GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WGFL) — A Gainesville bookkeeper is accused of embezzling more than $156,000 from an oral surgeon over the last couple of years
Alachua County Sheriff’s investigators on Friday arrested and charged
45-year-old Heather Hushelpeck with grand larceny over $100,000,
embezzlement and fraud. Hushelpeck is being held without bond at the
Alachua County Jail pending a court appearance Saturday morning.
An arrest report says Hushelpeck was fired in December from her job as bookkeeper at the oral surgery office of Marvin M. Slott D.D.S after she couldn’t explain a $1,300 charge onto her credit card and a $7,500 transaction in a former employee’s name.
“Heather didn’t have any reasonable explanation why that money was gone,” says Financial Detective Kyle Reedy, from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.
The report says she returned to the office three days later to reinstall the accounting software she had deleted. The report says Hushelpeck started crying and told the staff she “f***ed up.”
report says Hushelpeck admitted to taking money for at least a year,
through a variety of ways, including writing checks to herself, charging
back refunds to herself, taking money clients paid, and only partially
deposit funds. Investigators say Hushelpeck told her former employer the
total amount taken was over $100,000.
Court documents allege Hushelpeck took payments from the oral surgeon’s office and wrote out checks payable to the Star Center Children’s Theatre and the Howard Bishop Middle School PTA by coding them as payments for supplies. Investigators say as treasurer for both organizations, Hushelpeck was able to then withdraw the money for her own use. WGFL
attempted to settle the case with Slott’s attorney without involving
police. Deputies say she wrote an email to the attorney offering to
settle by paying back $75,000 and borrowing another $25,000.
email from Slott’s attorney to Hushelpeck, however, says a preliminary
analysis found she stole more than $403,000. The email gave Hushelpeck
30 days to pay the full amount or be sued. Investigators say so far
they’ve only been able to prove the $156,000 amount.
“I have never seen an embezzlement case like this,” says Reedy.
in December filed a 42-page lawsuit against Hushelpeck, her husband
Erik, Star Center Children’s Theatre and the Howard Bishop Middle School
PTA. The lawsuit alleges Hushelpeck paid the PTA more than $6,700 and
Star Theatre more than $26,000. Eric Hushelpeck has not been charged
with a crime. Both he and his wife responded to the lawsuit by asking
for more time.
The PTA responded by denying any knowledge of the
allegations and asking the court to dismiss it from the case. It also
says Hushelpeck is no longer its treasurer.
Star Center has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit, according to court records.
are going to get caught at some point,” says Reedy. “And when you do,
it’s going to cost you more to get yourself out of the situation.”
FORT PIERCE — An investigation into a dentist’s former billings clerk has ended with her arrest on charges of fraud and theft of thousands of dollars of patient’s cash payments, according to police reports.
In April, Dr. Norman Knowles fired Port St.
Lucie resident Kelly Rivera, 31, citing questionable behavior by the
woman who handled customer accounts at his office in the 1500 block of
South 25th Street, Fort Pierce. Afterword, the doctor’s office contacted
patients about outstanding payments and some, according to the reports,
said they had paid in cash at the time they were at the office from
2010 to 2012.
According to Knowles, Rivera “was the
person in the office that was responsible for customer accounts” and an
investigation into six accounts “clearly showed a pattern of theft,” the
report said. To entice a customer to pay in cash, Rivera allegedly
doubled the office’s discount for cash payments.
Later, she allegedly altered the account records to show they still owed money.
On Tuesday Rivera, of the 800 block of Southeast Carnival Avenue, was arrested on criminal charges of grand theft and organized fraud.
WINTER PARK, Fla. – A dental assistant is facing charges after a patient accused the assistant of stealing from her purse. Letisha Mills was arrested a day after 9 Investigates started digging into the case.
Investigates reporter Daralene Jones obtained a copy of the video that
sparked Winter Park Police to open a criminal investigation.
Mills was captured on a cell phone camera rummaging through a patient’s purse at the office of Dr. Steven Stapp, in Winter Park.
“I felt very violated.
She didn’t go in my purse once, she went in my purse twice,” the victim
told investigative reporter Daralene Jones.
The patient asked
Eyewitness News to protect her identity because of her line of work. She
said she suspected the dental assistant stole prescription pain pills
from her purse during a previous visit.
“The bottle was empty with the top on, three or four pills in the bottom of my purse,” the victim said.
During a follow up visit the victim put her phone in the bottom of her purse and hit record.
“I think she was looking to see if I had anymore medication in my purse. I was shocked,” said the victim.
