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Accused unlicensed contractor sues Pinellas County Licensing Board over fine

A Brandon contractor is suing the county licensing board after being fined for performing home repairs without a license.

The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board is the Largo-based independent agency that regulates construction contractors. The Board issues licenses, monitors insurance coverage, approves building codes and finds violators for noncompliance.

The board has recently been a target of a series of investigative articles by the Tampa Bay Times accusing the Board’s leadership of playing “fast and loose” with its disciplinary process and operations.

Various Pinellas legislators, as well as a Times editorial, suggested several reforms, ranging from naming a new director with an outsider to entirely dismantling the agency.

Claude W. Peterman III and Claude W. Peterman Jr. are manager and assistant manager, respectively, of Claude Peterman Construction. Although it incorporated in May 2015, as of Sept. 23, 2016, the company was administratively dissolved for failing to file an annual report.

On its Facebook page, Peterman says it provides: “Complete home remodels, new kitchen remodel, Bathroom remodels, Interior & Exterior painting, Tile, Laminate wood floors, Carpet.”

A search on the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) website shows no record of an active contractor’s license for Claude Peterman Construction.

Court records suggest Brandon resident Claude William Peterman III, 26, is the son of 62-year-old-Claude Peterman Jr.

With several short stints in Florida prisons, Claude William Peterman Jr. had been arrested in 2002 with a blood alcohol content well above the legal limit with the report saying it was his ninth DUI arrest. most recently Peterman served five months in 2014 for driving, despite his permanently revoked license, and a “fourth or subsequent” DUI, as well as an attempt to flee police.

On Nov. 23, 2014, Peterman was released from custody — about six months before he and Claude Peterman III launched Claude Peterman Construction.

An arrest report dated Jan. 6, 2014, shows Peterman Jr. identifying as self-employed in the remodeling business.

According to court records, Claude Peterman Construction did unspecified home-remodeling work in either 2015 or 2016 at a 2,963-square-foot, single-family Clearwater home at 2584 Deer Run E. The home was purchased in December 2016 by Edgar and Vanessa Sherlock. It was previously owned by We Buy Tampa Bay Real Estate LLC.

An investigation by Paul Roberts, the Board’s designated agent, determined that the company was unlicensed.

The ruling resulted in a $634 penalty from the Licensing Board dated Jan. 10, 2017. Costs include a $500 fine, investigative time, postage and other miscellaneous expenses.

In a Feb. 6 filing to the Licensing Board Administrative Special Magistrate, Claude Peterman and Claude Peterman Construction are appealing the fine. However, court documents do not indicate a reason why the fine should be revoked.

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Airbnb becomes target after Clearwater man slips in private short-term rental

As home sharing grows in popularity worldwide, Airbnb is also becoming an increasingly larger target for people who view the network as having deep pockets.

Such as the case in Pinellas County Civil Court, where a Clearwater man who rented a private home in Miami for two nights slipped on a bathroom rug and fell after exiting the shower.

Sophorn Ly, 39, rented the home with seven other guests through Airbnb, the San Francisco-based company leading the peer-to-peer home sharing phenomenon.

After exiting the shower, Ly claims to have tripped on a rug lacking “proper non-slip backing,” leaving him with what he calls “severe and personal permanent injuries.”

But instead of suing the host, 41-year-old Juliana Terra Leite, Ly is turning his sights on Airbnb, claiming the company was negligent

Ly claims that it was Airbnb – not the homeowner – that had a responsibility to “ascertain the property … be in a reasonably safe condition.” Interestingly, he continues by declaring Airbnb “allowed” the rug to be placed at the home at 7712 SW 94th Terrace in Miami.

If Ly is successful in the suit, filed February 2 in Pinellas County, it could result in a significant change in the operation of Airbnb – which already requires individuals hosting through the network to submit any guest injuries to their own insurance companies first. The lawsuit does not indicate if either Ly or the homeowner took this initial step.

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1010 Central condo owners claim ‘defective’ construction, sue builder

Condominium owners in downtown St. Petersburg are hopping mad over alleged “defective” construction of their complex, as well as a variety of building code violations.

