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Pinellas nurses may have allowed spoiled vaccines to go to low-income kids

Board-certified pediatrician Stephen George Nelson

Two nurses at a Pinellas County pediatric clinic serving low-income children are accused of allowing distribution of damaged vaccines. A court filing suggests they may have also deceived state regulators of the spoiled medication.

Board-certified pediatrician Stephen George Nelson founded a pediatric medical practice in 1981. As of April 2017, Dr. Nelson, 67, has five pediatricians working for his practice with three locations in St. Petersburg and Seminole.

Pinellas Park resident Shannon Rochelle Best, 37, is a licensed practical nurse who works (or had worked) for Nelson. She now is at Peninsula Pediatrics. Mary Muhlstadt Bottieri, 53, is a licensed practical nurse from St. Petersburg who also employed by Nelson at one time. Now, she serves as a nurse manager at Peninsula Pediatrics.

Nelson issued free vaccines to low-income child patients through the federal Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

Nurses Bottieri and Best were instructed to collect daily temperature data from the vaccines’ storage units, and notify a state monitoring agency if temperatures “exceeded or fell below the accepted temperature variation range,” and mark all damaged dosages ‘Do Not Use.’

According to an April 11 complaint filed in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Nelson claims in 2016 the two nurses intentionally did not alert state regulators of the VFC program of unacceptable temperature variations, as well as failing to mark the spoiled dosages “Do Not Use.”

Court records do not show the number, if any, of VFC patients who actually received the damaged vaccines, whether they suffered any adverse effects, and if (or when) patients’ parents were informed of the situation. Nelson is seeking damages for alleged wrongdoing.

Although the lawsuit does not indicate how the plaintiff suffered as a result of the allegedly wrongful actions, possible consequences include removal from the VFC program, lawsuits from VFC patients, federal fines and other complications.


Sam Rashid once again getting grief over social media, sues ex-employee for Facebook post

Sam Rashid

Tampa’s Sam Rashid is once again facing grief over social media. This time, a Facebook post by a former employee is causing trouble for the Republican firebrand.

Samad Sultan Rashid, better known locally as Sam Rashid, is a 55-year-old businessperson, conservative activist and former member of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority.

A native of Pakistan who converted to Catholicism from Islam, Rashid now serves as CEO and co-owner of Brandon-based Divine Designs Salon & Spa, as well as president of Plant City-based Holtec, which sells commercial-grade saws. He is married to Geri Rashid.

Rashid is suing Jacqueline Lilley, 21, a former employee of Divine Designs.

In a series of Facebook posts last month, Lilley criticized Divine Designs, her old employer, calling the owners “thieves,” and urging current staff to “GET OUT NOW.” She said the company’s owner sent a “damn email” warning staff to stop social-media contact with employees who had left the salon on “bad terms.”

Jacqueline Lilley, former employee of Divine Designs Salon

The now-deleted post received at least 39 comments and 14 reactions.

Rashid, as the owner of the salon, is complaining that Lilley’s post falsely “accused [him] of committing a crime.” In an April 11 filing in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Rashid is seeking damages for defamation.

Rashid is far from a stranger to incendiary Facebook posts.

In June 2014, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Rashid, a high-profile GOP supporter, to the Hillsborough County Aviation Board. In September 2015, Rashid, an avid anti-tax activist, attacked Tampa businessperson Beth Leytham for her involvement in the “Go Hillsborough” transportation initiative, funded by the county government. Hillsborough had been considering increasing sales taxes to build new roads, improve bridges and expand mass transit.

In a Facebook post from Sept. 2, 2015, Rashid called Leytham a “taxpayer-subsidized slut,” suggesting she had “intimately close relationships” with two county and one city officials.

After a wave of outrage and mounting pressure on Scott to remove him, Rashid voluntarily resigned Oct. 9, 2015. In his resignation letter, he did not apologize for making the slur.

“Really, you guys will simply not let the past rest,” Rashid later told the Tampa Bay Times. “Every time there’s an article or statement or my name comes up, it’s always going to refer back to this ridiculous situation.”

Rashid added that he intended “slut” to be a political slur — not a sexual one.

