in a battle that has produced an even dozen various stalking claims.

In the latest clash, Stephen Alexander is taking on Lisa McMenamin, John McMenamin, and two lawyers.

Both Alexander and the McMenamin’s have children attending Brooker Creek Elementary at 3130 Forelock Road in Tarpon Springs.

A suit, filed Oct. 24, claims that April 11, 2016, the McMenamins negligently operated a vehicle and committed road rage. Alexander says he was injured in the “auto accident” with sustained damages totaling $45 million.

The defendants are being charged with four counts of negligence.

The first claim took place at the elementary school the day of the road rage incident. The next three claims come from separate encounters that resulted in emotional distress. Details of these incidents are withheld from the suit.

Lisa McMenamin brought the first of 12 suits, with an action against Gwendolyn Olmsted Alexander. The petition for protection against stalking was filed March 18, 2016, after Olmsted verbally assaulted McMenamin and sent multiple emails harassing and threatening McMenamin.

An email sent out by the secretary of Crescent Oaks Homeowners Association, Irvin Rosen, said the McMenamin kids were fundraising for Suncoast Animal League. They requested donations in the form of money or supplies be made to the family, who would then send them to Suncoast.

What followed was a thread of bizarre emails from Olmsted. The first email, Olmsted implied that the kids would get a cut and that people believed she wasn’t smart enough to donate directly to the charity.

“… and how much of a cut do Matthew and Katie McMenamin get, since I suppose I am incapable and too non-gifted to donate directly to those charities myself?” Olmstead wrote.

Olmsted referenced her books claiming that it’s a charity people should donate to. She sent a second email asking for her response to be sent around to promote her novels. In the second email, Olmsted claims to be a disabled veteran.

In Rosen’s response, he claimed he “did not mean to disparage” her work, but intended to encourage the kids’ efforts.

Two days later, she sent another email to Rosen, the McMenamins, and Crescent Oaks. In this email, Olmsted alleges a woman (referred to as Mindy) assaulted her in public at the kids’ bus stop. The threats McMenamin refers to in her suit come from this email.

“Must be the veteran in me, you know the thrill of killing another human being, or in my case, definitely plural … If you attack me like that again, I will call the police,” Olmsted wrote.

Olmsted was married to Alexander up until their divorce in 2013. However, they still live together with their 8-year-old son. Olmstead’s website for her novels claim she held “top-secret” positions in the U.S. government and is married to a corporate attorney. The site also cites a person named Robert Hauser III as her current boyfriend.

In an application to determine Alexander’s indigent status, he claims to have zero dependents. The form shows that he only receives $1,400 a month in Social Security benefits. On Oct. 24, 0216, the Clerk of the Circuit Court deemed Alexander to be indigent.

According to BayLawsuits, Alexander had hospitalized himself on multiple occasions, which suggested some instability.

No further cases have been filed since Oct. 24.


Tampa apartment complex sued after traffic death of 12-year-old

Following the death of her son, a Tampa mother is suing an apartment complex for failing to provide safe accommodations for pedestrians.

The morning of Jan. 28, 2016, 12-year-old Leonard Pineda was hit by a car while trying to catch a school bus. He was running through the parking lot of the Preserve at Mobbly Bay, an apartment complex at 8210 Solano Bay Loop off West Hillsborough Boulevard in Northwest Tampa. Pineda was struck by a Ford Expedition driven by Dynisha Namauleg.

After being transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Pineda died from his injuries, according to a news release from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Pineda’s mother is the designated representative of his estate. In the suit, she is requesting compensation for damages that include funeral costs and pain and suffering arising from the loss of a family member.

Management received past complaints regarding pedestrian safety in the complex, the suit says. There was a lack of speed signs, traffic control devices, notices, and warnings on the property. The complaints were filed, but nothing was ever done to address the hazard.

Shortly after the accident, Namauleg was arrested for domestic violence and evicted from her apartment. Namauleg has had previous traffic citations for failing to stop at red lights and lying to police after an auto accident where she was driving on a suspended license.

Pineda left behind his mother, father and two siblings.


Family of Pasco man killed by bulldozer claims reckless negligence

A year after a 27-year-old construction worker was run over by a bulldozer, the family is suing two parties they believe were responsible for his death.

Justin Smith died Oct. 7, 2015, while working at the construction site of Aura @ 4th Apartments when the bulldozer backed over him. Albert Kimball, 37, was operating the machine.

Smith was at the site to move a water evacuation pump. Kimball was there for a separate task of excavating land.

Smith worked for RAB Foundation Repair, also known as API Services.

Kimball was employed by Central Site Development, which owned the bulldozer.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the accident and levied a $6,700 fine on Central. The fine was based on hazardous conditions set by the company, such as having employees work close to traffic and construction equipment.

Although a fine has been issued, the case is still open.

Personal representatives of Smith’s estate and guardians of his three daughters are Paula Rego and Karen Patterson. Rego is the guardian of Hailey and Jalynn Smith. Karen is the guardian of Kylee Smith.

The family is requesting a jury trial for damages of more than $15,000 in the suit filed Nov. 3.

Central Site Development and Kimball are being sued for negligence and wrongful death. A result of the loss of their father, the three girls lost parental companionship, instruction and guidance, and will suffer mentally. The estate lost the accumulation of money, medical and funeral expenses, and future support.

