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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.

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.

 

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.”

 

Burrito Boarder accused of defaulting on 2011 small-business loan

Burrito Boarder, a St. Petersburg-based chain of “extreme” Tex-Mex restaurants, is being accused of defaulting on a 2011 small-business loan which the company’s founders personally guaranteed payment.

In 2008, Lisa and Giorgio Bertrand opened the first Burrito Boarder restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg at 17 3rd St. North, which is still in operation. The eatery’s corporate owner was (at one time) listed as Burrito Boarder Group LLC, formed in 2008 by manager Lisa Marie Bertrand, but was dissolved by the state of Florida in 2013 after failing to file its annual report.

Burrito Boarder’s corporate offices are at 2220 34th St. S in St. Petersburg.

In 2011, Burrito Boarder opened a second outlet in Carrollwood, which has since closed. Burrito Boarder’s website says there is also a location in Tallahassee. That year, Burrito Boarder Group obtained a small-business loan for $287,300, with both Lisa and Giorgio Bertrand personally guaranteeing repayment.

A lawsuit, filed by Regions Bank Jan. 19 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, claims Burrito Boarder defaulted on the loan the following year.

Regions is seeking repayment of $237,392 in principal, plus interest and late fees.

It is not the first time the Bertrands drew local attention.

In 2005, the Tampa Bay Times highlighted the couples “eye-catching” Pasadena Yacht & Country Club waterfront home, saying the couple also operate CiCi’s restaurant franchises. The home, originally a basic Cape Cod style, was remodeled into a sleek, modern “two-story wall of powder-coated aluminum [which] pours down the front of the house like a waterfall.”

Court records show the Bertrand’s lost the house in 2014 through a foreclosure to Regions Bank, as successor to AmSouth Bank.

Complicating matters is that Giorgio Bertrand, a native of Argentina, was killed in a 2015 boating accident in the Virgin Islands, where two people died and two were injured after the inflatable center-console boat allegedly struck a rock.

According to the St. Thomas Source, the couple and their children had been living in the Virgin Islands since 2013. There, they owned an establishment called Dinghy’s Bar and Restaurant.

Shuttered Clearwater charter school accused of leaving unpaid bills, rent

Pinellas West Coast Academy, a Clearwater charter high school that closed permanently in December 2016, is now being sued by its landlord for months of unpaid rent.

West Coast Academy – also known as 21st Century High School of Pinellas Inc. – was formally Newpoint Pinellas High and originally managed by Newpoint Education Partners.

Newpoint education is a charter school company with locations in several Florida cities; due to financial troubles, it was recently forced to close four of its five schools in Pinellas County.

According to a Tampa Bay Times report on the closings: “Newpoint Pinellas Academy, which shared a site with Pinellas Westcoast, closed about six weeks into the school year, and Windsor Preparatory Academy and East Windsor Middle Academy voluntarily terminated their charters over the summer. Enterprise High School, which separated from Newpoint in 2015, remains open.”

In May 2016, an Escambia County grand jury indicted Newpoint, accusing it of “fraudulently billing schools for supplies, equipment and services with federal startup grant funds for charter schools and laundering that money.”

The following month, the Pinellas County school board approved a one-year renewal of Newpoint’s charter, as well as its name change to West Coast. Typically, charter renewals are either for three or five years, but because of Newpoint’s financial difficulties, the Board only allowed an extension of a single year.

Plaintiffs Clearwater Collection 15 and Clearwater Plainfield 15 are two limited liability corporations owned by Colorado-based GDA Real Estate Services, which owns dozens of shopping centers in multiple states.

Court documents show Pinellas West Coast signed a 5-year lease in 2012 on a Clearwater shopping center location. The center was later purchased by the plaintiffs.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 24 in Pinellas County Civil Court, the two plaintiffs accuse Pinellas West Coast of failing to pay rent since October 2016.

They are asking the court to help them collect unpaid rent, as well as “all other charges due under the lease, special damages, late fees, prejudgment interest, attorney’s fees and court costs.”

 

Tampa man accuses judge of retaliating over fabricated anti-Semitic remarks

Former judge Bernard Charles “Bernie” Silver

A Tampa man, fighting a protracted legal battle with family over his dead mother’s estate, is suing one of the judges in the case claiming he was falsely blamed for making anti-Semitic comments.

Those fabricated statements led the judge to retaliate by ruling against him on several motions.

Darryl Martin Schneider, 55, was in a contested legal battle with his sister, Cyrie Schneider, among others for the estate of their mother Gloria C. Schneider, who died in 2012.

in 2014, Darryl filed a lawsuit – without the help of an attorney – against Cyrie and others in Hillsborough County.

One of the judges in the ongoing case was Bernard Charles “Bernie” Silver, 71 first elected to the bench in 2006. Silver served the court through 2015, and is now in private practice.

Kim Cash

Schneider’s lawsuit said, at the time, Kim Cash was Silver’s judicial assistant. Cash now serves as the court’s media liaison.

