Entries in Tampa (26)


Gunman Sought in Fatal Florida Road Rage Shooting

iStockphoto(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Police were searching Sunday for a gunman following an alleged road rage shooting in Tampa, Fla., that left one man dead.

The victim, whom authorities have identified as 47-year-old Fred William Turner Jr. of Orlando, Fla., was driving on a Florida highway when he called 911 to tell dispatchers he was being followed by a man with a gun after leaving a nearby store, ABC Tampa affiliate WFTS-TV reported.

"We know that at one point in time, this person did pull up beside him and showed him a hand gun," Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee told ABC’s Good Morning America.

"During the time he was on the call with the Highway Patrol, they actually heard the shooting. There were a series of shots," he said.

Authorities responded to the scene to find Turner shot and killed in his car on the side of the roadway.
It is unclear what provoked the alleged dispute between Turner and the suspect, who fled after the shooting.

Law enforcement officials are looking for a gray, Ford Taurus with tinted windows, WFTS-TV reported.
From a man pulling a gun in a road rage fight in North Carolina to a bruising brawl in the middle of a California highway recently, aggressive drivers are a growing threat on the roads.

According to the Department of Transportation, road rage incidents are up 170 percent since 2007, and there have been more than 1,000 deaths attributed to road rage since 2007.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Love at the RNC: Wedding Proposal Happens on Stage

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- It looks as if Ann Romney’s message from Tuesday night -- that this is about love -- struck a chord.  Bradley Thompson, 32, proposed to his girlfriend of three years, Laura Bowman, on the stage of the Tampa Bay Times forum on Wednesday.

Neither Thompson nor Bowman are here as delegates -- in fact, it’s not even clear if they’re Republicans; the couple declined to tell reporters when asked which party they support.  Bowman is a production coordinator and Thompson is a production manager for the convention.  The couple met three years ago on a production job and they live in New York City.

Bowman said she thought something fishy was going on when she was called for a sound check.  Although they knew they would be engaged eventually -- the couple told reporters that they had actually picked the ring together -- Bowman said she didn’t think it would happen on Wednesday.

There’s no word yet on the wedding plans for the couple.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Convention Security: Charlotte Police in Tampa to Watch

Tom Pennington/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte is only a week away and because it follows the Republican National Convention so closely, Charlotte police are in Tampa this week observing and training.

Charlotte Police Chief Rodney Monroe told ABC News that he and 10 officers made the trip to the Republican convention to get a preview of the landscape of a national convention.

“We just wanted to come down and take a look at operations and just kind of get a feel for things and pretty much just get a head-start on it,” Monroe said.

The police departments have been sharing plans for months because the conventions come back-to-back. Charlotte police wanted to observe Tampa’s security perimeter around the convention center.

On Monday, Monroe visited and walked with Tampa police at a protest that began in Perry Harvey Sr. Park and ended with a march through downtown Tampa. With Tropical Storm Isaac passing in the Gulf of Mexico, police said the march drew about 300 people.

Charlotte is a more compact city, but Monroe said there will be greater security issues with the White House in town.

“When you’re hosting the convention with the sitting president, there are different challenges, there are specific protocols that go along with handling the president of the United States,” Monroe said.

Tampa police chief Jane Castor said she didn’t know if coordination was typical between cities hosting conventions but after knowing each other, they decided it could only help to communicate efforts.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Occupy Protester Arrested Outside Republican National Convention

Occupy protesters in Tampa. Joe Raedle/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Protesters associated with the Occupy movement blocked traffic outside the Tampa, Fla., arena where the Republican National Convention kicked off Monday, leading to one arrest and police pursuit of several others who were "running through the downtown area," the chief of police said.

A spontaneous march made up of 25 to 30 masked protesters originated about 3 p.m. at the "Romneyville" tent city, several blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the convention.

"Individuals splintered off from that and have been basically running through the downtown area and we're monitoring them right now just to ensure that everyone is safe and that there's no damage in the downtown area, but so far everything has been very, very successful," Tampa police chief Jane Castor said.

The man, Dominick Delarosa, 20, was arrested when he refused to remove a mask at the request of police.

"There was a group of probably 25 to 30 individuals and many of them put on their masks," Castor said at a news conference. "They were told repeatedly by officers that was a violation of the event ordinance, that they weren't allowed to wear those masks in the event zone.

"Everyone took those masks off with the exception of one individual. The officers again, gave him plenty of warning and leeway to remove that mask. He refused and he was placed under arrest."

By 4:30 p.m., traffic outside the convention center was stalled. Hundreds of officers in riot gear surrounded the protesters, leading to delays to and from the forum.

The protests came at the end of an otherwise-anticlimactic first day of the convention.

