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Man wounded in controversial 2013 shooting by St. Pete Police claims negligence

Danardrick Rashad Chance

A man shot in 2013 by police executing a search warrant in St. Petersburg is suing both the department and the officer who shot him, claiming negligence.

Danardrick Rashad Chance is a 23-year-old St. Petersburg resident. According to police records, he has an arrest record dating back to 2007. In 2013, Chance was involved in a controversial shooting incident with police that was widely reported in local news.

Shannon Michele Halstead, 40, serves as a law-enforcement officer with the St. Petersburg Police department. On the day of the shooting, Halstead’s rank was sergeant. She is a 2012 graduate of Leadership St. Pete.

In 2015, Halstead married George Dunsworth Lofton in 2015, and goes by the name Shannon Halstead Lofton.

Halstead, 36-years-old at the time, was a member of the team attempting to execute a drug-and-weapons search warrant at a home in St. Petersburg’s Child’s Park neighborhood. Three men were observed getting into a white Toyota Camry, and attempted to run over Halstead and other officers.

Shannon Michele Halstead

Halstead and two undercover detectives fired at the car.

Chance, a passenger in the Camry, was wounded in the leg and arrested.

Marques Lewis Rowe, 25, was charged with a series of offenses, including a minimum of six counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault on a police officer, fleeing and eluding, driving with a suspended or revoked license, obstructing or resisting an officer without violence, and possession of cocaine and marijuana. Rowe pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and served two-and-a-half years in prison.

The shooting drew criticism from both neighbors and the local NAACP, which claimed SPPD used overkill – more officers and firepower than was appropriate for the situation.

After an internal investigation, Halstead received a relatively minor reprimand – an “Employee Notice” in her personnel file citing a “Group II” department rule violation.

Four years after the shooting, Chance is seeking compensation. In a complaint filed March 3 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, he claims he is a victim of a “negligent and careless” police raid.

As for Halstead’s subsequent career, she was promoted to lieutenant in late 2016, according to the SPPD Facebook page.

Chance was arrested in the 2013 incident for misdemeanor failure to appear on a marijuana-possession case. Months later, prosecutors dropped the charge. Court records also show he was charged with felony trespass in 2013 and high-speed fleeing and eluding in 2016.

Local ‘Dancing with the Stars’ winner says Powerhouse Gym owes her $311K

Sarah Jon Porreca

A local winner of the reality ‘Dancing with the Stars’ competition is claiming the now-shuttered Powerhouse Gym in downtown Tampa owes her more than $300,000.

Sarah Jon Porreca, 34, is an owner of Lending Luxury, a Tampa boutique that specializes in renting out women’s formalwear.

A former fitness competitor, Porreca was also a 2011 winner of Tampa Bay’s Dancing with the Stars.

In 2014, Porreca paid $1.15-million for a 5-bedroom, 5.5-bath home in Tampa.

Matthew Midyett opened a Powerhouse Gym franchise in 2009 at the 392-unit Grand Central at Kennedy condominium complex in the Channelside District of downtown Tampa. In February 2017, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported that “dramatic rent increases” was causing Midyett and his brothers Matt Midyett and John Sanguinetti to close the gym.

As of March 20, the gym’s website made the announcement that: “it no longer makes sense for Powerhouse Gym Downtown to continue business at this location.” The site also said memberships would be valid at another Powerhouse Gym location at 3251 W. Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa.

Westside Fitness – named a co-defendant in action filed in Hillsborough County March 14 – owned Powerhouse Gym Downtown. Midyett and his two brothers are listed as managers.

According to court records, in 2013, Porreca issued a 7-year, $600,000 loan to Westside Fitness. Terms of the loan included Westside paying her $8,480 a month through mid-2020.

However, Porreca claims Westside has not made a payment since December 2016 and has defaulted. She says Westside owes her $311,000 plus interest and is seeking to foreclose on collateral remaining at Grand Central, 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.

Nielsen is demanding $800K property-tax refund from Pinellas County due to accounting error

Global marketing research company Nielsen is demanding a refund of thousands in Pinellas County property taxes after the company discovered an accounting error.