The 1010 Central Condominium Association, a nonprofit corporation representing owners in the complex at 1010 Central Ave., are suing the project’s owners and general contractor for what they claim was failure to “employ good design engineering and construction practices.”

Defendants in the case, filed Feb. 3 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, are Georgia-based Batson-Cook of Tampa Inc. and MPI 1010 Central LLC.

In 2004, Miles Properties of Atlanta announced plans for a five-story mixed use condominium complex, featuring 112 one- and two-bedroom apartments and retail stores on the ground floor.

To develop the project, Miles created MPI 1010 Central. In 2010, Miles declared bankruptcy.

Batson-Cook was the general contractor on 1010 Central. Residents began occupying the units in 2007, and Batson-Cook went on to develop other projects in the Tampa Bay region. 

As the owners’ representative, the Association claims many Central units have “defects and deficiencies,” first hidden from owners, who later found it would take large sums of money to fix.

While the Association is blaming both Mills Properties and Batson-Cook for alleged violations of building codes, court documents do not specify the problems at the now-decade-old building. They do say the issues were “hidden and/or concealed and were not discoverable by reasonable and customary inspection.”

Per the suit, Baston-Cook “breached implied warranties by failing in designing or constructing the buildings and the improvements, to comply with the requirements of applicable building codes, failing to design or construct in accordance with proper and approved construction plans and specifications, and failing to employ good design, engineering and construction practices.”

The Association is demanding a jury trial.

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Former East Lake High baseball player accuses coaches of shaking him down for cash

Robert Michael “Rob” Lober

A former East Lake High School baseball player is suing the Pinellas County School Board, accusing two coaches of shaking him down for cash in 2015.

Robert Michael “Rob” Lober — also known as Robert Michael Schembri — is a 20-year-old Pinellas County resident. Lober works customer service at a Tampa Publix, according to his LinkedIn bio, and is currently a student at USF studying finance.

In early 2015, Lober was a catcher and third baseman on the East Lake baseball team, when coaches Dan Genna and Rafael Perez allegedly began pressuring him give or lend them money on several occasions.

The coaches knew Lober had recently settled a personal injury claim; he repeatedly rejected their demands for money. Lober accuses the pair of retaliation by benching him for most or all of the 2015 season as well as failing to treat him “fairly and honestly.”

Genna was East Lake High baseball coach for five seasons when he resigned in June 2015. He had a 102-39 record while at East Lake, leading the Eagles to the Class 7A state final in 2014. Before joining East Lake, Genna coached at Tarpon Springs High for seven seasons.

“I feel this is the best time to step away from the program,” Genna told the Tampa Bay Times. “I just don’t want to do the all-year grind.”

After his resignation, Genna continued to teach at East Lake, 1300 Silver Eagle Dr. in Tarpon Springs. As of February 2017, Carmela Haley is the school’s principal and Zach Roper is head baseball coach.

In a lawsuit filed in Pinellas County Circuit Court Feb. 6, Lober says the benching cost him a shot at a college baseball scholarship, among other financial benefits. Lober is asking for a jury trial.

Records suggest Lober is the son of Debra DiStefano-Schembri, a Palm Harbor resident who married Peter Schembri in 2012. Police records show that in August 2013, DiStefano-Schembri was arrested by Pinellas County sheriffs on a single charge of child abuse.

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Bayshore motorcycle crash victim blames poorly maintained city-owned sprinklers

Corey Rikard was riding a motorcycle on Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard last year, when the bike slipped on a puddle and crashed, leaving him in a coma for several days.

Rikard is now suing the city of Tampa, blaming improperly maintained water sprinklers for the unexpected wet patch.

While the suit gives few identifying details, records show a man named Corey Glaine Rikard, 26, has a rather lengthy driving record in Pinellas County. Among the citations are knowingly driving with a suspended license, operating a vehicle without insurance, speeding in a school zone, driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and careless driving.

Rikard also has criminal arrests for DUI and armed burglary.

However, after that, Rikard turned his life around, said his mother, Kathy Rikard.

“He became an active member of a community Bible-based church,” she said in an email. “and is three years sober and sponsors for AA.”