Winter Park Police
opened a criminal investigation after the patient filed a complaint and
after 9 Investigates started asking questions.
Days after the incident the patient told us she got a bizarre voicemail from Mills.
“I did open your purse
and the reason I did, I had knocked it off because actually the day
before I had broke an ice maker bar. It fell off and broke and I heard
something crash, and I wasn’t sure if it was your glass. And he was
saying something about your pills are missing, and I did not take any
pills,” said Mills in the voicemail.
Eyewitness News went
to the Dr. Stapp’s office for answers and learned Mills was arrested
hours earlier on Tuesday. Mills has been his dental assistant for 10
years and Dr. Stapp said she wasn’t fired immediately after the patient
showed him the video the same day of the incident. Stapp said that’s
because Mills just unzipped the purse.
“She went into the
purse and I thought she thought a water bottle had burst or something in
the purse, she heard a noise and that’s what she told me,” Stapp said.
So far, Eyewitness News hasn’t been able to reach Mills. She was arrested for grand theft. The judge set her bond at $1,000 and she has already bonded out of the Orange County Jail. The Florida Department of Health has no complaints on file for Mills or Dr. Stapp.
Timothy Powell, 52, of Plantation, FL, has new $41,000 teeth and an almost $10,000 dog.
He paid for none of it.
One of his victims, a man by the name of Harry Brenner, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, police said.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said Powell used stolen identification to rack up the fraudulent charges for the teeth implants and the pet.
He applied for credit to get his teeth fixed through the Friedman Dental Group and filled out credit card applications Aug. 1, according to court documents.
Powell produced a fake Connecticut driver’s license with the name Harry Brenner. He also provided Brenner’s social security number.
The credit applications were approved, and Powell received dental implants during three appointments from Aug. 2 to Aug. 9, documents show. The implants were not completed and some of his teeth were only temporary, he said.
In total, the procedure costed $41,154.01.
Shortly after, Brenner, who lives in DeBary, FL, began receiving bills from the dental company and alerted police.
Investigators with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office contacted the Friedman Dental Group and later identified Powell as a suspect through fingerprints from his applications.
Police later found out that Powell used Brenner’s identity to purchase a French bulldog for $9,958.69 from Petland in Plantation, FL.
Powell told police he was given Brenner’s information by a man named “Rico,” who also provided him with the fake driver’s license.
He said Rico encouraged him to get his teeth fixed at the Friedman Dental Group and drove him to and from the place. Rico told him that if he got his teeth fixed, he’d “look better for conducting fraudulent transactions at other locations in Florida.”
Investigators received photos from the dental company showing Powell with damaged and rotting teeth.
He said that Rico got Brenner’s information from the “dark web.”
Powell also fraudulently withdrew $9,650 from a bank in Daytona Beach, FL, on Sept. 27, using the name “Larry Gene Kelly,” according to the Daytona Beach Police Department.
He told authorities that he purchased Kelly’s identification from an “unknown male” for $100.
Powell is charged with grand theft, using ID without consent and false report of a crime. He is also charged with unauthorized possession of a driver’s license and fraudulent use of personal identification, among other charges.
“I was only guilty of “having an affair, partying, loose morals, but no matter what I did in the past, whether it was adultery, embezzlement … it does not make me guilty of taking my husband’s life”.
Norman Larzelere heard something — maybe a cough, a squeaky shoe or something scraping the wall — and peeked down the hallway.
He saw a man with a ski mask and a shotgun.
“No!” he screamed.
Larzelere ran toward the front of the building of his Edgewater dental practice and into the lobby before slamming shut the wooden door.
A shot was fired through the wood and buckshot pellets tore through his chest cavity.
Crime Flashback: Virginia Larzelere
His wife, Virginia, called 9-1-1.
Witnesses heard Norman say, “Jason, is that you?”
Virginia Larzelere didn’t want those words heard by anyone, according to the lead detective in the case. Jason was her 18-year-old son.
Crime Flashback: Virginia Larzelere
“Virginia went over to the doctor and placed her (lips) over his nose and mouth and smothered him so that no one else would hear the name Jason,” said then-Edgewater police detective Dave Gamell while on the witness stand during a pretrial hearing in June 1991.
A patient in the waiting room heard it and told police.
Norman Larzelere died in the helicopter en route to the hospital.
News 27 years ago of the small-town shooting captivated a robust audience from the start, but as more details came to light, the more the national media consumed it. Mainstream news services put the stories in newspapers across the country, while outlets that thrived on sensationalism, particularly daytime talk shows, would thrust the Volusia County criminal case into people’s living rooms.