On March 10, the New York-based firm filed suit against Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, Tax Collector Charles Thomas and Leon Biegalski, who serves as executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue.

Nielsen is asking for $800,000 returned from the $2-million paid in Pinellas County property taxes for the years 2013 and 2014 for its building at 501 Brooker Creek Blvd. in Oldsmar.

The company behind Nielsen ratings says the overpayment was due to a bookkeeping error.

The overpayment, Nielsen claims, was based on an accounting error connected to its 2010 corporate merger. After the merger, staff had miscoded its “Claritas” asset as machinery and equipment – a taxable category – and not capitalization of goodwill, which is tax exempt.

In January 2017, Nielsen finalized the sale of its Claritas subsidiary, which a provides consumer and demographic segmentation analysis for marketers.

Documents filed with the lawsuit show the company began overpaying county property taxes in 2011. However, the statute of limitations on refunds is four years, so Nielsen is not requesting a refund that year.

The company argues it overpaid by $468,252 in 2012, but it is not requesting a refund, suggesting it may have received a refund for that overpayment. Documents also show that Nielsen overpaid in the tax year 2015, but the lawsuit does not specify why they didn’t request a refund for that year.

Per court documents, Nielsen alleges it discovered the error in 2015 and afterward sought a refund from the Pinellas Value Adjustment Board. Although the company said local magistrate was sympathetic, the county denied the refund request for tax years 2013 and 2014.

Nielsen is now asking the courts to intervene.


Florida Health Department whistleblowers sue agency claiming retaliation

Two former Florida Department of Health employees are seeking damages against the agency for being fired after reporting violations, which a different state agency decided was likely retaliation.

Part of the FDOH, the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories provides “diagnostic screening, monitoring, reference, research and emergency public health laboratory services to county health departments and other official agencies, physicians, hospitals and private laboratories,” according to its website.

Based in Jacksonville, with locations in Tampa and Miami, the labs can “diagnose rabies, HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis,” find evidence of bioterrorism in clinical specimens and other public-health investigations.

Brandi Lee Wallace, 37, was listed as a licensed public health technician through August 2014. She had worked at the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories branch at 3602 Spectrum Blvd. in Tampa. State records show Wallace’s microbiology technician’s license was delinquent as of March 14, 2017. Her LinkedIn bio claims she has a master’s degree in public health/global communicable diseases from the University of South Florida.

Eva Cristina Quintero, 27, is a former Tampa resident who also worked at the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories branch in Tampa. Her Florida microbiology technician’s license shows as delinquent as of March 14. Quintero is now a veterinary specialist at Washington State University, according to her LinkedIn bio.

Wallace was a seven-year employee of the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories when Quintero began working there.

In a complaint filed March 7, 2017, shortly after her hire, Quintero began observing and reporting alleged violations of federal law, which included “inadequate documentation and training.”

Rejected by superiors, Wallace and Quintero took their concerns to the Florida Department of Health inspector general.

As a result, the two women claim to have suffered retaliation, which led to their termination Jan. 21, 2016.

After that, they complained to the Florida Commission on Human Relations, which they say found “reasonable cause” to believe both women had been subject to illegal retaliation.

Both Wallace and Quintero are seeking damages under Florida’s Whistleblower Act.

In an unusual case, Tampa police use civil forfeiture to seize dump truck used in hit-and-run death

In an unusual case regarding the state’s civil forfeiture act, a court allowed Tampa police to seize a dump truck used in a February hit-and-run accident that caused the death of a pedestrian.

David Yribar Hernandez, 46, is the owner of Yribar Jr. Trucking Corp. At 4534 W. Clifton St. in Tampa.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 20, 2017, Hernandez was driving a 2004 Peterbilt dump truck when he allegedly struck and killed pedestrian Stephen J. Waters in a hit-and-run accident near the intersection of E. Columbus Drive and N. 50th Street.

As reported by WFTS and the Tampa Bay Times, Hernandez, a Cuban native, attempted to flee a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy after being pulled over but was quickly caught and arrested.

