A group of Irishmen are suing a friend and local real estate agent for fraud after they learned the truth about a 2008 home purchase.
Ronald Fair, Robert Galbraith and Paul Donnelly are residents of Ireland; they purchased a 3,868-square-foot, waterfront Belleair Beach home in 2008 using licensed real estate agent (and “trusted friend”) Paul Kelly.
Kelly initially said the property was listed for nearly $2.3 million, but because it was in foreclosure, it could be purchased for $1 million less.
To secure the property, they wrote two checks. The first was for $40,000 as a deposit to hold the property. The second was made to Kelly for $132,500 for foreclosure fees.
When the three men decided to sell the property in early 2016, they reviewed the closing documents from their initial purchase. It was during this time that the Irishmen learned they were deceived when purchasing the home.
When viewing the HUD, they noticed the payment to Kelly wasn’t recorded. They further learned that the property had never been listed for more than $1.7 million. At the time of purchase, it was listed at just under $1.3 million.
Further, the property wasn’t ever in foreclosure as the previous owners paid cash for the property. The men were at a loss for what the $132,500 was spent on.
Because the men were outside of the country at the time of the purchase, they relied on their friend, Kelly, to get them the best deal possible. They are suing him on five counts for breach of fiduciary duty, deceptive and unfair trade practices, fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation and conversion.
That year, a St. Petersburg company was formed named Attracta Inc. Although its website claims to have been created in 2009, it is unclear if the enterprise is the same as the California company.
From Attracta’s website, you are lead to believe it is nearly a 5-star company; however, it received an “F” from the Better Business Bureau. In the company’s “About Us” page, Attracta claims to be “the largest SEO company in the world — with over 3.6 million websites registered and over 5 billion pages using our tools.”
SEO is used by businesses to get websites ranked higher in search engines; when someone searches on Google, their business is one of the first to pop up.
Attracta is located at 111 2nd Ave. NE, Suite 620, in St. Petersburg.
While there may be two sides to every story, in one pair of competing lawsuits, it is difficult to determine on which side the truth stands.
Leich & Teeling is a Tampa CPA firm co-owned by Barbara Teeling and Ray Leich, both 58; up until 2009, the company was only owned by Leich.
Leich and his wife are co-founders of the popular Square 1 Burgers chain of restaurants.
In a suit filed Nov. 7, Leich asserted that Teeling stole company funds among other claims. On the other side of the fence. An opposing suit, filed Dec. 5, has Teeling arguing that it’s the other way around.
Because the company is split equally between the two partners, the public accounting firm is considered an “S” corporation and the owners must equally share profits, according to the suit filed by Teeling.
Leich’s suit against Teeling claims that the firm would equalize the partners’ distribution accounts at the closing of the books each year. That didn’t stop Teeling from requesting accounts be equalized 12 days before taxes were due this year.
Leich responded to her request by assuring Teeling it would be taken care of. Since the date of the request, Leich claims he has found a disparity in the books: Teeling was, he claims, taking money from the firm.
Leich believes Teeling used the firm’s AmEx card for personal use. He claims she also set up a secondary account in the company’s name and used it to deposit client payments. From there she would take the money out for her own purposes.
Leich lists several instances where money was stolen from the firm, he uncovered this from April 8 to May 16. When he emailed Teeling about the money, excuses were given; $37,000 of it was returned, leaving the whereabouts of the remaining $129,500 unknown.
As per the suit, the false account was closed after Leich found out about it.
Leich later claims that in September, Teeling informed him she would be leaving the firm. However, she asked to keep it private. No formal notice was ever given to Leich.
Teeling contacted the firm’s clients to notify them of her departure. She, allegedly, told clients Leich wasn’t in good health, a claim he says is false. Leich also believes that Teeling plotted to recruit all of the firm’s employees over to her new firm.
Alternatively, Teeling claims that Leich “is the perpetrator of the wrongful conduct asserted in this complaint and has already refused multiple opportunities to rectify his wrongful actions.” These so-called “wrongful” actions are described in the suit filed by Teeling against Leich.
Teeling stated that Leich took excessive distributions, jeopardizing the firm’s status as an “S” corporation. Leich has, allegedly, refused to return the funds removed from the PA’s account, despite multiple requests.
This suit claims that Leich was using company credit cards for personal expenses. It also states that he has taken time out of his workday to work on other endeavors, although Teeling never agreed to let him become a part-time employee. Teeling also believes funds from the firm were used to start up Square 1 Burgers.