Donald Trump’s election helped put sale of Clearwater flight school up in the air

Delays in approval from the Department of Homeland Security after the election of Donald Trump has stymied the sale of a Clearwater flight school when the prospective new owner backed out of the deal and now faces breach of contract.

Feng Jian Xin, a California resident, agreed to buy Clearwater Aviation Academy in 2016, along with its seven planes for $275,000.

Part of the deal hinged on Academy, at 4303-11 General Howard Dr., receiving certification from Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which oversees “nonimmigrants whose primary reason for coming to the United States is to be students.”

After the 9/11 terror attacks, the U.S. has put increased scrutiny, screening and tracking foreign students at flight schools, particularly after it was discovered some of the hijackers had attended flight schools in the U.S.

In March 2017, Feng told plaintiffs Clearwater Aviation and Global Aircraft Acquisitions LLC he did not plan to close the deal, possibly because Homeland Security had not yet ruled on Clearwater Aviation’s application.

According to a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed April 3 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, the flight school says Feng had no reason to abandon the deal because Clearwater was actively working to obtain the SEVIS authority through a third party.

Court documents show Clearwater Aviation had told Feng Jian Xin that “immigration upheaval” in Washington was the reason for delays in approval from Homeland Security,

“The election of President Trump has created a chaotic and unpredictable environment within DHS and upheaval regarding all immigration-related issues … Clearwater Aviation is involved in discussions with another holder of SEVIS authority that may be willing to allow that authority to be used for Clearwater Aviation Academy.”

On March 27, 2017, Steven Fox, representing Clearwater Aviation, wrote: “This transaction is not like buying a new car. You can’t just walk into the dealership, pick the model and options, pay the price and drive away. This is a living, breathing business that changes and grows from day to day. You don’t have the staff you need or even a place to do business. Going back to the new car analogy, you can’t drive and don’t have a driver.”

“I now have SEVIS authority available,” Fox added. “I think SEVIS is a non-issue.”

According to public records, Feng paid $1.75-million in 2015 for a 10-acre, 8,748-square-foot home in San Diego County. Records also show Tampa attorney Xuesong Alex Yu represented Feng in negotiations with Clearwater Aviation.

Clearwater man claims injury during heroic runaway golf cart rescue

A Clearwater man who saved a group of residents from a runaway golf cart in his apartment complex is suing for injuries sustained during the rescue.

Robert Pierce, 67, is a resident of Arbors at Belleair, an apartment complex that leases one-bedroom and two-bedroom units at 2230 Nursery Road in Clearwater. He has lived at the Arbors since at least 1988.

In a suit filed March 31 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Pierce says he was walking through the Arbors complex around Oct. 1, 2016, while an unidentified caretaker began loading doors onto a golf cart.

After one of the “improperly loaded” doors accidentally hit the accelerator, Pierce alleges the driverless cart began moving forward toward residents sitting in complex’s courtyard.

To save the residents, Pierce claims to have reached inside and moved the steering wheel, successfully diverting the golf cart into some bushes.

In doing so, however, Pierce says he suffered “severe and permanent injuries.”

Pierce is now asking the court to award damages for mental and physical pain, lost earnings, past and future medical care, and for suffering “the inability to lead a normal life.”

He is suing Tapout Group, which had done business as Arbors at Belleair. Yet Tapout Group LLC voluntarily dissolved in 2013. RIFAI Properties, which is not named in the suit, purchased the complex in 2012 for $6.6-million. Rifai’s managers are Hany and Giliane Rifai. Court records do not show why Pierce believes Tapout Group still owns the complex.

Short-term rentals spark battle between Clearwater Beach condo owners, homeowner’s association

Clearwater Beach condominium owners are facing off with their homeowner’s association over short-term rentals, with accusations against five owners of using deception to dodge a 14-day minimum-lease rule.

Crescent Beach Club is a waterfront condominium complex Clearwater Beach managed by Associa Gulf Coast. According to recent records, Joseph N. Joyce Jr. serves as the homeowner’s association president. A Massachusetts resident, Joseph and Nancy Joyce are listed as nonresident co-owners of a unit.