In a suit filed Jan. 31 in Hillsborough’s County’s 13th Judicial Circuit Court, Rikard says he was driving his motorcycle June 15, 2016, on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.

Somewhere near the intersection of South Edison Avenue, Rikard rode into a large, unseen puddle of water left by allegedly “broken” water sprinklers managed by the city of Tampa.

The puddle caused him to skid and fly off his motorcycle, leaving him in a coma. The suit is unclear of the time of the accident, what speed he was traveling or what injuries he Rikard had incurred.

The suit, filed by Kathy Rikard on behalf of her son, says his “severe and lasting injuries” were a result of the city’s negligent maintenance of the water sprinklers.

Part of the filing contains a letter dated Jan. 18, 2017, which shows Tampa officials denying liability for Rikard’s accident. The city claims “no prior notice of a problem with water sprinklers located on Bayshore Boulevard on the date of your clients [sic] accident.”

A Tampa Police accident report was also filed, but unavailable at the time of publication.

According to Kathy Rikard, her son’s toxicology reports “came back clear” after the accident.  “He takes his sobriety so seriously, he refused any pain medication, she said. “So the doctors had to put him in traction without [drugs].”

“He takes his sobriety so seriously, he refused any pain medication, she said. “So the doctors had to put him in traction without [drugs].”

A Facebook photo from January 2016 shows a person – presumably Rikard – riding a motorcycle. Many of the posts – the last one in November 2016 – are from friends and well-wishers concerned about his condition after the incident.

Court dockets show Rikard’s residence is on Briarhaven Court in Tampa, TLO.com records also have Corey Glaine Rikard residing on Seminole Boulevard in Seminole.

Although Corey Rikard’s Facebook page lists him as a Clearwater resident who worked at North St. Pete Collision, but his mother confirms that Corey is currently living at her home in Briarhaven, Connecticut, and remains in a coma.

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Former Tampa councilmember Helen Chavez died from misdiagnosis, daughter claims

A medical misdiagnosis and drug interaction caused the death of a former Tampa City Council member, her daughter claims in a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County.

Republican Helen Pappas Chavez, a fine-dining restaurateur, served on the Tampa City Council from 1979 to 1987. She stepped down from the Council in 1987 to run for mayor, later losing to Sandy Freedman.

Her restaurants included Chavez at the Royal, Chavez Windows on the Park and the Tea Room in Old Hyde Park.

Chavez died Aug. 2, 2014, at age 89, leaving behind three daughters, one of which told the Tampa Bay Times that she died of organ failure.

Denise Elaine Chavez, 69, is one of Helen Chavez’s daughters; she also became a restaurateur and ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2007. Chavez currently operates Chavez at Home, a catering company.

About a week before she died, Helen Chavez went the office of Dr. Christine Hyatt Torres of GMS Bayside Physicians, complaining of a swollen lip. Chavez had been on Ramipril, a drug blood-pressure and congestive-heart-failure drug; swelling is listed on drugs.com as one side effects of the drug.

According to a suit filed Jan. 31 by Denise Chavez, on behalf of the estate of Helen Chavez, Torres allegedly misdiagnosed the problem as a food allergy and prescribed Benadryl.

That day, Chavez was admitted to the emergency room, dying days later from congestive heart failure.

Denise Chavez claims the defendants – Torres, Physician Assistant Kimberly Gore and GMS Florida West Coast Inc., doing business as GMS Bayside Physicians — should have known the swelling was a side effect of Ramipril, and should have told Helen Chavez to discontinue taking the drug.

The suit also blames the defendants for discharging Chavez without referring her to a specialist first.

Denise Chavez is demanding a jury trial, and is seeking costs for hospitalization, medical care and treatment, as well as death expenses, costs, and loss of income or business interests for both Helen and Denise.

Although Torres appears on the GMS Florida website, state records show her medical license was delinquent as of Feb. 6.

GMS operates three locations in Tampa: 3043 W. Cleveland Street, 508 S. Habana Avenue, and 4278 W. Linebaugh Avenue.

