Phil Ammann - 7/381 - SaintPetersBlog

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

Seminole tae kwon do instructor in jail for child molestation faces first lawsuit

Andrew Jin Kim

A tae kwon do instructor accused in 2016 of multiple child molestations over a period of years faces his first lawsuit in Pinellas County Circuit Court.

In early 2016, Andrew Jin Kim, an instructor at Oh’s Taekwondo in Seminole, was arrested and charged with molesting two female students, aged 6 and 7.

Shortly after, WFLA reported that a third child came forward to accuse Kim, now 24, of molestation.

Detectives said, Kim, a native of Illinois, worked at the dojo from 2012 to August 2015.

Myung K. Oh and his wife, Myung J. Oh, are listed in tax records as owners of the property on which Oh’s is located, 7520 Seminole Blvd. in Seminole. At least one news article about the alleged molestation identified the dojo’s owner as Richard Oh — possibly Myung K. Oh is the same person.

“I am very sorry for the victims and the families. I am truly sorry for what happened,” Richard Oh told the Tampa Bay Times. “We teach students to defend themselves from people like (Kim). He got caught, and I’m glad he got caught.”

In the first lawsuit emerging in the case, filed Dec. 29 in Pinellas County, Sakha Temeka Reed, a 40-year-old St. Petersburg resident, claims that over a three-year period, Andrew Kim “continually sexually abused and molested” her minor child, listed as “John Doe.” The molestation left the child — which is alternately referred to as “John Doe” and as “her” — with severe psychological injuries.

Reed is accusing Oh’s of negligence in its hiring, training, and supervision of Kim.

The Tampa Bay Times article said when confronted, Kim “admitted to the allegations and was arrested,” although court documents do not give a clear indication why there will be a trial. He remains in Pinellas County Jail.

The first three charges against Kim were filed in February 2016, and two additional charges were filed in April 2016 — which could bring the number of alleged molestation victims to as many as five.

About three weeks before his arrest, court documents show Kim married Laura Marcela Leal Correa. She filed for divorce in June 2016.

In an unrelated incident, Myung J. Oh sought a restraining order in March 2016 against her son, James Oh. The mother accused the son of robbing her multiple times, threatening her and other family members, firing a gun in the house, threatening suicide, and saying he was addicted to drugs and alcohol.

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Attorney suing Clearwater dealership over warranty has former identity, darker past

Lawyer Chloe Jay Roberts, formerly known as Jennifer Ann Latham

Lawyer Chloe Jay Roberts, while suing a Pinellas County dealership for failing to honor a warranty, has revealed a former identity with a somewhat darker past.

Roberts, 38, is a Miami-based attorney and graduate of the University of Tampa and Stetson University College of Law.

In August 2015, Roberts bought a 2006 BMW 325i from Elite Car Sales for about $12,500, after the dealership had allegedly promised any future engine problems would be covered under warranty.

Elite is a Clearwater used-car dealership at 18400 U.S. Hwy 19 N managed by Panayiotis Vasiloudes.

But in a suit filed Jan. 6 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Roberts claims that repeated problems with both the engine and windshield wipers left her stranded on the roadside several times. She adds that Elite refused to cover repairs unless Roberts drove the car to the dealership — “hundreds of miles” away.

Attempted repairs were unsuccessful, and Roberts says she experienced uncomfortable “rapacious stares” by dealership owners, who called her “beautiful” and asked her on dates.

Roberts is seeking damages for breach of contract.

As a primary attorney at the Roberts & Associates law firm, Roberts’ practice specializes in “victims of sexual harassment, discrimination, hostile work environments, domestic violence, date rape and sex trafficking.”

With over 10 years’ litigation experience, Roberts says she has “a winning trial record, and have settled millions on behalf of my clients.”

According to her Roberts & Associates bio, Roberts is an active volunteer attorney with Bay Area Legal Services and has served on a variety of nonprofit boards, including the PACE Center for Girls. After graduating from Stetson, she “gained courtroom experience in the Legal Division of the Bureau of ATF where I assisted in getting ‘The Radisson Hotel Killer’, Nely Rodriguez, sentenced to prison for life.”

A Miami native, Roberts appears to have had spent a good amount of her career in Tampa.

In November 2016, she penned “The Issue With Confidential Sexual Harassment Settlements.” On top of her legal work, Roberts wrote a play — Rendezvous La Petite Morte — performed in 2014 at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.

Although she has become an accomplished attorney and author, Roberts also has a previous history under another name.

In January 2016, she was arrested in Tampa for DUI, with a police report showing she is also known as Jennifer Ann Latham.

