Lawsuit alleges wife of slain Tarpon Springs FL doctor conspired to kill him; also suspected of embezzling from him



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 the 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.

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NS man jailed for embezzling from wife’s practice


SYDNEY — A Sydney man who defrauded his wife’s dental practice of more than $90,000 was sentenced Monday to eight months in a provincial jail.

Ronald Jordan, 56, of Breton Road must also complete a one-year probation period. A second count of theft was withdrawn during Monday’s sentencing hearing. The offence occurred between November 2005 and February 2008.

Prosecutor Rick Hartlen had recommended a sentence of between 12 and 18 months while defence lawyer Darren Morgan sought a conditional sentence followed by a lengthy probation period.

Provincial court Judge David Ryan said a conditional sentence, which allows for offenders to serve their time in the community, would not be an appropriate disposition in the case.

“There is not an insignificant number here,” said Ryan, noting that after a forensic audit, it was determined that $105,000 was missing, with $94,000 being tagged directly to Jordan’s fraud.

The court was told there some 245 transactions directly linked to Jordan during the offence period. While his wife, Colleen LaPierre, handled the dentistry part of the operation, Jordan was responsible for the business side to ensure all bills were paid, along with other transactions.

The couple is now divorced and their assets were not equally divided as Jordan relinquished certain items in order to repay his wife.

“You put her business in serious jeopardy,” said Ryan, describing the crime as a serious breach of trust.

In her victim impact statement, LaPierre said the crime has left her shaken in terms of trusting people and that she had to remortgage her home to keep the business afloat.

As a result of the fraud, she was also reassessed by Canada Revenue Service and is now paying an adjusted tax bill for the years covering the fraud.

 At a time in her life when she should be looking toward retiring after 30 years, Ryan said the victim is now faced with a debt she never planned for and may be forced to sell her business.

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Spouse Pleads Guilty To Tax Evasion For Failing To Report Over $1.2 Million Of Income From Husband’s California Practice


SAN JOSE – Liping Liu was sentenced today to 30 months imprisonment, a $25,000 fine, and ordered to pay $744,248 in restitution for tax evasion, United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez announced.

According to the plea agreement, Liu was the receptionist and office manager for her spouse’s pediatric dental and orthodontic practice. Liu created a tax evasion scheme in which she skimmed money from various sources, including rental properties and her spouse’s dental and orthodontic practice. Liu admitted that she knew her actions were against the law and she was evading the assessment and payment of federal taxes throughout the course of her scheme.

Liu evaded taxes by funneling money from her husband’s practice into various bank accounts to prevent those funds from appearing in the business bank accounts. The only funds deposited into the business bank accounts were insurance payments, aside from thirteen personal checks in 2006 and one personal check in 2009. Liu admitted that she deposited the insurance proceeds exclusively into the business accounts because she knew the insurance company reported these payments to the IRS. Liu further admitted that she offered a 10% discount to dental clients if they paid in cash or by check, as long as they left the payee section on the check blank. Liu also modified checks, in the memo and payee fields to disguise the source of the payment. This enabled her to deposit the checks into the non-business accounts and evade taxes.

In addition, according to her plea agreement, from 2006 through 2010, Liu was a 50% partner in a limited liability corporation, HSL, which was created to hold rental property. Liu diverted rental checks paid to HSL to non-business bank accounts for the purpose of evading taxes on the HSL entity. She also changed the payee information on numerous rental checks.

From 2006 through 2010, Liu omitted $2,147,741.04 in gross receipts. This resulted in additional tax due and owing of $744,248.

Liu also admitted to providing incomplete and false information to the family bookkeeper, and engaging in a series of structured cash transactions from September 2008 to September 2009, which allowed her to continue to hide taxes from the IRS.

Liu, 56, of Saratoga was charged on March 19, 2014, with one count of tax evasion. She pleaded guilty to the charge on March 24, 2014.

The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Ronald M. Whyte, United States District Court Judge, in San Jose. Judge Whyte also sentenced Liu to a three-year term of supervised release. The defendant was ordered to surrender on December 1, 2014.

Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Moore is prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.

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Enterprise, AL woman charged with embezzling $100,000 from ex-husband’s dental practice

tammy chancey Enterprise Police arrested an Enterprise woman in connection with the alleged theft of more than $100,000 from Dr. Kenneth W. Chancey, a local dentist. Tammy Murphy Chancey, 39, was married to Dr. Chancey when the thefts are alleged to have occurred.
     Capt. Mike Lolley, EPD public information officer, said an investigation revealed the alleged thefts occurred from 2006 to 2009.
Court records indicate Kenneth Chancey filed for divorce July 7, 2010, with a separation date of June 24, 2010. The complaint states that Tammy Chancey was serving as a bookkeeper for the dental practice during the time the thefts allegedly occurred. She was charged with first-degree theft of property and released on a $10,000 bond.
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Dentists behaving badly: California Dentist and spouse steal patient credit card information — rack up $260k in charges


An Encinitas dentist and his wife who admitted using credit card information from patients to buy luxury clothing and merchandise were each sentenced today to a year in jail and placed on five years of probation.

Dr. Edward Bodek, 60, and wife Mary, 56, pleaded guilty earlier this year to financial elder abuse and identity theft. The defendants were sentenced by Vista Superior Court Judge David Berry. According to court documents, patients began reporting last year that they were seeing unauthorized charges — mostly large charges ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 at a time — from the dental practice on their credit card statements. When patients called the dental office, they were told that the charges were errors that would be corrected, authorities said. A company that processes credit card charges for the dental office reported that there had been more than $260,000 in disputed charges in the defendants’ account since the beginning of 2012, according to the court documents.

Investigators learned that the Bodeks rented 30 storage units containing clothing, handbags and fur coats, most of which still had the sales tags on it and had never been worn.

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