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Well-known Tampa Bay chef Jeannie Pierola accused of stiffing seafood wholesaler out of $17K

Jeannie Pierola

One of Tampa’s most respected culinary artists is now facing accusations that she stiffed the bill from a St. Petersburg seafood distributor.

Jeannie Pierola, owner of edison: food+drink lab gastropub on W. Kennedy Boulevard in South Tampa, is considered one of the most inventive chefs in the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa Bay Times ranked edison one of 2016’s Top 10 restaurants in the region, and No. 1 in the ‘American Upscale’ category. For 10 years, she served as head chef for the iconic Tampa steakhouse Bern’s and SideBern’s.

In 2015, the Times reported Pierola, now 54, became only the fourth area chef ever to “be invited to do a whole dinner at the former home of James Beard.”

Sammy’s Seafood — led by Emilio Sosa as president and Vice President Kathryn Sosa — is a seafood wholesaler headquartered in St. Petersburg. According to the company website, the environmentally and sustainably-focused Sammy’s is “committed to sourcing our fresh seafood from local commercial fishermen, shrimpers and crabbers, environmentally friendly fisheries and sustainable aquaculture farmers, and we believe that educating our customers as to why we’ve chosen each supplier is just as important.”

In 2012, the year she launched Edison, Pierola submitted a credit application with Sammy’s, where she personally guaranteed any future outstanding debts to the supplier.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 12 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Sammy’s claims it sold Pierola’s company $17,504 in seafood for July and August 2016, but never received payment.

Sammy’s is asking the court to force Pierola, as guarantor, to settle the debt.

State records do not show a specific parent company for edison: food+drink lab; neither a corporation nor fictitious group listing exists by that name.

Pierola is also shown as owner of Chef Driven Restaurant Group LLC, which uses edison’s as its address.

The master chef is no stranger to controversy. Bern’s Steakhouse sued Pierola in 2008, alleging she made personal expenditures on company credit cards.

In 2006, Pierola purchased a $1.28-million home in Beach Park.

PSTA, St. Pete cop wrestle over responsibility for a 2014 police cruiser crash

Jereme John Hayes

In 2014, a St. Petersburg Police cruiser collided with a county bus at an intersection in St. Pete Beach. Now the cop and the bus driver are facing off in court over who actually caused the wreck.

Jereme John Hayes, 33, was serving as a St. Petersburg police officer at the time. In an October 2013 divorce affidavit, he claimed to earn $4,449 per month, plus overtime.

Hayes was driving a police cruiser Jan. 9, 2014, along Gulf Boulevard in St. Pete Beach with its lights flashing and siren blaring. As he began turning left near the 5900 block, Hayes claims a Pinellas County Transit Authority bus traveling in the opposite direction struck the vehicle on the right side.

Raymond Albert Thornton, now 62, had been driving the bus at the time. According to a divorce affidavit dated April 2014, the St. Petersburg resident said the PSTA paid him $20.99 an hour.

A search of the Pinellas County online traffic database shows neither party was cited in the crash in question, and Thornton has never received a driving citation in the county.

Nevertheless, the PSTA is blaming the accident on Hayes.

In a letter dated Jan. 28, 2014, Lynette Jones, a Liability Claims Adjuster for the Brumbelow Drechsel Law Group, the firm representing the Transit Authority, said: “Our investigation of this accident finds that PSTA is not at fault for the accident, as Mr. Hayes drove his vehicle into the path of the bus. Therefore, we must respectfully deny your claim for damages …”

A complaint filed in Pinellas County Circuit Court Jan. 17, 2017, says Hayes accuses Thornton of negligent failure to yield, which caused the crash that left him with injuries to his “cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine and headaches,” among other things.

Hays is seeking damage from both Thornton and PSTA for damages, costs, interest, prejudgment interest and “any other relief the court deems appropriate.”

This is not Hayes’ first lawsuit over an auto accident. In 2015, he sued a woman named Anthonetta Ireland over a 2012 crash. In that instance, Ireland received a citation for “careless driving.”

Bayfront patient sexually assaults another, may have attacked Tampa man two months earlier

A woman recovering at St. Pete’s Bayfront Hospital was attacked by a fellow patient with behavioral problems who may have committed another attack in Tampa two months earlier.