Highlands County court records show that in late 2011, Latham changed her name to “Chloe Jay Roberts.” Before the name change, Latham was arrested twice for domestic violence — 2003 in Hillsborough and 2010 in Highlands County — as well as in 2004 for trespassing in Hillsborough. She was also cited for careless driving in Hillsborough in 2007; in 2009, Latham was ticketed in Highlands for driving with a suspended license.

For her 2016 DUI arrest, the “permanent” address Roberts gave police was 4526 Granada Ave. in Sebring. However, Highlands County records show that address is a mobile home belonging to Nellie M. Latham; before that, it was co-owned by Jack Latham, who died in 2006.

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Largo biker claims he is illegally in jail for attempted murder

Joseph O’Donnell

An alleged member of a Pasco County outlaw motorcycle gang, in jail for a 2015 attempted murder, is asking the court to free him, claiming unconstitutional imprisonment and excessive bail.

Largo resident Joseph O’Donnell is a 42-year-old New York native currently at the Pinellas County Jail awaiting trial.

O’Donnell, a day laborer for Labor Ready, was arrested Dec. 23, 2015, on charges of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and tampering with physical evidence.

In a Jan. 4, 2017 petition for writ of habeas corpus, O’Donnell – who filed a handwritten form without the help of an attorney – claimed he was unmarried with one dependent. O’Donnell also said he was responsible for child support.

O’Donnell is asking the court to discharge him from jail because he has been “unlawfully imprisoned.” He argues both bail and bond amounts are “excessive,” unconstitutional, and out of his financial reach.

In police reports on the incident, as well as a Facebook post by the Largo Police, O’Donnell — known as “Spook” — is an “associate of the Legends Motorcycle Club in Pasco.”

Just before Christmas 2015, Allen Frye and Frank Bagnuolo allegedly visited O’Donnell at his Largo home to pick up some “patches.” At the time, O’Donnell lived at 705 Sixth Ave. NE, Apt. B. An argument ensued, when O’Donnell allegedly pulled a 9 mm gun, shooting Frye in the face. He then pointed the gun at Bagnuolo, who told the story to police while at Bayfront Medical Center.

Police also interviewed Joseph Ingleston, who was O’Donnell’s roommate, and Lori Forsey (Frye’s mother).

A May 2015 Tampa Bay Times article says “outlaw” motorcycle gangs are “still prevalent” throughout the Tampa Bay area: “… many of their members have day jobs, running tattoo shops, strip clubs or tow yards. A few are said to be lawyers or even doctors.”

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Aerialist Rick Wallenda to skywalk over Sundial St. Pete Feb. 11

St. Petersburg will get a rare opportunity to experience the Flying Wallendas this week with a death-defying stunt over downtown’s Sundial luxury shopping center.

World renowned aerialist Rick Wallenda will cross over Sundial by tightrope Saturday, Feb. 11 at 5 p.m. The event, which is open to the public, will benefit Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County.

As part of the Wallenda family tradition, the third-generation performer will cross the courtyard on a cable no thicker than an index finger, without either a harness or safety net.

Before Wallenda’s skywalk, a variety of circus-themed performers will entertain attendees starting at 4 p.m. to mark the event, Sundial retailers will donate proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.

Wallenda will also be available for photos in the courtyard with the public.

“We are thrilled to welcome one of the world’s greatest tightrope walkers to Sundial,” said owner Bill Edwards. “Sundial is a gathering place for the community, so it’s only fitting the event take place there.”

Edwards also said he was pleased the event will be helping Habitat for Humanity, noting that the well-regarded charity will be celebrating the completion of its 400th home in the area.

The Wallenda family holds multiple World Records for their stunts including, the highest blindfolded tightrope (between two Chicago skyscrapers) and traversing Niagara Falls.

 “We are grateful to Bill Edwards and the Edwards Group for their partnership to bring Rick Wallenda to the people of Pinellas County,” said Ronice Barlow, chief operating officer of Franklin Templeton and a board member of Habitat Pinellas.

“What a perfect way to countdown to the highly-anticipated Habitat for Humanity Blueprint Vieux Cirque Gala at the Vinoy Saturday, April 8, 2017!” Barlow added. “Local corporate sponsors like the Edwards Group help our community give a ‘hand up, not a handout’ to our local families in need.”

Sundial St. Pete is located at 153 Second Ave. N. in St. Petersburg.

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Christine Brown to hold campaign kickoff in Gulfport City Council re-election bid

Christine Anne Brown is holding a campaign kickoff event for her re-election to the Gulfport City Council.

The event is Wednesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Pia’s Trattoria, 3054 Beach Blvd. in Gulfport.