Owners of five condos at the Club — Jeffrey and Regina Paglialonga of Winter Park; Joyce Enterprises Inc. (Jacob and Alice Joseph); McCullough Properties LLC; Jeffrey Lemajeur, as trustee of the Jeffrey W. Lemajeur Revocable Trust and Deborah Lemajeur, as trustee of the Deborah M. Lemajeur Revocable Trust — have filed suit against the complex and Association.

Each of the five units has been offered as short-term vacation rentals.

None of the plaintiffs have filed for homestead exemptions, signifying all are also non-resident owners.

Bylaws of Crescent Beach Club state that any lease issued by condo owners must be for a minimum of 14 days. In 2015, the homeowner’s association initiated an arbitration action against each of the plaintiffs — alleging they have violated that rule.

The five owners argue that if renters didn’t stay the full 14 days under their lease, the units are not available for re-rent until that lease period ends.

While each of the plaintiffs submitted short-term 14-day leases for approval, the Association, pointing to a number of online advertisements, says the units were openly being offered for as little as a few days at a time.

Co-plaintiffs Jeffrey Adam “Jeff” Paglialonga and wife Regina Anne “Gina” Paglialonga own a 2,125-square-foot condo they purchased in 2013 for $575,000. The couple run a booking service called Teeming Vacation Rentals.

After the arbitration process stalemated, the owners filed a 140-page suit March 30 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, seeking the court to rule that the leases are legal under the Association’s bylaws.

As evidence of rule-breaking, however, the Association cites a HomeAway.com ad from Jeff and Gina Paglialonga, which says:

“At Teeming Vacation Rentals, we take the hassle out of travel. Our friendly and knowledgeable ‘teem’ offer the personalized service you need to find the perfect fit for your vacation. We actually want to talk to you! Nightly rates listed are based on a 14-night stay. Shorter stays are welcomed when we have availability so please ‘send a message’ or ‘send email’ to us for an exact quote. ‘Teem’ up with Teeming Vacation Rentals and book your dream vacation today!”


Models accuse Tampa strip club of using photos without permission, payment

Six models are accusing Skin Tampa strip club of using photos in various online promotions without permission or payment.

The women are Kimberly Cozzens of San Jose, California; Cielo Jean Gibson of Santa Monica, California; Irina Voronina of Los Angeles; Sara Underwood of Columbia County, Oregon; Kara Monaco of Orange County, California and Alison Waite Jordan of Los Angeles County, California.

SKN Trading LLC, doing business as Skin Tampa, is at 1620 E. Adamo Drive, is owned by Maytham Zahedi.

Gibson, also known as C.J. Gibson, is a 33-year-old Clearwater native and model who has lived in Tampa.

In a complaint filed March 27 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, the women accuse Skin Tampa of copying their photos and using them without permission or payment, on the club’s Facebook page, Twitter feed and other social media sites.

Among the charges in the suit: “The image of Cozzens which featured her in a pirate costume was used out of context … to advertise the strip club and free admission. Specifically, the image of Cozzens was posted along with the lewd and salacious phrase, ‘COME PLUNDER SOME BOOTY.’”

The lawsuit argues Skin’s unauthorized actions harmed the women’s reputations by associating them with stripping and sex acts, by failing to compensate, and by not giving an option to not allow the use of their images.

The women are asking the court for damages.

In 2015, two of the six women who are now suing Skin Tampa had filed a similar lawsuit against Clearwater’s Diamond Dolls strip club. The case is ongoing. Court records show Diamond Dolls’ denying any wrongdoing.

Similarly, in January 2016, three models filed a lawsuit against the Thee Dollhouse strip club in Tampa, which is also ongoing.

Two attorneys at Casas Law Firm – Sarah M. Cabarcas and Ludmila Khomiak – have filed all three lawsuits.


Tampa health care tech firm starts cracking down on delinquent providers

Dr. Ricky Poole Lockett

Tampa-based CareSync is cracking down on delinquent medical providers, asking a Hillsborough County court to help collect money owed from an orthopedic practice in default.

CareSync is a fast-growing health care technology company headquartered at 14055 Riveredge Dr., Suite 600 in Tampa.