The suit states that prior reports claim Kimball was recklessly operating the bulldozer. Central was negligent by not supervising Kimball after the claims, choosing to ignore the reports, and failing to have procedures in place to prevent recklessness at a job site.

API spoke out about the accident immediately after it happened on its Facebook page:

Smith had a record with the law, having served three years in prison from 2009-2011 for four offenses. He was arrested by the Pasco County Sheriff’s office six times since 2006, and had been out of prison since July 2013.

Aura @ 4th Apartments are at 10980 Oak St. N.E. in St. Petersburg.

Despite proof of innocence, Wal-Mart accuses, detains Tampa woman for shoplifting

Even after evidence of her innocence was brought to light, a woman was charged with shoplifting at Wal-Mart.

The woman, Vicki Carll, 57, is suing Wal-Mart for negligence that led to her being falsely detained and prosecuted.

Carll is also suing Wal-Mart employees Arismendy Rosario and Rashad Kirkland.

On Jan. 2, 2014, Carl headed to Wal-Mart to purchase dog food for Manny, her 11-year-old dog.

While in the store, Carll browsed the aisles before going to the pet section. Carll placed a bag of dog food into her cart before going to a shelf that housed flea and tick medicine. She picked up a box of the pills and read the instructions while walking through the store.

Soon after, Carll realized the medication was for dogs much larger than hers. She set the box containing the medication on a nearby shelf, not the rack it came from.

The suit claims that the whole time Carll shopped, she was unknowingly followed by Rosario. From the time she entered the store, Rosario targeted her. He followed behind Carll as she shopped, noting she picked up the medicine and left it behind before checking out. Rosario then grabbed the abandoned pet medication and sat on a bench by the exit. Here, he waited for Carll to leave the store.

While waiting, Rosario planted the pills under the bench.

Carll went to check out and pay for the dog food before exiting the store.

Rosario physically confronted Carll on the sidewalk outside the main entrance, taking hold of Carll with his full force. It wasn’t long before Kirkland came for back up.

The two forced Carll back toward the bench where Rosario had planted the pills. At no time did Carll fight back with the two men. She was then thrown to the ground.

Rosario falsely claimed he witnessed Carll steal the medicine.

Video footage provided by Wal-Mart showed these events take place. It clearly showed Rosario plant the pills under the bench.

Rosario was a new hire at the Wal-Mart. His position as a “floorwalker,” more commonly referred to as a loss prevention officer, required he patrol the store, looking out for suspicious activity. Wal-Mart authorizes all floor walkers to detain customers that are suspected of shoplifting. They refer to the process of detainment as “making a stop.” All stops are to be made in a “professional, responsible manner, without causing harm to the person who is the subject of the stop,” according to the suit.

Rosario hadn’t performed any stops before his encounter with Carll. However, he was trained by another floorwalker at a separate location where he was taught the ins and outs of the position.

On the day of the incident, Rosario was wearing regular clothes to blend in with customers and Kirkland was Rosario’s supervisor.

Even after the footage surfaced, Wal-Mart continued with the shoplifting charges brought against Carll. The court determined Carll was innocent minutes after reviewing the footage.

Due to the events, Carll suffered from physical and mental pain. She was deprived of work and her duties at her church were given to other members. Carll used to frequent Wal-Mart before the incident, however now she must take anti-anxiety medicine before going out in public, and she cannot do activities she used to enjoy, like body building and jet skiing, due to the injuries she sustained.

Carll is a disabled mother, ordained minister, and deaconess of Revealing Truth Ministries. She had many duties at the church.

The Wal-Mart store the event occurred at is located on North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.


Tampa subcontractor blamed for death by expired 30-year-old grenades

The widow of an ex-soldier who was killed last year while testing 30-year-old grenades is suing all parties responsible for his death.

Ziecha Norwillo, wife of Francis Norwillo, and Michael Dougherty are suing Purple Shovel, SkyBridge Tactical, SkyBridge Resources, Regulus Global LLC and Regulus Global Inc. after the accident that took Norwillo’s husband and injured Dougherty.

According to BayLawsuits, logistics and construction company Purple Shovel was contracted by the government for training, equipment and obtaining arms. The company subcontracted Tampa-based SkyBridge to handle parts of the contract.

On June 6, 2015, Ziecha Norwillo was in Bulgaria where he was testing rocket-propelled grenades. Dougherty was recording the test on his phone when one exploded without warning, killing Norwillo and injuring Dougherty.

All defending parties helped in acquiring the weapons. The companies were aware of the age of the grenades when they sent the two men to test them. The shelf life of the grenades had expired due to degraded and defective parts.

Because of their expiration, the U.S. government would not allow troops to use the grenades. They were labeled as “defective, unstable and dangerous,” in the suit.

Even with this knowledge, the defendants allowed the two men to test the weapons.

Between the two parties, the companies are accused of 15 counts, including wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.

The suit was filed Oct. 26, 2016.

After the passing of her husband, Norwillo claims all the companies lied, covered up and misrepresented the facts of his death, causing Norwillo’s distress to become worse than it already was.

The two parties are suing for damages that include loss of income, emotional distress, medical bills, court and attorney’s fees, and funeral costs.

Norwillo’s boss at SkyBridge refused to comment on the accident when questioned by BuzzFeed.

BuzzFeed claims SkyBridge Tactical president Stephen Rumbley said: “If you hadn’t talked to the family to upset them I would talk to you.”

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