Judith Conrad was recovering from surgery at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg August 7, 2016, when she says fellow patient David Weber “violently and sexually attacked, assaulted and battered” her.

Police arrested David Andrew Weber, 53, a St. Petersburg transient who is listed as residing at the Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee, a mental-health facility owned by the Florida Department of Children and Families. Weber was charged with felony attempted sexual assault.

In a suit filed January 16, Conrad is accusing Bayfront of failing to protect her, even though Weber “had demonstrated signs and symptoms of his propensity for violence and aggression.”

Bayfront, at 701 6th St. S in St. Petersburg, is owned by the publicly traded Community Health Systems based in Franklin, Tennessee. Community owns 158 hospitals throughout 22 states, including 24 in Florida.

Records show a man named “David Andrew Weber” – possibly the same Weber as in the Bayfront incident – was arrested in Tampa about two months earlier than the attack on Conrad in St. Petersburg.

In that episode, Weber had allegedly punched and kicked a wheelchair-bound man who suffered from a previous brain injury. Weber was charged with one count of abuse of an elderly or disabled adult. The case docket shows he was found incompetent to proceed with the prosecution, and the court committed him to Florida DCF care.

The David Weber who allegedly attacked Conrad gave his birth date as April 15, 1963, while the David Weber in the Tampa case claimed to have been born one day earlier, April 14.

It should be noted that since Weber could be the same person involved the previous attack, and had expressed violent tendencies, questions arise on what further precautions Bayfront might have taken to protect other patients.


‘Top 1%’ attorney busted for DUI in Pasco, challenges license suspension on procedural errors

Matthew Mayne Donaldson, 50, is a lawyer with Carlson, Meissner Hart & Hayslett, serving as lead attorney in the firm’s Spring Hill office.

On Oct. 29, 2016, Donaldson was returning from his son’s football game when a Pasco County deputy purportedly saw the attorney’s 2007 Toyota Tundra cross lanes and nearly collide with four or five oncoming vehicles — including a U.S. Postal Service vehicle — before swerving off the road.

After failing sobriety exercises and declining a breath-alcohol test, Donaldson was arrested near 5399 Starkey Blvd. in New Port Richey. The arrest triggered an automatic 18-month driver’s license suspension.

A suit was filed In Pinellas County Dec. 30 by Matthew W. Kindel, one of the Carlson & Meissner law partners, Donaldson claims the suspension should be reversed due to procedural errors made by police and by a hearing officer for the Florida Department of Highway Safety’s hearing officer.

According to his Carlson & Meissner bio, Donaldson, born in Ney York and raised in New Port Richey, graduated with honors from the University of Miami Law School, was is rated among the nation’s top 1 percent of attorneys in 2015 by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel. It says Martindale.com calls him “AV Rated,” the highest ranking for ability and ethics.

However, Donaldson’s Martindale page does not include the AV rating, but does show a client rating of five out of five.

Donaldson is married to Elizabeth Maxcy Donaldson; they have five children.

This is not Donaldson’s first DUI arrest. He was arrested in Pinellas County in 1995 for DUI, reckless driving and unlawful speed. Records also show he attended DUI school in Palm Beach County in 1994, possibly indicating another DUI incident.

Cuban Club, insurer face-off over $1.9M water damage claim

A Texas insurer is taking Ybor City’s venerable Cuban Club to court over the disposition of a nearly $2 million insurance claim dating back to 2014.

Built in 1917, the Cuban Club is the successor to the original clubhouse of “El Circulo Cubano,” a mutual-aid society originally created as a gathering place for Cuban immigrant cigar workers.

In Oct. 2014, Cuban Club Foundation Inc., doing business as Cuban Club, filed an insurance claim with United Specialty Insurance Company to cover water damage and a partial collapse of the ceiling. United Specialty is a subsidiary of State National Companies Inc., a publicly-traded insurer in Bedford, Texas.

Two years later, the Club alerted United that the incident had resulted in losses of nearly $1.9-million. United rejected the amount of the claim and the scope of the loss. At that point, both sides sought independent appraisers, but neither party could agree on an “impartial umpire.”

