Local Courts Archives - Page 4 of 19 - SaintPetersBlog

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.

Three boys accuse security guards of ‘terrorizing’ them near Tampa construction site

Three African-American boys are suing a Tampa security company for harassment and false arrest after being “terrorized” near a construction site.

Francisco E. and Francesco L. Bradshaw Jr. – also known as Junior Bradshaw – are 17-year-old twins from Hillsborough County. The boy’s mother is Kaytura S. Finley; their father is Francesco Levando Bradshaw, Sr.

Ruskin resident Caleb McDonald, also 17, is the twins’ first cousin.

According to a lawsuit filed March 2 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, in 2013, the Bradshaw twins and McDonald – each 13-years-old and in the seventh grade at the time – claim they were “walking peacefully” on a sidewalk in their neighborhood near a hospital construction site.

While the lawsuit does not specify an exact location, the site is likely in Riverview where Lincoln Road connects with St. Joseph’s Hospital South. The lawsuit also says that at the time of the 2013 incident, the three youths have never been arrested, nor disciplined at school.

Although the boys claim they never came closer than 30 feet to the site, two employees of AAA Security Protection – wearing “all black SWAT-type clothing” – allegedly ran up to them, yelling profanities and ordering them to lie on the ground. The three say they were handcuffed, threatened and photographed. After 30 minutes or so, the men eventually let the boys go with a warning.

They are seeking damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, and infliction of emotional distress.

Incorporated in 2009, AAA Security Protection, which was located at 1448 Oakfield Dr. in Brandon, had been administratively dissolved in 2015. Its president was Brian Hughes, who records suggest could be the same person as 42-year-old Ruskin resident Brian Paul Hughes.

Plaintiffs say Hughes was the owner of AAA Security Protection.

Davis Islands woman who went to court over Derek Jeter fence is at it again

Deborah Ann Zomermaand is at it again.

Zomermaand is the Davis Island woman who took New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter to court last month over the fence height surrounding his massive waterfront home.

Now, the 59-year-old treasurer of the Davis Islands Civic Association and vice president of Zomermaand Management Services is targeting Frank Paul Ripa, the Tampa construction firm owner who is building a new home nearby.

Ripa, 66, is the owner and CEO of Ripa & Associates, one of the largest construction firms in the Tampa Bay area with $203 million in local revenue for 2015.

In May 2016, Ripa formed 198 Blanca LLC to purchase a waterfront home on Davis Island at 198 Blanca Avenue, for which the entity paid $1.925-million. Ripa then demolished the existing structure, and 198 Blanca LLC submitted plans for a new, two-story home that exceeded the city’s 35-foot height limit by 18 inches.

Court documents are not clear as to whether Ripa plans the home for his own use or to sell.

The company applied for and was recently granted a variance from the Tampa City Council.

In a 140-page petition filed Feb. 23 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court without the aid of an attorney, Zomermaand seeks the court to overturn the city’s approval of Ripa’s 18-inch height variance. She claims the real reason Ripa sought the height variance was “personal preferences,” pointing out that nearby homes currently being built on the same block — including one next door — did not seek a height variance.

Zomermaand’s home at 192 Corsica St., is located about 500 feet from the proposed home at 198 Blanca Avenue. In 2006, Zomermaand and husband Randy purchased a $1.35-million, 4,608-square-foot home. Four years later, the couple bought the home next door at 190 Corsica St.

Black students sue Pinellas County school district over killing ‘successful’ reading program

Attorney Todd Hoover

Parents of two Pinellas County students are suing the school district over the cancellation of a “highly effective” reading program for African-American students. They claim it was due to personal animosity toward the program’s founder, who happens to be the attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Jadrius Boykin and Malik Williams are African-American students attending schools in Pinellas County’s “Area 3” district. A story published May 15, 2016, suggests Boykin is a student at Melrose Elementary.

The boys’ mothers — Tracie Boykin and Camille Archie — filed a joint suit against the Pinellas County School District saying their children are more likely to end up “illiterate” as a result of what they claim is a “callous decision” to shut down rather than expand the “First 25” reading program.

They say top school officials — including Area 3 Superintendent Robert Poth and Pinellas County District Superintendent Michael Grego — were “hostile” to the program because of a personal animosity toward the program’s founder, attorney Todd Hoover.