Dr. Norman Larzelere was less than three weeks from turning 40 years old when he was fatally shot on March 8, 1991 inside his own West Knapp Avenue dental practice.
When detectives questioned Virginia Larzelere, they suspected she wasn’t telling the truth. Her description of the gunman kept changing.
She insisted someone had come to rob the dental practice.
Police called the crime an “amateurish act,” but one with only one desired outcome — the murder of Norman Larzelere. There was nothing inside the building that led detectives to think it was anything other than a planned hit.
Eight weeks following the shooting, Virginia Larzelere was arrested. An arrest warrant also was filed for Jason, who turned himself in the following day.
The break in the case had come May 2, 1991, when Gamell received a call from 18-year-old Steven Heidle, who told him he knew the location of the murder weapon. Heidle, who worked odd jobs for the Larzelere family, said he and a female acquaintance, Kristen Palmieri, a receptionist at the dental practice, were ordered by Virginia Larzelere to rub acid on the murder weapon, encase it in cement and get rid of it.
Heidle and Palmieri drove 60 miles north to St. Johns County and dumped the evidence in Pellicer Creek. A dive team would recover it.
Cement was found inside the family home, which matched the cement used to encase the weapon.
Black widow tendencies
The News-Journal discovered that Norman Larzelere filed for divorce in 1989. Her husband sought full custody of all the children — their two young ones as well as Larzelere’s two from a previous marriage. Norman Larzelere had adopted Jason and Jessica.
In court filings, Larzelere described his wife as suicidal, drug-addicted and a thief. She also had operated under aliases, falsely claimed to have been a doctor or a financier or an heiress to a fortune. In spite of the accusations, Norman reconciled with his wife and dropped his petition in October 1990.
Virginia Larzelere had a history of failed marriages. By the time she married Norman Larzelere at 32, she had already married and divorced three times.
A native of Lake Wales, Virginia Larzelere grew up in a poor household where, she said, she was subjected to sexual and emotional abuse.
She got married as a teenager. Her first husband was Harry Mathis and they lived in a mobile home park in Polk County. One day in 1975, Larzelere, who at the time went by the name Gail Mathis, told her husband that her cousin was stranded along a rural highway. His car had broken down and he needed help. Mathis drove to the location and found the car. A stranger appeared and shot Mathis four times, once in the head, once in the arm and twice in the back. Mathis survived.
Polk County sheriff’s detectives wanted to question Larzelere, but she refused to cooperate. Detectives had always suspected Larzelere played a role in the shooting, but they were unable to move the case forward. By that time, Jason was born. Mathis ultimately decided not to press charges, telling the media later he didn’t want to split up the family.
The pair stayed together for two more years.
In 1982, Larzelere married a Florida Highway Patrol trooper. They got separated in November of that year. Larzelere accused him of pointing his gun at her, but he wound up being cleared of the allegations. The divorce was final in April 1983, more than two months after she had already married a former Volusia County building contractor.
That marriage also imploded. It ended in an annulment in August 1983.
Swinging, cheating and incest
A couple years into her fourth marriage, Larzelere was accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from builders in Ormond Beach and Flagler County. She paid restitution and the case was dismissed.
One of the biggest reasons for Norman Larzelere filing for divorce from his wife in 1989 — aside from her perceived lack of scruples when it came to stealing and lying — was her adulterous behavior.
One of the ways Larzelere salvaged her rocky marriage was to introduce her husband to a swinging lifestyle. It meant both could enjoy sex with other partners without deception, according to reports. Her husband agreed to it.
Larzelere still had affairs behind her husband’s back. One of her lovers was an exotic bird importer. She offered him $50,000 to kill her husband. He declined.
She also offered $25,000 and a new motorcycle to another man she had been sleeping with. He, too, turned her down.
There was one other sex partner Larzelere felt she could manipulate — her own son. Detectives said Jason didn’t refuse.
One day in court, tears streamed down Larzelere’s cheeks as Gamell described her secret life of incest, infidelity and drug abuse.
Larzelere told Gamell she slept in the same bed as her son. Her daughter, then-14-year-old Jessica, also told Gamell that her brother and mother were living together as husband and wife, according to court testimony.
Jason had a homosexual fling with Heidle, who wound up becoming one of the state’s most critical witnesses. Heidle, who committed suicide in 1999, had told investigators that Jason would threaten him if he ever revealed his role in the killing. Gamell testified that Jason left a message on Heidle’s answering machine saying, “You know what the consequences are of screwing up.”