Brown is running again for Ward 2, which covers much of the city’s waterfront. She faces local business woman Linda Bailey.

Born in Honolulu to a Navy family, Brown moved frequently as a child. By 1988, she landed in Pinellas County, graduating from St. Petersburg’s Lakewood High School.

Brown moved to Gulfport in 1996, where she and Lou Worthington purchased a home on 53rd Street and 28th Avenue South. The two married in 1998. In 2007, Brown explained to the Gabber newspaper the move was for her young daughter, Elizabeth Brown-Worthington.

Before her 2013 Ward 2 victory — replacing Barbara Banno, who chose not to run for re-election — Brown ran twice for city council.

According to the Gabber, Brown had been a member of Gulfport’s firefighter pension board until she qualified for the Ward 2 seat, which she resigned to prevent a conflict of interest. Brown also served as a volunteer firefighter before the city switched to a paid fire department. She had volunteered with the Gulfport community emergency response team (CERT). She taught math at Boca Ciega High School, and served as treasurer for the Gulfport Historical Society.

“We need a public/private government team to work together to help Gulfport,” she told a reporter in 2013.

Both Brown and Bailey are scheduled to attend a “Meet the Candidates” forum Thursday, Feb. 2 beginning 7 p.m. at the Catherine Hickman Theater, 5501 27th Ave. S. The forum will be broadcast on the City of Gulfport Television Station, Channel 640 on Spectrum Cable, as well as on the City’s website: mygulfport.us.

Gulfport’s municipal elections are March 14. Last day for new voter registration is Monday, Feb. 13, and the deadline to request a mail ballot is March 8.

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Women descend on DC to push back against new president

Throngs of women determined to push back against the new American president descended on the nation’s capital and other cities around the globe Saturday for marches aimed at showing Donald Trump they won’t be silent over the next four years. They came wearing bright pink “pussyhats” and wielding signs with messages such as “Women won’t back down” and “Less fear more love.”

City officials tweeted that organizers of the Women’s March on Washington had increased the expected turnout there to 500,000, up from 200,000, as crowds began swelling well ahead of the event’s start and subways into the city became clogged with participants.

It wasn’t just a Washington phenomenon and it wasn’t just women: More than 600 “sister marches” were planned across the country and around the world, and plenty of men were part of the tableau.

In Washington, Rena Wilson, of Charlotte, North Carolina, said she hopes the women can send Trump a message that they’re “not going anywhere.”

Joy Rodriguez, of Miami, arrived with her husband, William, and their two daughters, ages 12 and 10. “I want to make sure their rights are not infringed on in these years coming up,” Joy Rodriguez said.

March organizers said women are “hurting and scared” as the new president takes office and want a greater voice for women in political life.

“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore,” their mission statement says.

Retired teacher Linda Lastella, 69, who came from Metuchen, New Jersey, said she had never marched before but felt the need to speak out when “many nations are experiencing this same kind of pullback and hateful, hateful attitudes.”

“It just seemed like we needed to make a very firm stand of where we were,” she said.

Rose Wurm, 64, a retired medical secretary from Bedford, Pennsylvania, boarded a Washington-bound bus in Hagerstown, Maryland, at 7 a.m. carrying two signs: one asking Trump to stop tweeting, and one asking him to fix, not trash, the Obamacare health law.

“There are parts of it that do need change. It’s something new, something unique that’s not going to be perfect right out of the gate,” she said.

Many arrived wearing hand-knit pointy-eared “pussyhats” — a message of female empowerment aimed squarely at Trump’s demeaning comments about women.

The march attracted significant support from celebrities. America Ferrara led the artists’ contingent, and those scheduled to speak in Washington included Scarlett Johansson, Ashley Judd, Melissa Harris-Perry and Michael Moore. The promised performance lineup included Janelle Monae, Maxwell, Samantha Ronson, the Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Cher, Katy Perry and Julianne Moore all were expected to attend.

Women and other groups were demonstrating across the nation and as far abroad as Myanmar and Australia. In Prague, hundreds gathered in Wenceslas Square in freezing weather, waving portraits of Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin and holding banners that read “This is just the beginning,” ”Kindness” and “Love.”

“We are worried about the way some politicians talk, especially during the American elections,” said organizer Johanna Nejedlova.

In Copenhagen, march organizer Lesley-Ann Brown said: “Nationalist, racist and misogynistic trends are growing worldwide and threaten the most marginalized groups in our societies including women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community and people with disabilities.”

In Sydney, thousands of Australians marched in solidarity in Hyde Park. One organizer said hatred, bigotry and racism are not only America’s problems.

