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    Ex-chamber president held in arson case

    Financial planner Allen C. Anderson Jr. is accused of stealing marijuana and setting fire to a house where the drug was being cultivated.

    By CHRIS TISCH
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 15, 2002


    LARGO -- He is the son of a respected Pinellas County judge. He is a former president of the Greater Seminole Area Chamber of Commerce. At age 52, he is a well-known financial planner who drives a shiny red sports car.

    So why would Allen C. Anderson Jr. break into a home full of marijuana plants? Why would he steal $10,000 in drugs from that home? And why would he then set that home on fire?

    Pinellas sheriff's detectives say that's what Anderson did early Sunday morning when he broke into a house at 10297 Hetrick Circle E in Largo. Detectives have since charged Anderson with arson, burglary and possession of marijuana.

    He was being held Thursday in lieu of $150,000 bail at the Pinellas County Jail.

    The motive had something to do with money and a woman, said Detective John Hubbard.

    "It's a lover's triangle," Hubbard said.

    Anderson is the son of Allen C. Anderson Sr., who served as a Pinellas County judge for 20 years before retiring in 1984. He died three months later.

    The junior Anderson worked for eight years at Raymond James & Associates. In 1998, he joined First Financial Planners in Seminole and made more than $100,000 per year. Anderson became president of the Seminole chamber in 1997.

    In July, Anderson, who is divorced, began dating a woman named Shirley Ives. Ives, 36, has an old boyfriend named Charles Gerardi.

    Hubbard said Gerardi's business is growing marijuana.

    Though Anderson and Gerardi never met, they knew of each other. Gerardi owns the house on Hetrick Circle. No one lived there, but the home was chock-full of marijuana plants, Hubbard said.

    "The whole house was a grow room," Hubbard said. "He's got sprinklers and water pumps and fans and lights, the whole nine yards."

    Anderson recently started running into trouble in the stock market, and personal financial problems followed, Hubbard said.

    Anderson was working as a waiter to get some extra money. Ives broke off the relationship with him about a month ago, Hubbard said.

    So Anderson had lost his woman and was struggling for money. That's why Hubbard says Anderson went to Gerardi's house Sunday morning.

    When Ives was out of town, Hubbard said, Anderson went to her house and took the key and garage-door opener to Gerardi's house from her purse. Then, Anderson went to Gerardi's home about 2 a.m. Sunday, arrest reports state. He went inside, took more than a pound of marijuana from a freezer, then spread a flammable liquid throughout the home and lit it on fire, arrest reports state.

    "He torched the place before he left," Hubbard said. "Then he made some major mistakes that got him caught."

    His biggest mistakes were the 911 calls he made to report the fire. Though he tried to disguise his voice, Ives later listened to the 911 recording and identified the caller as Anderson.

    When firefighters and deputies got to the home, they found a jungle of marijuana plants -- 150 of them. After the fire was out, deputies retreated and obtained a search warrant before going back in.

    The blaze, which gutted the home but caused no structural damage, was an obvious arson.

    Gerardi drove to the home on Sunday but took off when he saw the investigating deputies. He was caught and arrested when deputies found two pounds of marijuana in his van, reports state.

    Hubbard thought the arsonist might be an ex-boyfriend of Ives'. That is how Anderson became a suspect. When Hubbard played tapes of the 911 calls made about the fire, Ives identified the voice as Anderson's, Hubbard said.

    Anderson later admitted to breaking into the home and stealing the drugs, Hubbard said.

    Reached Thursday at the Hetrick Circle home, Gerardi declined to comment. He referred questions to Clearwater attorney Bjorn Brunvand, who also is representing Ives.

    Brunvand declined to discuss anything about drugs but said Gerardi and Ives fear Anderson.

    "They are both worried about their well-being and safety," he said.

    No charges have been filed against Ives, but Hubbard said she is under investigation.

    Hubbard said he thinks Anderson may have started the fire so Gerardi would be arrested for growing marijuana. With Gerardi arrested, Anderson may have thought he could get his girlfriend back, Hubbard said. And with the marijuana he stole, he could make some money.

    "Now, he's lost everything," Hubbard said. "He's lost his girlfriend; he's lost his money."

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