Teeling believes that Leich told clients she was resigning from the firm, a statement she insists is false.
Leich and Teeling previously worked together at a national accounting firm. In 1992, the two left to start a “boutique” accounting firm.
Dunedin is coming under fire after an ex-employee says she faced discrimination when applying for a field position because she is an older woman.
On Dec. 6, Palm Harbor resident Lisa Massarelli, 53, filed a suit against the City of Dunedin for violating the Florida Civil Rights Act.
Massarelli worked for the city from 1993 to 2010 before budget cuts forced her to be laid off. For over 12 years, Massarelli worked as a Field Service Representative for the Public Works Water Department. She had no disciplinary issues while working for the city.
She was notified that her old position recently opened back up when the employee working the position retired. Massarelli had previously made it clear to human resources and management that she would be interested in the position, had it ever opened.
Paul Stanek, the director of Assistant Public Works and Utilities, knew of Massarelli’s interest.
Stanek made his way to his current position in 2007 and has since given the impression that he would like to hire young females for office positions and males for field positions.
The suit claims that Stanek planned to promote one of his male “buddies” to the position because he did not want a 53-year-old woman in a field position.
Massarelli found out about the job through connections she made when she worked for the city. Stanek asked HR to keep the opening private so that only current city employees could see it was available. He also requested the listing to be posted for only three days. His plan was questioned by an HR representative. However, he pushed for it to only be posted internally.
Massarelli delivered a complete application to the HR department via UPS to receive a delivery confirmation. She believed that the Stanek’s purpose of posting the opening internally was “to limit the applicant pool to his own buddies.”
Legal representatives of Massarelli inquired about the legitimacy of Stanek’s demands. They were informed there were no requirements for the position to be available to the public. The suit begs to differ. It states that HR is required to monitor selective requests for misconduct. It further states that Stanek’s demand was improper because it was made to discriminate based on age and gender.
Stanek eventually backed away from hiring his friend and went with a 35-year-old female current city worker. He made this decision after the inquiries were made by Massarelli’s representatives.
Massarelli claims she is far more qualified than any of the other applicants.
The woman eventually hired for the position had, allegedly, never gained experience relevant to her new job. Her only government experience was in billing. This newly promoted woman had previously been reprimanded for constantly being late for work. A background check by Massarelli’s lawyers discovered a DUI on her record. This is problematic since the field position requires employees to drive city trucks.
Records suggest other older women may have also been discriminated against by the City of Dunedin.
A potentially career-ending lawsuit accuses an award-winning therapist of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a vulnerable patient.
The patient, referred to as P.A. in the suit to protect her identity, was struggling to deal with her teenage son, C.A. The mother-son duo was recommended by DCFS to seek counseling to strengthen their relationship and work out the son’s behavioral issues.
DCFS scheduled P.A. an appointment with Michael Putzulu, a therapist working at Suncoast Center.
The overall goal of counseling was to improve how P.A. approached issues with C.A., work on her anxiety, and develop a low-stress home environment.
In early 2014, the family had their first meeting with Putzulu. From there, they would meet every Wednesday at 4 p.m. at their home.
A few sessions in, Putzulu recommended C.A. live with his maternal grandmother.
After two sessions, Putzulu would stop by P.A.’s home without an appointment. Many visits were on short notice or completely unannounced. He would drop by during all hours of the day and night, even as late as 11:30 p.m.
Putzulu, allegedly, began rubbing P.A.’s legs while in the home. He would ask her to meet him at restaurants. Eventually, they started meeting in his home during the time he was her therapist.
Throughout their meetings, P.A. was urged to leave her boyfriend. She was living with her long-term boyfriend when the sessions first started.
At some point, their relationship became intimate, and P.A. left her boyfriend and their home to live with Putzulu.
According to the suit, Putzulu became extremely controlling. P.A. wasn’t allowed to text or use voicemail, she couldn’t go out without him; he limited her access to clothes, therapy, medicine and money.
Putzulu forced her to cease seeing her psychiatrist. He sent her to a former co-worker, Thomas Kiernan, to receive medications he selected for her. He paid for the visits and medication.
Thomas Kiernan is an advanced registered nurse practitioner who worked for Hector Corzo, a psychiatrist.
Kiernan never questioned why P.A. needed the medication or counseling, he merely provided the medication to P.A.