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World of Beer files suit over closed, rebranded Bradenton franchise

A Tampa-based chain of taverns is disputing its Bradenton franchise, which closed and rebranded without due notice or an opportunity for the parent company to buy back the business.

World of Beer is a group of brewpubs founded in part by Paul Avery and Ben Novello, two veterans of the Outback Steakhouse chain.

In 2009, the first World of Beer opened at the address in question, 8217 Tourist Center Dr. in Bradenton. Three years later, SRQBeer secured World of Beer franchise rights. SRQBeer is co-owned by Dean Lambert and Dr. Mark Broderick. World of Beer is currently headquartered at 10910 Sheldon Rd. in Tampa.

On Jan 19, 2017, SRQBeer notified World of Beer Franchising — the plaintiff in the suit — it would be closing that Bradenton location.

A day later, World of Beer representatives learned through articles in both the Bradenton Herald and Sarasota Herald-Tribune that SRQBeer agreed to let Jeremy “JDub” Joerger reopen the site almost immediately as a JDub’s Dub Shack.

JDub’s Brewing is a Sarasota-based brewery, named after Joerger, which, according to a Facebook post, opened Jan. 27 in the former World of Beer location. JDub’s is at 1215 Mango Ave. in Sarasota.

World of Beer filed an action in Hillsborough County Circuit Court asking the court to block the move. In the suit first filed Jan 27, it says SRQBeer breached its franchise contract by closing the tavern, failing to give World of Beer the right of first refusal to either buy or assign it.

In a January 31 court order, Judge Steven Scott Stephens scheduled a hearing on World of Beer’s “Emergency Amended Ex Parte Motion for Temporary Injunction” request for 9:30 a.m. February 10.

The Herald-Tribune also reported on a separate Bradenton World of Beer location at 497 Cortez Road W, which opened in 2015 and recently closed.

 

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Mentally-incompetent inmate sues Tampa caseworker, facility for $6M claiming forced sexual relationship, extortion

Bobby Lewis Curry Jr.

A Tampa man with a long criminal history, who had been found incompetent due to mental illness, is suing staff at an inpatient facility for extortion by way of a forced sexual relationship.

Bobby Lewis Curry Jr., 47, is currently serving a 5-year sentence at Calhoun Correctional Institution in Blountstown for burglary, grand theft, extortion and other incidents from 2012.

Curry has an extensive criminal arrest record in Hillsborough County, among which are aggravated battery on a pregnant female, burglary, domestic violence, dealing in stolen property, and grand theft. Police reports also show Curry burglarized several businesses, as well as extorting nearly $90,000 from a burglary victim by revealing illegally obtained “private client information.” He had previously been in prison sentences for similar crimes.

A 2000 St. Petersburg Times article reports Curry was charged with threatening to have a Hillsborough judge killed: “Curry used a pay phone … to call 911 and told the operator he was going to withdraw $50,000 from his bank account to place a hit on the judge.”

In April 2013, Judge Kimberly K. Fernandez declared Curry incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness. She ordered Curry to receive competency-related treatment at Gracepoint, a nonprofit Tampa inpatient facility at 3107 N. 50th St.

Gracepoint, headquartered at 5707 N. 22nd St. In Tampa, provides inpatient and outpatient care to people with mental illness and suffering from substance abuse, among others.

At Gracepoint, Curry was allegedly forced into a sexual relationship by case manager Ruth Rodriguez, exploiting his mental illness and threatening to send him back to prison. Curry claims he had been a victim of sexual abuse all his life.

After Curry was released from Gracepoint, he accuses Rodriguez of forcing him to continue the sexual relationship or risk his probation status. When he filed a complaint — including an accusation that Rodriguez concealed an HIV-positive status — investigators purportedly substantiated some of the claims. Gracepoint then fired Rodriguez.

A lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court Jan. 23, handwritten and without the help of an attorney, Curry says the sexual relationship caused “severe emotional damage,” and blames Gracepoint of covering up his sexual relationship with Rodriguez, which he says began while he was a resident, not afterward.