According to the CareSync website, the company builds “easy-to-use technology, and combine it with exceptional services to help people better coordinate care.”

Dr. Ricky Poole Lockett is medical director and owner of Orthopedic Injury Management in St. Petersburg. According to his bio, Lockett “practices pain management, neuromusculoskeletal medicine and physical medicine & rehabilitation.”

In August 2015, Orthopedic Injury Management, at 1501 Fifth Ave. N in St. Petersburg, entered a “chronic care management services agreement” with CareSync, which billed Orthopedic by the month, with amounts ranging from $5,460 to $7,476.

In a March 27 filing with the Hillsborough County Circuit Court, CareSync is hoping to collect more than $53,000 in back payments.

This filing is the latest effort by CareSync to crack down on delinquent practitioners. Court records show CareSync brought an action against eight medical clients in Hillsborough over a five-day period March 24-28. These were the first filings in Hillsborough County.

In December 2016, the firm announced plans to hire 350 more employees in 2017, increasing its current workforce to 500. Margie Manning of the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported the expansion was Tampa Bay area’s second-largest job announcement for the year. Jobs will include clinical care coordinators, product developers, human resources, information technology and administration.

Manning writes: “CareSync, previously headquartered in Wesley Chapel, has received several rounds of venture capital funding, including $18 million in the last three months of 2015.”

Travis Bond is the company’s founder and CEO.


Polk County civil rights activists sue USF over public records

A Winter Garden civil-rights activist group is suing the University of South Florida over access to public records.

Among the requests made by the Poor and Minority Justice Association Inc. (PMJA) to the USF board of trustees include University President Judy Genshaft‘s travel expenses, police use of derogatory words and others.

According to its website, PMJA, is a nonprofit civil-rights group founded in 2012 to protect minority communities in Polk County from “profiling, harassment and abuse by police” and to “attack inequality and injustice with the use of nonviolent direct action.”

Clayton Allen Cowart, the 45-year-old pastor of Church of God the Bibleway, is PMJA’s founder and president.

PMJA claims to have collaborated with, Joel Chandler, an infamous Lakeland public records advocate who has filed dozens of lawsuits against Florida government agencies for open-records law violations.

The number of ‘nuisance’ lawsuits filed by Chandler (and others) has prompted Florida lawmakers to propose legislation. A bill (SB 80) filed in 2017 by Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube, sought to crack down on “serial records abusers” who attempt to lure public officials into public record violations to extort a settlement.

In 2013, the Lakeland Ledger reported on an undercover operation of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office that spied on a 2012 PMJA meeting At the Church of God the Bibleway.

The Ledger wrote that PMJA was started by pastor Clayton Cowart after he pleaded to a misdemeanor stalking charge May 31, 2012, in what was then described as an “affair with a parishioner gone wrong … He is still fighting to overturn his conviction. The group, about 90 percent black, meets weekly.”

On Feb. 10, PMJA emailed eight separate public-records requests to the University of South Florida, seeking records on:

– Judy Genshaft’s travel expenses.

– Procurement of graduation gowns.

– Contracts with food service giant Aramark or subsidiaries.

– Information collected regarding the infamous Dozier School for Boys.

– Use by USF Police Department employees of any of more than 200 pejorative terms, including:  “butt pirate … jungle bunny … Hebrew … sand nigger … slut … wetback … tranny … wheelchair jockey … terrorist.”

– Payment of membership contributions, dues and cellular phone service.

– Procurement of products or services offered by Safe Restraints Inc.

Since the requests, PMJA had received no more than an acknowledgment of the records request.

In a complaint filed March 26 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, PMJA is suing for unconstitutionally withholding public records. It seeks a court order requiring USF to make the requested records available.

However, five days after filing this lawsuit, PMJA abruptly dismissed the case with prejudice, and now cannot file another suit based on the same claims.

After Clearwater Beach arts patrons divorce, court asked for forced eviction

Ludmilla Ribakova, ex-wife of Bruce Dandrew

After completing their divorce, a Clearwater couple — well-known as local art patrons — are waging a legal battle over eviction from the former marital home.