While living with Putzulu, it became harder for P.A. to see her son.
Putzulu only met with the son three times. However, he claimed the sessions were successful.
The boundaries set by the American Mental Health Counselors Association were breached by Putzulu when he pursued a relationship with his patient.
P.A. is suing Putzulu, Suncoast Center, Kiernan, and Corzo for the emotional distress they caused, either directly or indirectly.
While red-light cameras are unconstitutional in many areas, they are still in full effect in several others, including Hillsborough County.
Edwin Martin, a 63-year-old Tampa resident, is one of the drivers have been challenging the citations.
Martin claims such citations are “ridiculous” because they encourage drivers to make “panic stops” at yellow lights, and not continue through an intersection. These stops would lead to “possible rear-end collisions.” And after sitting in roughly 30 cases in the Red-Light Camera Court while going to protest his citation, Martin feels it is a “kangaroo court set up to collect taxes.”
Martin believes red-light cameras influence motorists to make panicked stops at yellow lights, which can create collisions and premature brake wear.
Although he wrote the suit Dec. 2, however, it wasn’t filed until Dec. 5.
Martin is challenging the county without the help of a lawyer.
The senior citizen claims to have an income of merely $417 a month courtesy of his Social Security check.
Martin is well-aware of how the courts operate. According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s database, he has three arrests. The first dates back to June 2008. He was arrested for grand theft and was in custody for nearly two months. After his release, Martin was arrested again on five charges and was in custody for 47 days. The charges included grand theft, burglary and resisting arrest.
Martin’s final arrest was in 2011 for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia as well as fleeing the scene of an accident with property damage. On that incident, he was held in custody for 19 days.
Arrest records show Martin goes by the alias “Alafia Zomekka.”
Shoot Straight, a chain of gun stores and ranges with a location in Clearwater, is under fire after an employee had claimed the company refused to promote her to management because she is a woman.
Crystal Mims is accusing Shoot Straight of violating the Florida Civil Rights Act based on sex discrimination and retaliation.
For nearly three years, Mims worked at Shoot Straight Clearwater. Throughout that time, she expressed a desire to grow with the company, asking to be considered for a management-level position. She applied for these posts, believing she was well-qualified for the job.
Despite this, she was repeatedly refused a promotion.
After less qualified men had been regularly put into the same management positions that Mims applied for, she believed the denial was due to gender.
Comments from co-workers and customers to Mims reinforced that belief. On one occasion, Mims said someone told her that she wouldn’t be considered because she didn’t “have a d**k.”
When she wasn’t selected for the position, Mims complained to her superiors. She asserts that those complaints resulted in her termination March 24.
Now Shoot Straight is being sued on two counts in the Nov. 30 lawsuit. If the court enters a judgment in Mims favor, she will receive compensation for back pay and benefits, front pay and benefits, damages for humiliation and mental pain and suffering, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs, and both pre and post-judgment interest.
Although Mims was never promoted to manager, she did work her way into a different position than when she started August 2013.
Shoot Straight Clearwater is located at 4594 Ulmerton Rd.
Shoot Straight operates several locations throughout the state. Founder and owner Khaled Akkawi is a pro-gun rights advocate. According to a February Herald-Tribune article, Akkawi is Florida’s “largest gun show promoter.”
A gate erected across a disputed local road, which allegedly blocks street access to other properties, has sparked a turf war between two Palm Harbor neighbors.
Noell Family, LLC, is suing Anthony and Patricia Lollis – President and Secretary-Treasurer, respectively, of Mickey’s Roof Service – as well as Pinellas County, in a complaint filed Nov. 29.
Noell Family owns property neighboring the Lollis’ home. The couple recently put up a gate across Roberts Road, a local road servicing the two-acre lot in Palm Harbor containing their home and two other structures.
Attempting to civilly solve the issue, the Noell Family attorney contacted the Lollis’ via mail in a letter sent April 20.
In the letter, the attorney advised the couple that the road is not private property and stated that the couple is “well-aware of that fact.” The letter demanded the gate be removed within 10 days or Noell Family would be given no other choice but to take the matter to court.
The Lollis’ retained an attorney to responded to the letter.
On May 13, a letter was constructed informing Noell Family and its attorney that the gate was installed in order to deter “undesirable persons” and gave a gate code for access beyond the gate. The letter stated that the gate will remain up until a decision has been made as to whether the road is public.
While the suit insists the road in question belongs to Pinellas County, county records say otherwise.