What was to be an opening day of pomp and partying stretching into the night instead lasted all of one minute, as the GOP put on hold its plans to nominate Mitt Romney while the Gulf Coast hunkers down in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac.

This year's convention was to be a carefully scripted affair, tightly packing in speeches by many of the party's boldest names.

By losing a day of events because of travel delays and bigger fears that the storm would hit Tampa directly, many speakers were rescheduled or simply canceled.

Democrats also have set up outside the convention, hunkering down in a "war room" to respond in real time to comments made during the event.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Protesters 'Occupying' Tampa for GOP Convention

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Occupy Wall Street movement born last year in a New York City park has made its way to Voice of Freedom park in Tampa Bay, Fla., just in time for the GOP convention.

The Occupy Tampa movement has moved into Voice of Freedom park, just outside of downtown Tampa, for the past three months, according to the property owner Joe Redner.  Redner, who also owns an entertainment club two miles away, came across some money after winning a lawsuit against the city a few years back.

“I took that money and bought two lots of land that were known to be drug holes in the West Tampa area,” he said.  “I used the money to buy the lots and create Voice of Freedom Park.”

Redner says that he wanted to put his money towards a cause that would help the community and invited the Occupy movement to make use of his park.

“People have been here for about three months,” Redner tells ABC News, but he says that more have been showing up in the weeks before the Republican National Convention, which is scheduled for Aug. 27-30.

After that, however, the clock will start running down on the occupiers in Voice of Freedom Park.  They will have to leave by Sept. 15.

The city had begun to put pressure on Redner to make the Occupiers leave his property.  Though he is an avid supporter of the Occupy movement, Redner made an agreement with the city, promising that the protesters would be out of Voice of Freedom Park come September.

“I am not making them leave,” Redner says.  “The city was kicking protesters out of public parks downtown.  They were being harassed and getting put in jail.  I thought I was doing the city a favor by letting them stay at my park, but I know they can’t stay forever.”

When asked if the protesters had affected his business or the neighboring area, Redner replied, “Absolutely not. There is no interaction between my business and the demonstrators.”

One of those protesters is Kelly Benjamin, the community organizer for the Occupy Tampa movement. Though he lives in a house and is not camping out alongside other protesters, Benjamin tells ABC News that he will be marching alongside the Occupy movement to “remind politicians that they should we working for the people that they are representing, not their corporate sponsors.”

One of the first protests that he will be involved in is a march for what Benjamin calls “the world’s biggest cocktail party.”

The “cocktail party,” formally known as the kick-off party for the 2012 Republican National Convention, will take place on Sunday, Aug. 26, just before the commencement of the GOP convention.  This event will host politicians, delegates and others in town for the convention.

“We are marching against the world’s biggest cocktail party,” Benjamin says.  “It represents everything that’s broken about our country.  Ordinary people can’t get into the event.  Instead, we’re sent to a designated protest pit.”

Not willing to be contained, the Occupiers will be marching to Tropicana Field in neighboring St. Petersburg.  The march will kick off the beginning of relentless demonstrating during convention week.  A spokesperson from Tropicana tells ABC News that convention events will take place in the stadium, but the protesters most likely won’t be allowed inside because of security reasons.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


"Millionaire Matchmaker" Con Man Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud

Hemera/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A supposed mega-millionaire who appeared on the Bravo television series The Millionaire Matchmaker has been exposed as a Tampa, Fla.-based scam artist after federal prosecutors blew the whistle on him as a fraudster, leading him to plead guilty in court this week.

Michael Anthony Prozer III, who appeared on season two of the hit Bravo series that matches single wealthy people with potential spouses, pled guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud, according to a written statement from U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill.

Claiming to own a mansion and a private jet, Prozer, a father of two young boys, seemed to be a man who had everything except a woman to complete his lavish lifestyle.

Prozer told television audiences that he was the millionaire CEO of Xchangeagent Inc., an online payment service for people in South America.  The lie he has been living for years completely unraveled on Tuesday when he pled guilty to charges relating to a scheme to defraud Park Avenue Bank in Valdosta, Ga.

Xchangeagent Inc. recruited a financial specialist to aide in a scheme to defraud the bank by obtaining a short-term business loan purportedly secured by non-existent collateral, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

"[Prozer] was able to bribe [the financial specialist] to demonstrate he had millions of dollars deposited in the bank," criminal defense attorney Dana Cole told ABC News.  "That's what makes him convincing, is that he can tell the world, 'Hey you know the bank says I'm a multi-millionaire, so I must be.'"  Cole has no connection to the case.

The duo produced fraudulent bank statements and documents in order to convince officials at Park Avenue Bank that Prozer had $21 million in deposits at a bank in Maryland.  The scheme lost the Georgia bank about $3 million.