In a suit filed January 27, Darryl Schneider accuses Cash of libel, saying her actions cost him an estimated $1-million in damages. Cash “destroyed” Schneider’s relationship with Silver, by suggesting Schneider made anti-Semitic comments about Silver during the 2014 lawsuit he brought against his sister.

Schneider argues that Cash fabricated “slanderous” lies to boost her self-esteem – something he says “low-level employees” do to feel superior.

According to the suit: “[Cash] had stated slowly to the Plaintiff [Schneider], ‘How dare you discriminate against the Jews,’ then laughed in the PIaintiff’s ear because she had just thought of this good lie to tell the Defendant’s secretary about the Plaintiff, putting Bernard [Silver] and the Plaintiff at odds with each other. Spiteful and shameless Kim Cash proudly shared her illegal plan with the Plaintiff for increased gratification.”

Silver — described in the lawsuit as an “unscrupulous” and “vindictive” “racist … looking to hurt someone white” — retaliated against Schneider by ruling against him on multiple motions as well as refusing to recuse himself.

After one hearing in the 2014 case, Schneider says Silver “walked out of court after giving [Schneider] a dirty look as if to say, you wanted to fight with a Jew, so this is what you get.”

Court transcripts show Silver telling Schneider he “needs to do a better job of arranging hearings.” Silver dismissed the claim he was holding Schneider to an unfair standard.

“Not everybody else calls my JA [judicial assistant] names and makes threatening accusations,” Silver says.

Schneider is seeking damages for defamation.

Tampa woman claims false arrest over warrant with wrong name, race

Pamela Elaine Orellana

A Tampa woman claims she was falsely arrested on a Virginia warrant, despite it having the wrong name and race.

Pamela Elaine Orellana, a 49-year-old Tampa woman formerly known as Pamela Elaine Mullins, was arrested in Pinellas County in 1996 on a charge of performing a lewd and lascivious act in the presence of a minor under the age of 16.

Mullins eventually pleaded “no contest.” Adjudication was withheld, but she was required to register as a sex offender.

Since then, Pamela Mullins has had several brushes with the law.

In 2005, Mullins — now Orellana — was charged in Hillsborough County with failing to register as a sex offender, a charge that court records suggest was also dropped. Her husband, Joshua Paul Orellana, sued Pamela for divorce in 2006. Pamela Orellana was also arrested for DUI in 2013.

After a minor traffic accident on Dec. 10, 2014, Orellana, who is African-American, claims to have been sitting in her car when a Tampa police officer handcuffed her and took her to jail. There, she was strip-searched and held on a warrant out of Virginia.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 25 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Orellana accused police of acting negligently since the warrant was for a white woman in the name had a different middle initial.

“Despite not matching the description of the alleged warrant,” the suit says, “the Defendant yee publicly humiliated and arrested the Plaintiff, leading to the Plaintiff being forced to strip down in front of other people, and the Plaintiff being deprived of her freedom.”

Orellana is asking the court for damages for false imprisonment, battery, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Orellana’s suit does not indicate which Virginia county issued the arrest, exactly who was named in the warrant, nor why it was issued.

One possibility is that if the Virginia warrant concerned a sex crime — as Mullins/Orellana had been a registered sex offender — Tampa police may have held her as a precaution.

Dunedin woman, center of infamous 1979 kidnapping, now owes lawyer $12.6M

In 1979, 19-year-old Elizabeth Strother of Dunedin broke into the home of her doctor’s bookkeeper with a friend. At the time, she was high on cocaine and other drugs.

The pair threatened the woman with a toy gun, tying her to a bed while they ransacked the woman’s house. They drove the woman’s car to the doctor’s office, used her keys to enter the office, and filled large trash bags with drugs.

Police arrived and arrested the two.

Strother, now 57, was charged in Pinellas County with kidnapping, burglary, grand theft and use of a firearm during a felony.

The St. Petersburg Times, in articles published between 1987 and 1995, reported that various psychiatrists determined Strother was psychotic and/or a paranoid schizophrenic.

With that diagnosis, Strother was able to avoid prosecution for many years, spending part of that time in a mental institution.

Nevertheless, in 1986, Strother revealed she was faking insanity at the advice of a doctor and two lawyers, including S. Grant Halliday. She announced she would be filing suit against them.

Strother’s allegations resulted in a federal grand jury inquiry and investigation of Halliday and co-counsel Thomas F. “Tom” Granahan II by the Florida Bar.

While her suit was eventually dismissed, Halliday and co-counsel Granahan countersued Strother in 1991 for defamation and harm to their reputations and businesses.

The defamation suit also named Strother’s mother, Frances Strother, and grandmother, Elizabeth Keeley.

In 1997, a jury ordered Strother to pay Halliday damages totaling $4.3-million. Twenty years after that jury order, Halliday is filing a new lawsuit, claiming most or all of the judgment — no exact amount was given — remains unpaid.

In the suit, filed Dec. 27 in Hillsborough County, Halliday argues that, due to interest and subsequent court sanctions, the total is now $12.6-million. Halliday is asking for payment from Strother and/or the estates of her mother and grandmother. Frances Strother died in 2000; Elizabeth Keeley allegedly died in either 1996 or 1997.