Two trials, two outcomes
Dorothy Sedgwick, a special prosecutor from Orange County, was lead counsel for the state.
Virginia Larzelere and her son were represented by Jack Wilkins, of Bartow, and John Howes, of Fort Lauderdale. The judge in the case ordered them to be tried separately. The mother went first.
During her opening statement, Sedgwick told jurors, ”(Virginia’s) very real, invigorating lust for money motivated her to use her son Jason as the gunman. Jason was a very willing participant, eager to earn his $200,000 for taking care of business.”
Larzelere’s former lovers took the stand. All of them described her as abusive, manipulative and hell-bent on eliminating her husband. Larzelere sat coolly at the defense table, popping breath mints into her mouth.
Wilkins admitted Larzelere had a spotty history and was unfaithful to her husband, but insisted she never conspired to kill her husband.
The litany of lies Larzelere told in her life were described to jurors. They also learned that Norman Larzelere was insured for $2.1 million — which was set to be inherited by his wife. The motive couldn’t have been more obvious.
On Feb. 24, 1992, jurors convicted Virginia Larzelere of first-degree murder. On March 5, they recommended a death sentence.
Afterward, it seemed possible, even likely, that Jason would enter a guilty plea to avoid the same fate as his mother. Instead, he risked it all for an acquittal. He liked his chances better without Wilkins and Howes.
“It has come to my knowledge that there are to (sic) many conflicts of interest for you to remain on my case,” he wrote to his attorneys. “As of this date 3-30-92 you are fired.”
Jason was never specific about those conflicts of interest, but information came to light about Wilkins that showed the defendant had a working intuition.
Wilkins had panache. He had big brown hair that looked permed and he always wore a pair of dark-tinted glasses in court. He looked like a movie character — similar to Sean Penn in “Carlito’s Way.”
Like the fictional attorney, Wilkins had a drug problem. According to a 2013 story in the Miami New Times, Wilkins had installed a bar in his Bartow office and also enjoyed many dalliances that involved vodka, meth, cocaine or all three. The same article also disclosed that Wilkins showed up in the courtroom during the Larzelere’s trial smelling of liquor. He denied that claim.
Wilkins later would be convicted of tax evasion, money laundering and other charges and would serve time in a federal prison. Larzelere’s appellate attorneys leaned on Wilkins’ suspected drug and alcohol abuse as a reason for a new trial.
In the spring of 1992, Wesley Lasley took over Jason Larzelere’s case. The trial was moved from Daytona Beach to Palatka. Putnam County jurors would be paneled for Larzelere Part II.
A fellow jail inmate of Virginia Larzelere’s, Bonnie Gilbert, claimed to have been her lover. She also claimed to have heard Jason say out loud that he killed his father. By then, it seemed no breaks were going the way of the defense. A woman who didn’t even pull the trigger was likely headed for death row and now more witnesses were coming forward to further implicate the suspected gunman, Jason.
Spectators believed the state had even more evidence against Jason than his mother.
Lasley forged ahead, calling Gilbert “a paid snitch.” He had a stockpile of ammunition to accuse Heidle and Palmieri in the killing.
Lasley was hard on witnesses during cross-examination. That included Emma Lombardo, the dental office employee who was heard on the 9-1-1 call and who told authorities and others that she swore it was Jason behind the mask. Lasley poked holes in her testimony. How could she be sure the gunman was Jason when he was covered from head to toe?
On Sept. 20, 1992, jurors acquitted Jason Larzelere. The courtroom was left in stunned silence. Jason turned and hugged his attorney.
When he rode away from the courthouse in a deputy’s squad car, he yelled out, “I’m free! It’s the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my life.”
On May 11, 1993, Virginia Larzelere was sentenced to die in the electric chair.
She spent 15 years of her life on death row. For a time, she was one of four women on death row and three of them were from Volusia County — Aileen Wuornos, Deidre Hunt and Larzelere.
Wuornos, one of the most infamous serial killers in America, wasn’t friendly to Larzelere, at least not initially. Gamell said the two got into a fight over a fellow inmate. Wuornos was crushing on the inmate while the inmate was crushing on Larzelere. The fight was stopped before anyone got seriously hurt, but Gamell said one of Larzelere’s breast implants got ruptured.
Wuornos eventually was executed. Hunt had her sentenced reduced to life. Larzelere got hers reduced, too, in 2008.
The Miami New Times reported in 2013 that Larzelere had not heard from her children in more than a decade. The locations of her oldest son and daughter were not known. Norman Larzelere’s parents gained custody of the youngest children.