Now, three years after the reality-TV show that gave him national recognition, Prozer is behind bars facing a multi-year sentence in federal prison.

"Like many con men, the lie eventually unravels," Cole said.  "People realize there's nothing there at the end of the day.  And that's how you get found out, the money doesn't materialize, so lawsuits then turn into criminal investigations and those then turn into indictments."

The guilty plea came as a shock to court watchers, who were expecting a trial to begin.  A jury had even been selected.

"I think he figured that the government had the goods on him, his frauds had been exposed," Cole said, "and it was time to cut his losses and enter an early guilty plea."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Florida Woman's Obituary Includes Children's Dispute

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- Obituaries are usually worded with sentiments about loved family members and friends when they pass away. Josie Anello's obituary turned into a family feud.

"She is survived by her Son, 'A.J.', who lived and cared for her; Daughter 'Ninfa', who betrayed her trust, and Son 'Peter', who broke her heart," read the obituary in the Tampa Tribune.

That obit was written by her son Angelo Anello. A second obit appeared in the Tribune written by her daughter Ninfa Simpson, without the denigrating references to herself and her brother Peter.

Josie Anello, 93, of Land O'Lakes , Fla., died Feb. 11, according to both obits.

Angelo Anello refused to speak to and Simpson could not be reached for comment.

But in interviews with the Tampa Bay Times, Angelo Anello, 63, and Simpson, 65, accused each other of stealing from their mother, a grudge that apparently spilled over into Angelo's obit.

Josie Anello, whose husband Vito died in 2007, lived with her daughter in North Carolina for some of 2010 to 2011. She then moved in with her son Angelo in Florida.

Simpson said Angelo Anello controlled their mother, forcing family members to go through him first for access, she told the Times, and she accused him of draining their mother's savings.

Angelo Anello denies his sister's accusations, but claimed that Simpson and her husband used their mother's Social Security checks to go on vacation in Branson, Mo., and Alaska.

Simpson denies these allegations.

Josie Anello had one other son, Peter, who distanced himself from the family 25 years ago. He could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cops: Murdered Couple ‘Distrustful’ of Employee Charged with Their Murders

Comstock/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The family employee under arrest in the shooting deaths of a retired doctor and his wife at their home in an exclusive gated community in Tampa, Fla., had a rocky relationship with the couple, and was suspected by them of stealing jewelry from their home, authorities say.

Julian Ospina Florez, 31, of Tampa, was arrested Tuesday night after police found the apparent murder weapon in the home of his boss, Debra Rivera, 55, who was found shot dead Monday night along with her husband, retired doctor Hector Rivera, 76.

Florez, 31, was a driver and personal assistant for Debra Rivera, who worked from home selling jewelry and accessories.

“The relationship between Miss Rivera and him was she had become distrustful of him. She had reported a theft a week or so before at her residence of some jewelry that had been stolen,” Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said at a late-night press conference on Tuesday.  “He was not in good standing with her,” the sheriff added.

Florez, a naturalized citizen who came to the U.S. from Colombia in 1999, made his first appearance in a Tampa courtroom Wednesday to face two counts of first-degree murder.  He was ordered held in the Hillsborough County Jail without bond until Friday, when a hearing will likely be held.

Authorities say Florez is not cooperating in the investigation.

Hillsborough County authorities said Florez drove Debra Rivera to a trade show at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Sarasota Monday to buy jewelry and other merchandise for her business, Distinctive Creations.

Around 8 p.m. that night, authorities began receiving calls from neighbors in the couple’s exclusive neighborhood of multi-million dollar mansions to report gunshots. They also received a call from Florez, who called 911 from inside the home to report a shooting and attack by an intruder.

When authorities arrived, they found Debra Rivera dead in one of the 11,000-square-foot mansion’s six bathrooms, and her husband lying dead on the front lawn, reportedly gunned down while returning home from watching a football game.

Inside the home, they found Florez, unharmed, and no sign of forced entry.

They also found the 9 mm gun used to shoot the couple, Gee said. Investigators later found a box of ammunition in Florez’s car, and a receipt showing he had bought the ammunition from a Wal-Mart on Dec. 7.

“It was a very brutal killing,” the sheriff said. “There was no question that his intent was to make sure that nobody survived this attack.”

The exclusive Avila neighborhood in which the couple lived is protected by 8-foot high walls and surveillance cameras, requires residents to have a bar code on their cars, and for visitors to go through security checks.

The couple had a son together and Hector Rivera had three children from a previous marriage, according to a family member.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Arrest Made in Death of Couple Living in Exclusive Fla. Community

Comstock/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- A family employee is under arrest in the shooting deaths of a retired doctor and his wife at their home in an exclusive gated community in Tampa, Fla., after police found the apparent murder weapon in the couple’s home.