Now, United is asking the court to choose an umpire.

“This is an action seeking court appointment of a Neutral Umpire in connection with an ongoing appraisal pursuant to the terms and conditions of a commercial property insurance policy,” says the complaint, filed Jan. 17 in Hillsborough County’s 13th Judicial Circuit Court.

United’s complaint described the damage sustained by the Cuban Club as “a result of long-term moisture exposure.” The Cuban Club is at 2010 E Avenida Republica de Cuba in Tampa.

Poker championship winners accuse Tampa Bay Downs of running Ponzi scheme

John Ott

John Ott, a Tampa resident and district sales manager at Performance Foodservice, is also a professional poker player. Tampa Bay Downs, which began as a horse track for gamblers, now offers poker in its Silks Poker Room.

Ott considers Silks as his “home” club.

For years, Silks was one of the clubs across the U.S. holding tournaments for the Player’s Poker Championship, a Pompano Beach-based poker tour. The Silks competition was intended to be a “feeder” event, leading to the PPC Poker Tour finals in Aruba.

In November 2016, a group of players – Ott; Stephen Deutsch of Baltimore; James Beadnell of Ohio; Michael Lerner of Maryland; and Joan Sandoval from Wisconsin — won five of the top six prizes at the 2016 PPC Main Event finals, an amount well over $300,000.

Ott finished in sixth place at the event, held at the Hilton Aruba Resort Casino & Spa, for $32,085.

Instead of paying out full cash awards, however, Ott and the others say PPC gave them each $10,000, promising a share of future cash until for the rest. They refused, and now are claiming they are owed just under $300,000.

Ott says he is still owed $32,085.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 17 in Hillsborough County, the plaintiffs say Tampa Bay Downs joined PPC to promote what they claim is a fraudulent Ponzi scheme where future payoffs are used to pay past winners.

They are asking Tampa Bay Downs, whose president is Stella Thayer, to make them whole.

Thayer, who has been with Tampa Bay Downs for more than 50 years, was named one of 2016’s most influential women in Tampa Bay area sports. Her brother, Howell Ferguson, serves as vice president.

The suit argues that the PPC Main Event in Aruba is “largely operated by” Tampa Bay Downs, sending poker dealers, a floor supervisor, and Silks director Patrick Murphy to work the annual championship event. Murphy, it continues, is alleged to be a co-owner of the poker room used for the tournament.

The Hillsborough County action is intended to be a companion to a similar suit filed Jan. 3 in Maryland against PPC and its principals, Bryan Oulton and Thomas “Sandy” Swartzbaugh. Plaintiffs decided on a Florida suit because Tampa Bay Downs does no business in Maryland.


Seminole tae kwon do instructor in jail for child molestation faces first lawsuit

Andrew Jin Kim

A tae kwon do instructor accused in 2016 of multiple child molestations over a period of years faces his first lawsuit in Pinellas County Circuit Court.

In early 2016, Andrew Jin Kim, an instructor at Oh’s Taekwondo in Seminole, was arrested and charged with molesting two female students, aged 6 and 7.

Shortly after, WFLA reported that a third child came forward to accuse Kim, now 24, of molestation.

Detectives said, Kim, a native of Illinois, worked at the dojo from 2012 to August 2015.

Myung K. Oh and his wife, Myung J. Oh, are listed in tax records as owners of the property on which Oh’s is located, 7520 Seminole Blvd. in Seminole. At least one news article about the alleged molestation identified the dojo’s owner as Richard Oh — possibly Myung K. Oh is the same person.

“I am very sorry for the victims and the families. I am truly sorry for what happened,” Richard Oh told the Tampa Bay Times. “We teach students to defend themselves from people like (Kim). He got caught, and I’m glad he got caught.”

In the first lawsuit emerging in the case, filed Dec. 29 in Pinellas County, Sakha Temeka Reed, a 40-year-old St. Petersburg resident, claims that over a three-year period, Andrew Kim “continually sexually abused and molested” her minor child, listed as “John Doe.” The molestation left the child — which is alternately referred to as “John Doe” and as “her” — with severe psychological injuries.

Reed is accusing Oh’s of negligence in its hiring, training, and supervision of Kim.