Hernandez faced charges of leaving the scene of a crash with death without rendering help and fleeing a law enforcement officer, He has been released from jail, and the case is ongoing.

As part of the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act, law enforcement agencies can seize cash, vehicles, and other property either used in a crime or were the spoils of criminal activity. Usually, these petitions are used in connection with drug-related offenses.

According to the Act, when the seizure of property is made, the seizing agency “shall apply, within 10 business days after the date of the seizure, to a court of competent jurisdiction for an order determining whether probable cause exists for the seizure of the property. The application for the probable cause determination must be accompanied by a sworn affidavit and may be filed electronically by reliable electronic means.”

Tampa police went to Hillsborough County Circuit Court March 6 to claim probable cause in seizing Hernandez’s dump truck in the accident that killed Stephen Waters.

According to court records a search warrant issued for the vehicle, human hair was found on the truck’s driver-side headlight. Also, a man named Michael J. Hoechst claims to have witnessed the accident.

As to why the vehicle is considered “contraband,” TPD explained to the court that it was used in the commission of a felony: namely attempting to flee and elude an HCSO deputy. Also noteworthy is that while the arresting officer was a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s he Deputy, it was the Tampa Police Department making the request.

Two days later, a circuit court judge ruled probable cause in seizing the dump truck.

Waters, known as a “devoted son, husband, brother and uncle,” left behind his wife Catherine, with whom he had been married since 2009. Waters, a Gibsonton resident, had been previously arrested for possessing, manufacturing or selling a synthetic drug. A court later deemed Waters indigent and released him to a treatment program as part of a pre-arrest intercept program. Charges were later dropped.

Axis Title was named a co-defendant due to a possible lien on the truck.

State claims Tampa tire recycling firm operating illegally

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection is going after a Tampa company for illegally running a tire recycling business.

Incorporated in 2012, Green Wizard Tire Recyclers LLC — at 3515 E. Columbus Dr. in Tampa — is led by operating manager/secretary Warren Donald Friton and vice-operating manager/treasurer Edward “Ed” Beauchaine.

Green Wizard’s 2016 annual report lists Tampa resident Beachaine as president.

According to the DEP, Green Wizard Tire Recyclers never operated fully within the law, despite the agency saying it gave the company considerable latitude.

In 2013, after discovering the tire-recycling business was running illegally, the DEP ordered Green Wizard to stop accepting tires until it could obtain a permit. The company applied for and received a permit in 2014, but could not resume operations until it submitted an approved certification of construction completion requirements.

Green Wizard never submitted the required document, but continued to operate.

A September 2015 inspection found Green Wizard had 487,000 tires on hand, much more than the permitted maximum. The company had been storing loose tires outside rather than in tractor-trailers as required by law. Other violations include height and width limits for the piles of tires and inadequate fire lanes.

The DEP revoked Green Wizard’s permit formally in June 2016, ordering the company to begin removing its tire collection and assessing $9,000 in fines.

In a lawsuit filed March 10 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, the agency argues that Green Wizard never acknowledged the revocation, did not remove all its tires and related solid waste, and never paid the fines.

The DEP is asking the court to order compliance.

Kindred Hospital patients sue insurer WellCare over $3.2M in withheld, reduced reimbursements

A major hospital chain is accusing Tampa-based insurance carrier WellCare of holding back and reducing millions of dollars in reimbursements, essentially gaming the system by inflating its bottom line.

WellCare is a Medicare and Medicaid provider co-founded in 1985 by philanthropist Kiran Patel and his brother Pradip, who later sold the company. WellCare, headquartered at 8725 Henderson Road in Tampa, offers Medicaid managed care health plans to more than 3.9 million members through a network of 91,000 physicians and over 6,000 employees.

As of 2016, WellCare had revenues of $14.2-billion; as of this week, its stock was trading at more than 56 percent over its price at the same point last year.

Kindred Healthcare, a privately-held Fortune 500 company, owns Transitional Hospitals Corporation with annual revenues of $7.2-billion for 2016, 100,100 employees at 2,654 locations across 46 states. Kindred runs 82 long-term acute care hospitals, as well as hundreds of affiliated medical sites.