Poth is a former Pinellas County teacher who became an administrator after 15 years of teaching. He was named Outstanding Mathematics Teacher of the Year by the Pinellas Classroom Teachers of Mathematics and was a finalist for Pinellas County Teacher of the Year in 1990.

Also named in the suit is Deputy Superintendent William Corbett.

Hoover, who represents the parents in the suit, is a graduate of Stetson Law and was admitted to the Florida Bar September 2016. While attending Stetson, Hoover introduced a voluntary, weekly, before-school reading and athletics program at St. Petersburg’s John Hopkins Middle School which later became known as “First 25.”

The goal of the nonprofit program was to improve the reading fluency of struggling African-American students. Barry Brown was principal at John Hopkins when First 25 began in 2012, and is still principal there.

In 2014, Bay News 9 named Hoover one is its “everyday heroes.” Nevertheless, the school district decided to end the program in 2015.

When district leaders decided to discontinue First 25, Hoover asked the full school board for an investigation — which later found no sign of malfeasance. However, Hoover claims the request made district officials even more hostile toward both him and the program.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 25 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, says that although John Hopkins principal Brown was initially a supporter of First 25, he scaled back enthusiasm after district officials opposed to the program.

After the end of First 25, Hoover criticized the district in a 2015 Bay News 9 story, saying that the refusal to consider the program on its merits “cost the district an opportunity to improve the reading skills of African-American students, whose performance on average not only trails local whites’ but that of their black counterparts elsewhere in Florida.”

School district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf responded that the PCS was not trying to kill the reading program, but wanted to bring First 25 “into compliance with district guidelines.”

Hoover blasted that as “more excuses … the question is, why don’t you want 25 kids from the toughest neighborhoods showing up on their own to read?”

The suit argues that the program was effective — 75 percent of the students participating in First 25 saw increased reading scores, and 55 percent saw improvements so great as to be considered “learning gains” by Florida Department of Education standards.

According to the lawsuit: “By suppressing successful reading programs for black children, Defendant has increased the chances that Plaintiffs will be illiterate” and that “domestic strife and unrest” will continue to bedevil the black community.”

Bad week for Bubba the Love Sponge; bank says he owes $75K

Bubba the Love Sponge Clem is not having a good week.

In addition to a former girlfriend seeking an injunction for domestic violence, the well-known and controversial Tampa radio shock-jock is being sued by Bank of America over a $75,000 line of credit.

The 50-year-old Clem, who owns Bubba Radio Network, Inc., obtained the line of credit in July 2013 from Bank of America for his business, with Bubba Clem personally guaranteeing repayment.

According to a suit filed Feb. 24 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, the bank is accusing Bubba Radio and Clem of defaulting on the loan.

“On November 23, 2016, Plaintiff declared Bubba Radio in default under the terms of the Line of Credit as a result of such failure and demanded that Bubba Radio pay the aggregate amount outstanding under the Line of Credit,” the suit says. “Bubba Radio failed to pay in full all principal, interest, and other charges outstanding under the Line of Credit despite the Bank’s demand for payment.”

As of Jan. 31, 2017, the bank says both Bubba Radio Network and Bubba Clem owe the full $75,000 in principal, plus nearly $1,000 in interest. Court records show interest “pursuant to the Loan Documents continues to accrue at a rate of $9.38 per diem.”

Bank of America is seeking payment.

In January, Beasley Media Group, a subsidiary of Beasley Broadcast Group, dropped Bubba’s show from Tampa’s WBRN-FM 98.7, leaving his show only on WRXK-FM 98-Rock in Fort Myers.

As of Feb. 13, the Bubba show was picked up by Tampa’s WWBA-AM 820.

Over the years, the former Todd Alan Clem has been involved in a variety of lawsuits and legal action throughout the Tampa Bay area.

In 2011, Clem sued then-wife Heather Dawn Clem for divorce. Later, both Heather and Bubba made national headlines when a 2006 sex tape involving Heather and pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan was leaked to the gossip website Gawker. Clem and Hogan settled a related lawsuit out of court.

Ten years earlier, Clem faced animal cruelty charges after an on-air castration and slaughter of a pig, of which he was later acquitted. In 2004, he was fired by Clear Channel Communications after amassing $755,000 in Federal Communications Commission fines for indecent behavior.

In 2013, Clem also successfully sued rival radio DJ Todd Schnitt for defamation.

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