Roberts Road was established in the 1940s by Pinellas County, but the county does not currently maintain it.
In correspondence to Noell Family with the determination on whether the road is public, the county claims it “has no present need which would justify the staff resources and expense to make this determination.”
Now two parties are facing court action, accused of five counts.
This is not the first dispute over Roberts Road making its way through Pinellas courts.
In an earlier case, the Lollis’ sued Velda Deddo in 1990. Deddo, the previous owner of Noell Family’s property, had constructed a pedestrian gate across the street.
In that case, the final judgment determined “Roberts Road is a public roadway and that neither party shall interfere with its use by the other party …”
Using facial-recognition software, a Clearwater Police officer identified an adult woman claiming to be a minor at runaway shelter.
Judy Crockwell, a 26-year-old transient, had been arrested multiple times this year.
When she was arrested Nov. 2, she staying at Clearwater’s Safe Place posing as 16-year-old Antonia Clarke.
The arrest report from that night breaks down the events leading to her arrest.
After arriving at the shelter, Child Protective Services was called over to question “Antonia.” However, she refused to cooperate.
Clearwater police officer Francisco Micheo snapped a photo, running it through the agency’s facial-recognition software. That’s when the officer discovered the woman before him was not 16 years old as she claimed, but was, in fact, Crockwell.
Micheo then asked the woman if her name was Judy.
The officer’s question prompted Crockwell to begin yelling profanities, creating a disturbance and breaching the peace of the shelter.
Several attempts to calm her down failed. rockwell was placed into custody where she began resisting arrest by tensing and pulling away. The officer found an insurance card in Crockwell’s purse that read the name “Judy Lynn.”
Crockwell was arrested for resisting an officer without violence. After being read her Miranda rights, she returned to yelling profanities. Crockwell told the officer she wanted to grab a gun and shoot him.
A public defender was appointed to Crockwell’s case, although charges were dropped at the end of the month. Assistant State Attorney, Jennifer Menendez-Kotch, signed a notice stating the State Attorney concluded, “that the facts and circumstances revealed do not warrant prosecution at this time.”
A search for Crockwell through Florida arrest records shows four arrests in the state this year. The latest arrest was in Hillsborough County Dec. 14 for battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer with violence, and resisting an officer without violence.
She was listed as “homeless” at the time of the latest arrest.
Safe Place is located at 1615 Union St. in Clearwater.
A Tampa General nurse is being accused of illegally disclosing patient records to gain an advantage in her contentious divorce settlement.
Angela Marie Downing, 38, formerly known as Angela Hassey, is being sued by her ex-husband, Michael Todd “Mike” Hassey, a 42-year-old Apollo Beach resident who claims Angela accessed his medical records.
The records were allegedly used maliciously to portray Hassey in a negative light during their negotiations.
In October 2012, the couple filed for divorce. A final judgment was made nearly two years later.
The suit, filed Nov. 30, 2016, claims that Downing accessed Hassey’s medical records on three occasions: once in 2012 and twice in 2014.
On Jan. 16, 2014, Downing filed an Emergency for Temporary Relief in the divorce case. In it, she claimed Hassey was using steroids.
Mike Hassey seeks damages for medical expenses, past and future loss of earnings, pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, injury to his reputation, and attorney’s fees and costs. Downing and Tampa General are being sued on four counts total.
From 2012 to 2014, BayLawsuits reports the ex-couple filed nearly 10 lawsuits against one another for various accusations of stalking and domestic abuse.
In a 2014 petition for stalking, Downing accused Hassey of sending hundreds of texts with profanity. She while sitting outside her boyfriend’s lounge, Hassey would pull in across the street to spy on them.
In another incident, Angela said Hassey went to her boyfriend’s house, sitting in the driveway.
On Oct. 22, 2014, Hassey allegedly stared at Downing with a gun in his hand, which led to her filing the petition.
Hassey was arrested March 13, 2013, for violating a domestic violation injunction. Less than a month later, April 5, 2013, he was arrested again, this time for contributing to the delinquency or dependency of a child.
The couple has a daughter together. A post-judgment family law litigation followed the divorce to address custody of their child.
Hassey is the man behind the Mustang Mikes auto shop at 10044 Gibsonton Dr. in Tampa.
As an employee of Tampa General, Downing is responsible for following the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. HIPAA is the U.S. law protecting the privacy of patients’ medical records and health information provided by all health care providers.