In a lawsuit filed March 6 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Kindred Hospitals claim that in multiple contracts with WellCare, the insurer gets discounted rates in exchange for promises of 30-day payments for Medicare and Medicaid clients.

However, although WellCare received monthly payments from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the insurer has delayed reimbursements to medical providers such as Kindred. Instead, the company invests the government funds for longer periods, as a way of gaming the system to profit on the “float.”

WellCare is also accused of reimbursing Kindred for less than its contracted amount.

Kindred says WellCare has repeatedly promised to pay the full amounts allegedly owed and then broken those promises. In some cases, WellCare allegedly has devised ploys to buy time. For example, according to the lawsuit, WellCare told Kindred at times to submit claims in hard form rather than electronically, and then “underpay claims because all the codes that could fit on an electronic form could not fit on a hard form.”

Kindred says WellCare owes more than $3.2-million plus interest for care provided to a group of 69 WellCare policyholders.

This is not the first time WellCare has been under scrutiny for Medicaid improprieties.

On Oct. 24, 2007, law-enforcement officials, joined by FBI agents, raided the company’s Tampa headquarters for allegedly defrauding Florida’s Medicaid system.

WellCare eventually paid millions of dollars to the government, whistleblowers and other shareholders. Todd Farha, WellCare’s president and CEO, faced criminal charges. In May 2014, he was sentenced to serve 36 months in federal prison and pay a $50,000 fine.

In 2016, Farha sued WellCare to allow him to sell restricted shares of stock – worth nearly $30 million.

Court records suggest the 69 policyholders named in the case live in Florida, New Jersey and Kentucky.


Former baseball player screwed out of millions now suing lawyer who botched claim against broker

Robert Person

After losing millions of dollars through bad investments, a struggling former major league baseball player is suing the lawyer who he says screwed up the claim against his broker.

Clearwater resident Robert Person is a 47-year-old former professional baseball player who pitched for four Major League teams from 1995-2003, with a career won-loss record of 51-42 and a 4.64 ERA.

During his career, Person earned nearly $12 million, including $6.25-million in 2002 from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Person’s agent introduced him to Ralph Jackson, a stockbroker and former basketball player.

Jackson, 54, is a former UCLA basketball player who played a single game in the NBA and two seasons in the Continental Basketball Association. He now works as a senior vice president with Morgan Stanley in Los Angeles and had been a licensed broker for roughly 30 years.

After several years, Person had become unhappy with his investment returns, and hired attorney Patrick Davis in 2008 to sue Jackson for making “false and misleading” statements which led Person  into making “inappropriate investments.”

Attorney Patrick Davis

Davis is a sole practitioner attorney based in Palm Harbor. State licensing records show he has not been disciplined by the Florida Bar in the past decade.

According to court records, Person claims to have lost more than $1-million in principal and interest.

in 2014, Person hired attorney Mark Zussman to pursue a claim against Jackson and the brokerage firm UBS. In that action, Person ultimately settled for an undisclosed “greatly reduced amount.” A June 2016 letter shows Person hired Illinois attorney Howard Prossnitz to institute a malpractice claim against Davis, with apparently unsuccessful results.

In a lawsuit filed Feb. 28 in Pinellas County Circuit Court without benefit of an attorney, Person accuses attorney Davis of negligence and professional malpractice.

Failing to either settle with Jackson, file a lawsuit or Financial Industry Regulatory Authority claim in a timely fashion, Davis IS accused of allowing the statute of limitations to expire.

Living in Pinellas County for many years, Person has had a few minor run-ins with police. In 2001, he was arrested for giving a false name to police and obstructing an officer without violence; in 2004 for disorderly conduct; in 2005 for DUI and obstructing an officer without violence; and in 2010 for failing to appear in court on a charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license.

Talking with Sports Illustrated in 2011, Person said he was: “struggling to get by, a victim, he says, of terrible investments and manipulative handlers. He is divorced, mostly apart from his five daughters, renting a small home in Largo … trying to score little bits of carpentry work here and there. His days, he said, are long and sometimes depressing — made bearable by the three rec league softball teams who feature him on the roster, as well as a part-time coaching gig at a local high school … ’When you’re playing, you assume — by investing your money — you’ll be set for life. Well, I trusted the wrong people. Bad people who took advantage.’”