The Tampa Bay Times article said when confronted, Kim “admitted to the allegations and was arrested,” although court documents do not give a clear indication why there will be a trial. He remains in Pinellas County Jail.

The first three charges against Kim were filed in February 2016, and two additional charges were filed in April 2016 — which could bring the number of alleged molestation victims to as many as five.

In an unrelated incident, Myung J. Oh sought a restraining order in March 2016 against her son, James Oh. The mother accused the son of robbing her multiple times, threatening her and other family members, firing a gun in the house, threatening suicide, and saying he was addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Attorney suing Clearwater dealership over warranty has former identity, darker past

Lawyer Chloe Jay Roberts, formerly known as Jennifer Ann Latham

Lawyer Chloe Jay Roberts, while suing a Pinellas County dealership for failing to honor a warranty, has revealed a former identity with a somewhat darker past.

Roberts, 38, is a Miami-based attorney and graduate of the University of Tampa and Stetson University College of Law.

In August 2015, Roberts bought a 2006 BMW 325i from Elite Car Sales for about $12,500, after the dealership had allegedly promised any future engine problems would be covered under warranty.

Elite is a Clearwater used-car dealership at 18400 U.S. Hwy 19 N managed by Panayiotis Vasiloudes.

But in a suit filed Jan. 6 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Roberts claims that repeated problems with both the engine and windshield wipers left her stranded on the roadside several times. She adds that Elite refused to cover repairs unless Roberts drove the car to the dealership — “hundreds of miles” away.

Attempted repairs were unsuccessful, and Roberts says she experienced uncomfortable “rapacious stares” by dealership owners, who called her “beautiful” and asked her on dates.

Roberts is seeking damages for breach of contract.

As a primary attorney at the Roberts & Associates law firm, Roberts’ practice specializes in “victims of sexual harassment, discrimination, hostile work environments, domestic violence, date rape and sex trafficking.”

With over 10 years’ litigation experience, Roberts says she has “a winning trial record, and have settled millions on behalf of my clients.”

According to her Roberts & Associates bio, Roberts is an active volunteer attorney with Bay Area Legal Services and has served on a variety of nonprofit boards, including the PACE Center for Girls. After graduating from Stetson, she “gained courtroom experience in the Legal Division of the Bureau of ATF where I assisted in getting ‘The Radisson Hotel Killer’, Nely Rodriguez, sentenced to prison for life.”

A Miami native, Roberts appears to have had spent a good amount of her career in Tampa.

In November 2016, she penned “The Issue With Confidential Sexual Harassment Settlements.” On top of her legal work, Roberts wrote a play — Rendezvous La Petite Morte — performed in 2014 at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival.

Although she has become an accomplished attorney and author, Roberts also has a previous history under another name.

In January 2016, she was arrested in Tampa for DUI, with a police report showing she is also known as Jennifer Ann Latham.

Highlands County court records show that in late 2011, Latham changed her name to “Chloe Jay Roberts.” Before the name change, Latham was arrested twice for domestic violence — 2003 in Hillsborough and 2010 in Highlands County — as well as in 2004 for trespassing in Hillsborough. She was also cited for careless driving in Hillsborough in 2007; in 2009, Latham was ticketed in Highlands for driving with a suspended license.

For her 2016 DUI arrest, the “permanent” address Roberts gave police was 4526 Granada Ave. in Sebring. However, Highlands County records show that address is a mobile home belonging to Nellie M. Latham; before that, it was co-owned by Jack Latham, who died in 2006.

Largo biker claims he is illegally in jail for attempted murder

Joseph O’Donnell

An alleged member of a Pasco County outlaw motorcycle gang, in jail for a 2015 attempted murder, is asking the court to free him, claiming unconstitutional imprisonment and excessive bail.

Largo resident Joseph O’Donnell is a 42-year-old New York native currently at the Pinellas County Jail awaiting trial.

O’Donnell, a day laborer for Labor Ready, was arrested Dec. 23, 2015, on charges of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and tampering with physical evidence.

In a Jan. 4, 2017 petition for writ of habeas corpus, O’Donnell – who filed a handwritten form without the help of an attorney – claimed he was unmarried with one dependent. O’Donnell also said he was responsible for child support.