Curry’s lawsuit accuses Lauren Mayhugh Cohn — who had at one time served as director of continuous quality improvement at Gracepoint — of falsely claiming that the relationship with Rodriguez began only after he left the inpatient care facility. Curry is suggesting Cohen knew the sexual relationship began earlier and is lying to protect Gracepoint from liability. He also accuses Tonya Wilson, Rodriguez’s longtime friend and colleague, of threatening to expel Curry from Gracepoint if he reported the abuse.

Among other claims, Curry says Rodriguez frequently required him to perform oral sex in her office, and at least once saying he was: “Crazy in the head, good in the bed.”

Curry is asking more than $6-million in regular and punitive damages. His scheduled release date from prison his April 5, 2018.

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Pilot blames Gatorade heiress for ‘vicious’ dog bite

A young pilot is suing the wife of a Gatorade founder, whose dog bit him while at an airport in Tampa. The bites, he claims, sent him to the hospital.

On Nov. 21, 2015, pilot Timothy Fonseca was at the Tampa Executive Airport when he claims a German Boxer named Porsha — owned by Graciela Margarita de Quesada of Odessa — “viciously attacked” him without provocation. The bite caused puncture wounds severe enough that Fonseca was forced to go to the hospital.

Quesada, 72, is married to Dr. Alejandro de Quesada, a Cuban immigrant who was one of the four doctors credited with inventing — and becoming very wealthy from — Gatorade sports drink.

The couple lives in a 7,895-square-foot home on the edge of Lake Keystone, appraised by the county at $2.4-million.

Fonseca, 22, is president and founder of Millenial Wings, advertised as America’s only aviation club “run by young adults, for young adults.” He founded the group while attending Florida Atlantic University.

According to his Facebook page, Fonseca lives in Portugal and currently works at Eastern Air Express.

After the incident, Hillsborough County animal control officers issued Graciela de Quesada a “vicious dog” citation and fined $520. The citation said the dog was being fed when Fonseca walked by.

Although the dog bit Fonseca’s left hand, the report raises the possibility that he was reaching out to pet the animal. Charges against Quesada were later dismissed.

Tampa Executive Airport, at 6530 Tampa Executive Airport Road, offers private air-travel services. The airport is managed by Skyport Aviation, located at 6582 Eureka Springs Road in Tampa. Records also show another address for Skyport at 1519 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N in St. Petersburg.

Tampa Executive Airport is part of a network of facilities under the umbrella of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

In a complaint filed Jan. 25, 2017, in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Fonseca is seeking damages against Quesada (as the dog’s owner), and against airport manager Skyport.

 

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Paramedic says Tarpon Springs hospital retaliated after reporting ‘rampant’ drug problem

A Pasco County paramedic is claiming a Tarpon hospital illegally fired him after he reported one of the nurses had a narcotic problem.

Holiday resident Manuel Michael Oliveira Jr., 45, says he was a paramedic – with an “excellent” record –  at Florida Hospital North Pinellas in Tarpon Springs. While there, he observed a “popular” nurse steal non-prescription narcotics. Oliveira claims he saw the nurse injecting herself with the drugs in a restroom.

Narcotics use is rampant in the hospital’s emergency department, Oliveira says, so much so that the department’s director, identified as Jennifer Segur, told him instituting a random drug test could cost half of its staff.

However, only four hours after Oliveira reported the nurse’s drug use to the nursing supervisor January 8, 2016, he was fired for “pretextual reasons.”

Afterward, Oliveira says the hospital staff retaliated when he applied for jobs with East Lake Fire Rescue and the Tarpon Springs Police Department by falsely claiming he was involved in the narcotics theft. Neither agency would hire him.

In a lawsuit filed January 24, 2017, in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Oliveira is seeking damages for defamation and protection under Florida’s whistleblower law.

Oliveira says the false statements negatively impacted his character, cost his employment and caused him to be “subjected to ridicule or disdain, and injured his reputation.”

After his firing, Pasco court records show that Oliveira had several brushes with the law. He was charged with domestic battery by strangulation in April 2016, and in December 2016, he was charged with battery on a law-enforcement officer.

Records also show that Oliveira’s license expired Dec. 1, 2016, and he is currently listed as “involuntary/inactive.”

 

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