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.”
A Lakeland dentist’s daughter is behind bars after Polk County Sheriff’s deputies say she forged hundreds of prescriptions using her father’s prescription pad.
According to detectives, Stacey Sumner, 46, forged prescription painkillers for herself and patients. Now, the entire office at Sonrise Dental Clinic on Bartow Road in Lakeland is under investigation by both the PCSO and the Department of Health.
Investigators said Sumner worked as a receptionist at the clinic, where her father is also the dentist. Sumner’s father, Dr. William Johnson, told investigators he knew his daughter was addicted to Hydrocodone. He declined to comment to BayNews 9 at his office Friday.
Dr. Johnson has his own trouble; investigators said there are missing and incomplete records on his patients.
Deputies said cell phone video, taken by a confidential source, shows Sumner forging her father’s name on a prescription for Hydrocodone. It was one of more than 500 she allegedly forged over the past 15 months.
Investigators said Sumner was using family and friends who were patients at the clinic to fill the prescriptions. One of those friends, Lois McDermott, has also been arrested.
“[Sumner] would either give the friend some money to cash them in at the pharmacy, or give them some pills in return, and she would direct them to which pharmacies to go to,” Polk Co. Sheriff Grady Judd said.
According to Judd, so many prescriptions for Hydrocodone had been written, some area pharmacies stopped accepting their prescriptions from the clinic.
“I don’t see anything that’s going on,” one of Johnson’s patients, Dorothy Fuqua — whose son was having dental work done at the clinic — said. “We’re not here to get pain pills. He’s just in there getting three teeth pulled.”
Judd said there may be more arrests in the case that come as the investigation continues.
“I’m not naïve enough to think this is the end of it right here,” Judd said, “not when you have this many prescriptions.”
Sumner is charged with trafficking Hydrocodone, forgery and obtaining prescription by fraud. She was arrested in 2002 for the same crime, also while working for her father.
The children of a 74-year-old doctor stabbed and shot dead two years ago inside his Tarpon Springs home are suing their stepmother, Rebecca Schwartz, claiming she conspired to kill him.
A year after Dr. Steven Patlin Schwartz was killed on May 28, 2014, Tarpon Springs police arrested his handyman, Anton Stragaj, 38, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. He has been charged with first-degree murder.
Rebecca Schwartz, 55, has not been charged in the case. A 13-page complaint filed Wednesday in Pinellas County chronicles several claims against her, including that she helped Stragaj kill her husband, embezzled money from Schwartz and coerced him into changing his will to benefit her more than his three adult children. His estate is worth at least $10 million, court records show.
Wil Florin, the Palm Harbor attorney representing Schwartz’s family, said his death has caused a “tremendous impact” on them.
“Not only did they have the emotional rug pulled out from under them, but they had the financial rug pulled out from under them,” he said. “All of the support that (Schwartz) was providing, which was significant, has been terminated by Ms. Schwartz.”
Rebecca Schwartz could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Her attorney, Denis deVlaming, said he planned to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and request that Florin show proof of the allegations.
“Mrs. Schwartz has vigorously denied having anything to do with the death of her husband,” he said. “We’re going to hold their feet to the fire.”
Among the claims in the lawsuit:
Before and after his death, Rebecca siphoned “significant sums of money” from Schwartz’s accounts. She was also “caught embezzling funds” from his practice, Main Street Medical in Dunedin. About one month before the murder, she hired a document shredding service to dispose of several boxes of paperwork that were “likely relevant to the embezzlement of funds,” records state.
The lawsuit also claims that Rebecca told her husband to change his estate plan so that it benefited her rather than his children. The doctor accepted “under the threat of exposing information important to his reputation in the community.”
Florin would not say what information she had. Last year, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Schwartz fatally shot a dentist in New Mexico about 50 years ago. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, but was granted parole in 1971 and pardoned in 1977.
The lawsuit also provides details into Stragaj and Rebecca’s “close personal relationship.” In public, the records say, she referred to him as her “right-hand man” and said Stragaj, for $15,000, “will take care of anyone you want.”
On the day Schwartz was killed, Rebecca told police she had arrived at the couple’s 1310 Belcher Drive home on the Anclote River and found the house in disarray. Drawers in her bedroom were open and money, jewelry and watches were missing, according to court records filed last year.
Rebecca called 911 and police dogs found Schwartz’s body near the garage. Investigators found Stragaj’s DNA on Schwartz’s shirt.
But the lawsuit claims Rebecca and Stragaj staged a “break-in,” destroying part of a door, removing jewelry from the master bedroom and taking the hard drive of the home’s surveillance system. Rebecca also owns a .22-caliber gun, the suit says. The records state that police have determined the same caliber was used to shoot Schwartz.
Tarpon Springs police declined to comment on the investigation.
Schwartz’s children live in Florida. Kelly May of Spring Hill did not return a call for comment. Casey Schwartz is in prison on a DUI manslaughter conviction, records show. Carter Schwartz is in medical school and referred a reporter to his uncle, James Schwartz, who did not return a reporter’s call.
Rebecca, who married Schwartz in 2010, has two children from her first marriage.
Stragaj of Palm Harbor remains at the Pinellas County Jail awaiting trial.
A Lauderhill dentist is accused of using his business partner’s prescription pad to get oxycodone, officials said.
Joseph Gorfien, a partner at dental practice Gorfien & Jacobsohn, was arrested Wednesday after an investigation by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities said that Gorfien used Henry Jacobsohn’s professional license information and prescription pads to forge and fill prescriptions for oxycodone without his partner’s knowledge.
When a reporter called the dental practice Wednesday, a recorded message said the office was closed for the day.
Gorfien is charged with 11 counts of purchase of oxycodone, one count of obtaining controlled substances by fraud or forgery and one count of criminal use of personal identification information.
The Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case.