Julian Ospina Florez, 31, of Tampa, was employed as a driver and assistant for Debra Rivera, 55, who was found shot dead Monday night along with her husband, retired doctor Hector Rivera, 76, Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee said late Tuesday night.

Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies responded to a number of calls of gunshots fired just before 8 p.m. Monday in the Avila subdivision.  Hector Rivera’s body was found outside the house in the driveway and his wife’s body was found inside the home in a bathroom, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

Debra Rivera worked from home selling jewelry and accessories.  Gee said the killings were planned in order to steal her merchandise, according to ABC Action News in Tampa.

The investigation was expected to be a lengthy process, Carter said, with deputies searching the 11,000-square-foot home, as well as going door to door through the neighborhood and searching a pond behind the Rivera home, trying to determine what happened before the arrest was made.

“We are also checking the guard log, and asking anyone within the Avila community with a security camera facing the street to review those and let us know if there is anything that might be helpful,” she said.

The couple had a son together, and Hector Rivera had three children from a previous marriage, according to a family member.

Gee said before the arrest that he did not believe it was a random crime, and it was a “possibility” they were targeted.  It appeared at the time that nothing of value was taken from the home.

The sheriff’s department confirmed that the home was burglarized in January, but did not provide any details about the incident.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Florida Bomb Plot Spoiled: FBI

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office(WASHINGTON) -- A 25-year-old apparent Islamic radical believed he was on the verge of going on a bombing and shooting rampage in a popular Florida bar and at other crowded establishments Saturday night when he was arrested by federal agents in part of a sting operation, the Justice Department announced Monday.

According to federal officials, Sami Osmakac, a naturalized U.S. citizen from the former Yugoslavia, had been provided the guns and explosives -- all of which had been rendered harmless -- by an FBI agent.

The FBI first became alerted to Osmakac in late September 2011 from a confidential source who told them that Osmakac was seeking al Qaeda flags. Osmakac allegedly worked for the individual who tipped off the FBI.

In a meeting with an undercover FBI agent last month, Osmakac said he wanted to obtain an AK-47 assault rifle, Uzi submachine guns and explosives for as many as three car bombs. Osmakac also allegedly told the agent that he wanted an explosive suicide belt to kill police and law enforcement that would try to stop him.

"Once I have this…they can take me in five million pieces," Osmakac allegedly told the agent during a meeting on Jan. 1, 2012.

The FBI said that during the meeting, Osmakac indicated that he wanted to carry out a series of attacks in the Tampa area and "get in somewhere where there's a lot of people" to take hostages.

"I want to do something terrifying, like one day, one night, something's going to happen, then six hours later something else," he allegedly told the FBI's undercover agent.

"They['re] like $200 trillion in debt, and after all this money they're spending for homeland security and all this, this is going to be crushing them. This is going to terrify them," Osmakac said after discussing his plans about the car bomb and how far away he should be from the blast, according to the FBI.

The criminal complaint and affidavit filed by an FBI agent in the case indicate that Osmakac had tried to spur other people to take action in carrying out attacks.

"I made many plans, but there's not enough people," Osmakac allegedly said. "I even wasted like my energy debating and talking and trying [to] inspire them."

"Honestly, I would love to go for the Army people, but their bases are so locked up, I have to do something else," Osmakac said, according to the court documents. "Whenever we can get this done I'm ready."

The FBI undercover agent allegedly offered Osmakac an opportunity to not go forward with the attack to which Osmakac stated, "We all have to die. So why not die the Islamic way?"

Osmakac told the FBI undercover agent that he did not want to meet again until the weapons and explosives were ready to be delivered, the court documents said.

A week later, on Jan. 7, the agent and Osmakac met at a Tampa area hotel and the agent showed Osmakac an item he believed was a 100 pound car-bomb. After viewing the device and receiving an AK-47 and a handgun, Osmakac asked the agent if he would tape a martyrdom video message for him.

Court documents note the tape lasted "approximately eight minutes."

"In the video, Osmakac stated his belief that Muslims' 'blood' was more valuable than that of people who do not believe in Islam. He also stated that he wanted 'pay back' for wrongs he felt were done to Muslims," the documents say.

After the video was recorded, Osmakac stashed a getaway vehicle near his intended targets which included an Irish pub and a Starbucks in South Tampa. When he returned to the hotel, the FBI undercover showed Osmakac how to arm the bomb.

Osmakac was arrested by FBI agents after he connected what he believed was a detonator for the bomb and prepared to drive off in his car.

A court appearance has been set for later Monday in Tampa. An attorney for Osmakac has not been identified. A records search indicates that Osmakac has a previous arrest in the Tampa area for battery in September 2011.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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