Friday’s unrest during the inauguration led police to use pepper spray and stun grenades to prevent the chaos from spilling into Trump’s formal procession and the evening balls.

About a mile from the National Mall, police gave chase to a group of about 100 protesters who smashed the windows of downtown businesses, including a Starbucks, a Bank of America and a McDonald’s, as they denounced capitalism and Trump.

“They began to destroy property, throw objects at people, through windows. A large percentage of this small group was armed with crowbars and hammers,” said the city’s interim police chief, Peter Newsham.

Six officers suffered minor injuries, he said.

The confrontation began an hour before Trump took the oath of office and escalated several hours later as the crowd of protesters swelled to more than 1,000, some wearing gas masks and with arms chained together inside PVC pipe.

As night fell, protesters set a bonfire blocks from the White House and frightened well-dressed Trump supporters as they headed for the inaugural balls. Police briefly ordered ball guests to remain inside their hotel as they worked to contain advancing protesters.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Philanthropist Kiran Patel embroiled in downtown Tampa ownership dispute

After spending $13 million, a local investment company is suing over a block in downtown Tampa with a disputed ownership that includes well-known philanthropist Kiran Patel.

Incorporated in 2006, 3MT Investments is owned by Jugal K. “Jay” Taneja, a 73-year-old Tampa developer and health care and pharmaceutical executive. Among other roles, Taneja has served as chair of Largo-based GeoPharma.

In addition, 3MT is the manager of Fuel Group, a co-defendant in the action, whose registered agent is listed as Jugal Taneja. Fuel Group and 3MT are located at 6911 Bryan Dairy Road, Suite 210, in Largo. The Tanejas live on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.

Another co-defendant in a lawsuit over ownership of five properties in Tampa is Dr. Kiran Chhotubhai Patel, 67, the renowned former cardiologist, health care executive, developer and philanthropist. Patel is one of the best-known figures in the Tampa Bay region’s Indian-American community.

The Tampa Bay Times reported in December that Patel announced plans to open an osteopathic medical school on the former Clearwater Christian College property.

Patel is also seeking to build a 32,000-square-foot home in Tampa with his wife, fellow cardiologist Pallavi Patel.

On April 19, 2006, a Tampa company called Fuel Investments and Development spent just over $13-million, spread out over four separate transactions, to acquire a square block in downtown Tampa.

The five addresses on the block — just east of the Tampa Convention Center — are 220 S. Franklin Street; 228 S. Franklin Street; 238 S. Franklin Street; an office building on 401 S. Florida Avenue; and 411 S. Florida Avenue.

A 2009 Tampa Bay Business Journal article names the investors, which include father-and-son Indira Lalwani and Jai Lalwani, saying that the purchase was “backed by philanthropist Dr. Kiran Patel.”

The initial project was to build a hotel, later replaced by a plan to develop dormitory housing for University of Tampa students.

Named developer in the project was Fuel Group LLC, a troubled company involved in several court actions in 2009.

The 3MT firm claims ownership of a 7.5 percent stake in Fuel Investments & Development, which in turn owns the block listed in the suit.

However, in 2016, it allegedly sought to buy out Fuel Group’s controlling stake in Fuel Investments, which then led to the discovery that Kiran Patel, not Fuel Group, owned the controlling stake.

The lawsuit, filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court Jan. 13, claims Patel “is exercising control” over Fuel Investments and “refuses to relinquish his assumed majority interest and recognize the interest” of the plaintiff.

Plaintiffs 3MT are asking the court to either declare it is the owner of a controlling stake in Fuel Investments or that 3MT was “defrauded.”

In the suit, 3MT argues the purchase of Fuel Group’s stake in Fuel Investments was negotiated with Vani Lalwani, also named as a co-defendant. They say Lalwani claimed she was the controlling member of Jai Enterprises LLC, which subsequently was a controlling member of Fuel Group.

The square block in dispute currently encompasses a three-story office building at 401 S. Florida Avenue and four parking lots (BayLawsuit.com)

 

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Suit claims barbecue at Vinoy made conference attendees sick

A conference last year at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club resulted in nearly 20 people falling ill, according to a lawsuit filed in Pinellas County Circuit Court.

In April 2013, Swarovski, a privately-held Austrian company known for premium crystals, jewelry and other accessories, held a conference at the Vinoy, the historic, 361-room hotel located on the St. Petersburg waterfront. Managed by Marriott, the hotel is owned by Texas-based FelCor Lodging Trust.

Judy Beauparlant, who flew in from her home in Canada to attend the event, was among the Swarovski employees at the conference.