O’Donnell is asking the court to discharge him from jail because he has been “unlawfully imprisoned.” He argues both bail and bond amounts are “excessive,” unconstitutional, and out of his financial reach.

In police reports on the incident, as well as a Facebook post by the Largo Police, O’Donnell — known as “Spook” — is an “associate of the Legends Motorcycle Club in Pasco.”

Just before Christmas 2015, Allen Frye and Frank Bagnuolo allegedly visited O’Donnell at his Largo home to pick up some “patches.” At the time, O’Donnell lived at 705 Sixth Ave. NE, Apt. B. An argument ensued, when O’Donnell allegedly pulled a 9 mm gun, shooting Frye in the face. He then pointed the gun at Bagnuolo, who told the story to police while at Bayfront Medical Center.

Police also interviewed Joseph Ingleston, who was O’Donnell’s roommate, and Lori Forsey (Frye’s mother).

A May 2015 Tampa Bay Times article says “outlaw” motorcycle gangs are “still prevalent” throughout the Tampa Bay area: “… many of their members have day jobs, running tattoo shops, strip clubs or tow yards. A few are said to be lawyers or even doctors.”

Philanthropist Kiran Patel embroiled in downtown Tampa ownership dispute

After spending $13 million, a local investment company is suing over a block in downtown Tampa with a disputed ownership that includes well-known philanthropist Kiran Patel.

Incorporated in 2006, 3MT Investments is owned by Jugal K. “Jay” Taneja, a 73-year-old Tampa developer and health care and pharmaceutical executive. Among other roles, Taneja has served as chair of Largo-based GeoPharma.

In addition, 3MT is the manager of Fuel Group, a co-defendant in the action, whose registered agent is listed as Jugal Taneja. Fuel Group and 3MT are located at 6911 Bryan Dairy Road, Suite 210, in Largo. The Tanejas live on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.

Another co-defendant in a lawsuit over ownership of five properties in Tampa is Dr. Kiran Chhotubhai Patel, 67, the renowned former cardiologist, health care executive, developer and philanthropist. Patel is one of the best-known figures in the Tampa Bay region’s Indian-American community.

The Tampa Bay Times reported in December that Patel announced plans to open an osteopathic medical school on the former Clearwater Christian College property.

Patel is also seeking to build a 32,000-square-foot home in Tampa with his wife, fellow cardiologist Pallavi Patel.

On April 19, 2006, a Tampa company called Fuel Investments and Development spent just over $13-million, spread out over four separate transactions, to acquire a square block in downtown Tampa.

The five addresses on the block — just east of the Tampa Convention Center — are 220 S. Franklin Street; 228 S. Franklin Street; 238 S. Franklin Street; an office building on 401 S. Florida Avenue; and 411 S. Florida Avenue.

A 2009 Tampa Bay Business Journal article names the investors, which include father-and-son Indira Lalwani and Jai Lalwani, saying that the purchase was “backed by philanthropist Dr. Kiran Patel.”

The initial project was to build a hotel, later replaced by a plan to develop dormitory housing for University of Tampa students.

Named developer in the project was Fuel Group LLC, a troubled company involved in several court actions in 2009.

The 3MT firm claims ownership of a 7.5 percent stake in Fuel Investments & Development, which in turn owns the block listed in the suit.

However, in 2016, it allegedly sought to buy out Fuel Group’s controlling stake in Fuel Investments, which then led to the discovery that Kiran Patel, not Fuel Group, owned the controlling stake.

The lawsuit, filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court Jan. 13, claims Patel “is exercising control” over Fuel Investments and “refuses to relinquish his assumed majority interest and recognize the interest” of the plaintiff.

Plaintiffs 3MT are asking the court to either declare it is the owner of a controlling stake in Fuel Investments or that 3MT was “defrauded.”

In the suit, 3MT argues the purchase of Fuel Group’s stake in Fuel Investments was negotiated with Vani Lalwani, also named as a co-defendant. They say Lalwani claimed she was the controlling member of Jai Enterprises LLC, which subsequently was a controlling member of Fuel Group.

The square block in dispute currently encompasses a three-story office building at 401 S. Florida Avenue and four parking lots (BayLawsuit.com)


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