Clearwater Beach resident Bruce Leo Dandrew, 76, is a former president of a company called Dedicated Transportation. In 2006, Dandrew married Ludmilla Ribakova, 58, a native of Latvia and also a current resident of Clearwater Beach. Each had a child from a prior marriage.

Since 2009, the Dandrews donated thousands of photographs to the Museum of Fine Arts of St. Petersburg. A 2011 article from The Photographic Art Society called the Dandrew-Drapkin Collection “one of the most expansive photography collections in American private hands.”

The MFA continues to feature the collection in exhibitions.

In addition to owning a $2.1 million Odessa property, Bruce and Ludmilla Dandrew lived in a three-story, 6,586-square-foot waterfront mansion in Clearwater Beach appraised at nearly $2.3-million. Purchased in 2005, Bruce demolished the existing structure, building the current home.

Bruce Dandrew filed for divorce twice, in 2016 and 2017, with a final judgment issued February 17.

Court records of the divorce filings show a prenuptial agreement struck in 2006, which would have Bruce retain sole ownership of the Clearwater Beach home in the case of divorce. At that time, Bruce claimed his net worth was $24 million with an annual income of $5 million.

In a settlement dated May 2016, Bruce agreed to pay Ludmilla $1.1-million, allowing her to keep the couple’s 2012 Mercedes GL 550. However, he kept sole ownership of his real estate holdings and several other assets.

Nevertheless, a month after finalizing the divorce, Bruce Dandrew claims ex-wife Ludmilla is refusing leave the Clearwater Beach marital home, even though the agreement states he is the sole owner and she is no longer welcome.

Bruce is asking the court to help evict his ex-wife, as well as give compensation for any damage Ludmilla might have inflicted on the property and his possessions.

Tampa health care firm accuses consultant of giving bad advice, costing millions of dollars

A local health care firm claims it received bad advice from a Canadian consulting firm, resulting in losses in the tens of millions of dollars, with millions more to correct its mistakes.

Tampa-based Health Integrated helps health care plans manage their “most vulnerable” members by addressing “physical, psychological and social drivers impacting member health and satisfaction.” Zachary Fritz is now the company’s CEO.

Health Integrated uses big data to identify and engage health plan members with the greatest impact, those people otherwise overlooked. The company applies what they call a “unique therapeutic intervention model” to find risk factors in all areas of health – “medical, behavioral and social.”

In 2013, Tampa Bay Business Journal ranked Health Integrated as the Tampa Bay area’s 94th-biggest privately-held company, with 2012 revenues of $32.1-million. However, by 2016, the company did not appear on the list of the 100 largest private companies, based on 2015 revenues.

In 2015, Health Integrated hired consultant Carpedia International, a Canadian consulting firm that helps clients improve financial and management performance and management and to save money.

Carpedia promised it could trim as much $2.7-million per year from Integrated’s expenses, and was paid more than $1-million over several months. At the time, Integrated’s chair and CEO was Shan Padda, a major shareholder. Fritz had succeeded him.

In a suit filed March 22 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, poor advice from Carpedia’s “unqualified” staff cost Integrated tens of millions of dollars. Integrated alleges that clients, who had contributed $13.7-million per year, were discouraged by Carpedia’s recommended changes, leading them to drop the health care firm. Integrated says Carpedia “staffed the engagement with professionals that had no clinical health care background … and lacked general experience in U.S. managed care and specific experience with Medicare and Medicaid,” causing “substantial harm” to Integrated’s business.

According to the suit: “Carpedia had advertised and represented its position as an experienced health care consultant. In accepting the engagement, Carpedia should have known that U.S. health care is a complex and technically-demanding business, and providing professional consulting services to a U.S. managed care services business requires in-depth technical knowledge and when dealing with clinical operations, clinical knowledge. Carpedia should have known that managed care is an intensely regulated industry, and compliance with state and federal regulations is essential to the success of Health Integrated.”

Carpedia’s recommendations also polluted Integrated’s software forcing the company to spend $5.6-million in corrections.

Integrated is seeking damages for breach of contract and professional negligence.


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