Larzelere, now 65, still maintains her innocence. She famously said that she was only guilty of “having an affair, partying, loose morals, but no matter what I did in the past, whether it was adultery, embezzlement … it does not make me guilty of taking my husband’s life.”
A dental clinic receptionist stole thousands of dollars from customers over the course of more than a year, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.
Lucina Rodriguez, 52, of Deltona was arrested Friday on two counts of grand theft after 30 bank deposits totaling more than $180,000 disappeared. The money was linked to prepayments she collected from patients, sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Gant said.
When she took payments she did not give receipts or file evidence of the transaction in the patient’s medical records, according to investigators.
One patient canceled a procedure in late September and requested a $400 refund. Authorities said Rodriguez used the money to send to her family in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Gant said investigators interviewed employees at the clinic and determined Rodriguez had been stealing cash since January 2016, making close to $15,000 deposits to personal bank accounts.
She was fired on Sept. 19, and money stopped disappearing afterward, Gant said.
Rodriguez was taken to the Volusia County Jail. Bail was set at $5,000.
A Florida dental assistant is facing charges of workers’ compensation fraud, grand theft and perjury after reportedly failing to tell her most recent employer that she had collected a $17,000 workers’ comp settlement for an allergic reaction to latex gloves while working for another dentist.
Carmen Burgado, 48, surrendered on the charges and was booked into the Duval County Jail. The insurance fraud charges follow an investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud.
According to authorities, Dr. James Spurling, whose office is located at 2500 Monument Road Suite 102, hired Burgado on Jan. 6, 2003. Four days later, Burgado reported she was having an allergic reaction to rubber gloves. The Hartford Insurance Company paid more than $13,000 in workers’ compensation coverage on Burgado’s claim, with Burgado collecting more than $8,500 directly as compensation.
After filing the most recent workers’ comp claim, Burgado reportedly denied in a deposition that she had any previous claim or a history of skin allergies or dermatitis.
Burgado was previously diagnosed with chronic dermatitis of the hands and informed that she should not wear latex gloves. On May 3, 1999, Burgado received $17,000 in a lump-sum settlement for a 1997 workers’ comp claim.
If convicted on the insurance related third-degree felonies, Burgado could be sentenced up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine on each charge.
OLDSMAR — Dr. Stephen Grote says he has spent the past 2.5 years working for nothing. But the Oldsmar dentist said he didn’t know it until August, when a trip to the ATM delivered the message “insufficient funds.”
Thus began the start of a lengthy investigation and the discovery that Denise J. Wilson, Grote’s office manager and best friend of 12 years, had embezzled more than $123,000, Pinellas County sheriff’s officials said Wednesday.
“She would write in the recorder that she was paying a check to Florida Power but she was writing it to herself,” said Grote, 53, who has practiced dentistry in Oldsmar for 20 years. “She forged my signature.”
Wilson, 48, of 6625 Fletch Road, Land O’Lakes, was charged Tuesday with grand theft, scheming to defraud and forging 87 checks. She was being held in the Pinellas County jail Wednesday night in lieu of $110,000 bail.
Wilson forged the checks between March 2000 and July 2002 and deposited the funds into a SouthTrust Bank business account for Oral Reconstructive Techniques, a dental laboratory she and her husband ran out of Grote’s office, authorities say. The largest check was for $4,000. Grote said he fired Wilson after discovering the missing money.
“She said that she didn’t have an explanation on why she committed the theft, but that once she started she could not stop,” sheriff’s Detective John Spoor said.
Spoor said Wilson would not say how she spent the money. But, Grote said, during the past two years, she and her husband, Mark Wilson, have remodeled their home, purchased three BMW motorcycles, a Chevrolet Avalanche and taken a European vacation.
Mark Wilson, who has denied knowing about the theft, told authorities he believed his wife was using money from an inheritance to pay for those luxuries. Spoor said he has referred information on Mark Wilson to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to file any other charges.
“At this time, the evidence that I have is all toward her because she did the stealing of the checks,” Spoor said.
Reached at home Wednesday night, Mark Wilson declined to comment.
Grote said he has since hired an accountant to review his books. He acknowledges that he failed to have adequate safeguards in place against theft: He had the same person balancing his books and writing the checks.
While the theft has not affected his dental practice, unpaid bills have ruined his credit rating and left him feeling betrayed.
“We are heartbroken for the loss of a friendship,” Grote said. “We thought it was a very sound friendship. It was a total devastation mentally.”