Jackson has faced legal action from customers in the past. In his Finra report, his brokerage houses have settled a number of customer claims, including a $6-million settlement in 2013.

Fitapelli Kurtz, a New York law firm specializing in stock fraud, is currently attempting to assemble a group of investors who believe Jackson may have defrauded them.

Tampa man with lengthy criminal record sues prison for $250K, says table ‘fell on him’

Jules Rashard Smith

A Tampa man with a lengthy criminal record, which includes kicking an arresting officer in the face, is now suing the prison for $250,000.

He claims a mess hall table “fell on him.”

Jules Rashard Smith is a 32-year-old Tampa resident and father with a significant criminal and prison record. In 2006, Smith was sent to prison for burglary and threatening harm; and in 2012, he was imprisoned for child abuse and domestic battery by strangulation.

In 2015, Smith was arrested for striking the mother of his child, strangling her (she survived with minor injuries), and kicking an arresting officer in the face.

Court records show Smith was initially sentenced to probation, but then went to prison in August 2016 for violating probation. Smith also failed to report an address change and violated curfew., he was found guilty April 2016 of disorderly intoxication.

Officer Kevin Riley noted that Smith: “Was just placed on a new supervision for three years and is already playing games with his probation.” At one time, Smith told police he was living with grandparents Jeff and “Thrice” Arnold In Tampa, a statement that later turned out to be false.

On Feb. 17, 2017, Smith – along with fellow inmate John Henry Frederick – were sitting in the mess hall at Graceville Work Camp, in the Panhandle’s Jackson County. According to a handwritten complaint filed Feb. 27 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court without the help of an attorney, “the Dinning [sic] Hall Table Fall [sic] on me.”

Smith asserts that both Frederick and video surveillance recording of the mess hall will serve as witnesses to his situation.

In the claim, Smith demands that his rights “be respected, and all law enforcement personnel and their agents and prosecutors and their agent avoid conversing with me concerning any type of criminal activity.”

Smith says he has suffered “great pain,” especially in his arm and lower back, and is demanding $250,000 or more for “future needs and medical treatments.” His prison record shows he is expected to be released from jail April 2.

Woman in Hillsborough County Jail died of medical neglect, brother claims

Ericka Jazmine Roles

A Tampa woman with a history of mental and physical ailments died in 2015 while in custody at the Hillsborough County Jail.

Her brother is now suing the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, among others, for violating her constitutional rights, claiming they failed to give her proper medical attention, which led to her death.

Ericka Jazmine Roles was a 26-year-old mother who allegedly suffered from a variety of physical and mental ailments, including diabetes, psychotic disorder, bipolar disorder, seizure disorder, and encephalopathy.

In 2014, Roles was arrested in Hillsborough County for trespassing and battery, and spent much of the year between jail, group homes and hospitals, where she was treated for diabetes, mental illness and other disorders.

Her last arrest, Jan. 28, 2015, was for a missed court hearing; she was allegedly in the hospital at the time.

According to a lawsuit filed by Roles’ estate Feb. 17, 2017, two days her arrival – despite a lengthy history of both medical and psychological issues diagnosed by both jail and hospital staff — Roles was denied treatment for her diabetes. Instead, she was placed in the general population, left alone and unsupervised in a cell (or a restraint chair).

Roles was found comatose Feb. 2 in her infirmary cell, a result of cardiac arrest, severe metabolic acidosis and respiratory failure.

Soon afterward, Roles was diagnosed with severe and permanent brain injury. She died Feb. 20, leaving behind a brother, Quinton Avery Roles (now 26), son Calvin Roles, mother Crystal Roles and father Robert Miller. Court documents show Ericka Roles had parental rights to her son terminate, with Quinton adopting the boy.

Quinton Roles, as the personal representative of Roles’ estate, is seeking damages for medical neglect and wrongful death. Named in the suit are Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff David Gee and several deputies, along with medical contractor Naphcare and several staff members.

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