Halliday’s court battle with Strother has remained active in the past few years. Documents filed from 2011-13, show Halliday continuing to insist Strother is hiding assets, which Strother denies.

In one 2011 filing, Strother claims she has not held a job since 1998, and did not file state or Federal income-tax returns from 1993-2010, did not own or lease a vehicle, have a safe-deposit, nor owned any stocks or bonds.

Responding to requests from the two lawyers, Strother denied ever applying for a U.S. passport under a false name, holding stock in a Mexican bank, or traveling to Texas for a financial transaction.

Strother did admit to using a false name — “Ellie Golder” — more than 20 years ago. In 2016, Strother was sanctioned by the court after leaving a deposition prematurely.

Although the St. Petersburg Times described Strother in 1987 as the product of an “affluent Dunedin family,” she currently lives in her late mother’s home in Dunedin, which was appraised at $123,000.

Veteran nonprofit executive sues Tampa YMCA for age discrimination

Kathryn Short Rabon

A veteran nonprofit executive is suing the Tampa YMCA for age discrimination, saying they have a history of forcing out older individuals to maintain a “younger workforce.”

Kathryn Short Rabon, 59, serves as executive director of Suncoast Hospice Foundation, the fundraising arm of Suncoast Hospice.

According to a news release, Rabon has a long resume working for several prominent nonprofits, including as CEO of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce; vice president of development and communications at the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA; chief development officer at the Girls Scouts of West Central Florida; The clearwater beach resident was also executive director of the Ruth Eckerd Hall Foundation and deputy director of development at the Salvador Dali Museum.

By 2013, Rabon had been working at the Tampa YMCA for just over 5 years – since May 2013 – when she received a “90-day-probationary period with a coach for guidance.”

Although neither the guidance coach nor the YMCA raised any issues during her probation, Rabon was fired May 2013, just before the end of the 90 days. She was replaced by a younger person.

In a lawsuit filed December 20 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Rabon accuses the YMCA of a long history of age discrimination, claiming the only reason she was fired was the organization wanted a “younger workforce,” and forcing older individuals out of those positions.

Rabon is accusing YMCA on four counts: Age Discrimination in Employment Act violation, ADEA retaliation; Florida Civil Rights Act violation and FCRA retaliation.

“Younger employees were also given time to pursue other jobs prior to termination,” the suit says. Rabon argues her termination was effective immediately.

Rabon seems to have had several other roles since leaving the YMCA. Included in her LinkedIn bio is a six-month stint at the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida (May-October 2013).

A news release said Rabon was named chief development officer for Ruth Eckerd Hall beginning September 30, 2013, and joined Suncoast Hospice Foundation as of June 2014, just eight months later.

Rebounds lawsuit does not mention the name of who replaced her at the YMCA.

Partners face off over former St. Pete mental health clinic, now a nightclub

Marcus Lloyd Anderson

Business partners, who are the joint owners of a South St. Petersburg nightclub once the site of a behavioral health clinic, are going to court over accusations of mismanagement and shady operations.

The Porch St. Pete, owned by Blue Oasis LLC, is a bar and nightclub at 1239 4th St. S in St. Petersburg. Porch obtained its liquor license in August 2016, opening sometime soon after that.

Half of Blue Oasis is allegedly owned by plaintiff Fulltrot Investments, with the other half owned by defendant Marcus Anderson Investments.

Sanford resident Nwabufo Chinedu Chidolue, 41, owns Fulltrot Investments. Marcus Lloyd Anderson, a 32-year-old St. Petersburg native, holds Marcus Anderson investments. Anderson is also listed as CEO and director of Tampa Bay Behavioral Health Centers, a mental health service provider and assisted living facility.

Anderson, a member of the St. Petersburg Alumni Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, was the subject of a 2014 profile in the Weekly Challenger newspaper, which wrote, “he has owned and operated several local living facilities since 2009.”

Records show that the Tampa Bay Behavioral Center was the previous tenant in the space now occupied by The Porch St. Pete. This suggests that Anderson turned the mental-health clinic he owns into a nightclub, possibly operating two vastly different establishments at the same time. Bruce and Julia Gramaila jointly own the strip mall where The Porch is located.

However, it should be noted that Tampa Bay Behavioral does now operate at a different address, 3455 58th Ave. N in St. Petersburg.

Nwabufo Chidolue is suing Anderson, accusing his business partner of shutting him out of the operation of The Porch, as well as selling Porch-purchased liquor at private parties – keeping the money for himself. He also says Anderson refuses to pay certain vendors “while secretly enriching itself at the expense of Blue Oasis,” and continues to sell alcohol, despite his claim that Porch’s liquor license was recently suspended.

Chidolue also suspects Anderson of fraudulently diverting Porch revenue to a personal bank account.

In the lawsuit, filed Jan. 24 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Chidolue is asking the court either appoint a custodian to manage The Porch, or put the business in receivership and have a receiver shut it down and liquidate assets.

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