An outdoor barbecue, held on the last day of the event, allegedly left Beauparlant and at least 18 other employees ill. Several days after the conference, she suffered from “acute and significant abdominal pain, inability to urinate and difficulty walking.”

Beauparlant claims her illness forced her to undergo surgery, resulting in her hospitalization for diverticulitis, Salmonella and a ruptured bowel.

In the suit filed Jan. 12, Beauparlant says the food at the barbecue included dairy-based items, shellfish and meats. She alleges those items were left outside for an “extended period of time,” cooled only by ice, and located next to “hot grills.”

Beauparlant’s lawsuit does not indicate if any of her co-workers are also seeking compensation from Marriott in or out of court. She is seeking damages for negligence.

Interestingly, Beauparlant’s lawsuit does not list FelCor Lodging as a co-defendant.

The Vinoy is at 501 5th Ave. NE in St. Petersburg.

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Natural fast-food chain Evos faces healthy judgment on defaulted loan

Evos, the Tampa-based fast-food restaurant chain, is being accused of defaulting on a $100K loan.

Founded in 1994, Evos Holdings LLC advertises its restaurants as a healthy alternative to typical burger joints. The environmentally-conscious company, headquartered at 609 S. Howard Ave., seeks to make customers feel good about the food they are eating, with natural, organic and fair trade ingredients.

On December 1, 2012, Evos Holdings borrowed $100,000 from Steven Marx of 5104 S. Westshore Blvd. in Tampa.

In a lawsuit filed Dec. 29, Marx claims Evos defaulted on the loan, and now owes the entire $100,000 in principal plus accrued interest.

A 2002 St. Petersburg Times article notes the first Evos location open 1994 on Tampa’s Bay to Bay Boulevard. Co-founders Michael Jeffers and Alkis Crassas were “college buddies at McGill University in Montreal, where they majored in business administration.”

Since then, Evos opened restaurants in multiple Florida cities, as well as North Carolina, Georgia, and California, as well as in multiple Florida cities.

However, nearly a quarter-century after the first Evos restaurant opened, the chain appears to be no closer to widespread success than when they started in 1994.

Over the years, the company expanded and shrunk; new stores had opened while others closed.

According to the Evos website, there is only four Florida locations, and none listed in North Carolina, Georgia, or California.

 

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Insurance company sues Tampa ‘entrepreneur of the year’ for unpaid workers’ comp premiums

Lisa Bythewood

A Tampa businesswoman faces trouble with her California insurance company, which claims she owes $627K in workers’ compensation premiums.

VHU Express is a courier company owned by Lisa Dianne Bythewood, 48, and Dr. Craig Bythewood, 49. The couple married in 2008.

VHU grew substantially after it contracted with Amazon.com to deliver packages in South Florida, Boston and other regions.

San Diego-based Insurance Company of the West is a subsidiary of ICW Group, which says it is the “largest group of privately held insurance companies domiciled in California.”

In 2015, the Tampa Bay Business Journal named Lisa Bythewood, as VHU’s CEO and president, one of the finalists in its 2015 Businesswoman of the Year competition. Bythewood was listed in the “Entrepreneur” category and eventually won the “Roar” award. She also published a Christian-living book in 2011 called “Waiting on the Promise.”

Craig Bythewood is a professor of finance and economics, calling himself “The Finance Doctor: Providing your prescription for financial healing.” According to his LinkedIn bio, Bythewood’s LinkedIn bio, he and Lisa operate Vertical Holdings Unlimited, a motivational speaking company. He previously served as financial education director for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bythewood also won a national dance-off contest in 2007, according to an article (“Dancing Dad No. 1 in people’s hearts”) in the Tampa Bay Times.

In a complaint filed Jan. 10 in the Hillsborough County 13th Judicial Circuit Court, Insurance Company claims VHU Express owes it $627,000 in unpaid workers’ compensation and employers’ liability coverage premiums.

This is not the first time VHU’s employment policies have been targeted with legal action.

In 2016, the Boston Business Journal reported that the Massachusetts attorney general fined VHU more than $80,000 for violating the state’s wage law.

“The investigation determined that from December 2015 to February 2016, a total of 52 employees had not been paid for work performed delivering Amazon packages, according to the AG’s office,” the Journal wrote. “State law requires employers to pay most employees within six days of the end of the pay period during which the wages were earned.”

Also in 2016, the Miami-based firm FairLaw announced they were seeking a punitive class-action lawsuit against VHU in federal court for “allegations of unpaid minimum wages, overtime wages, and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.” The suit, “Benjamin and Alonso v. VHU Express, Inc., et al.,” represented VHU delivery drivers working in Florida.

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