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    Court reports

    Former dealership officer sentenced

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 5, 2003

    LARGO -- The former chief financial officer of the now-defunct Bennett used-car dealership has pleaded guilty to grand theft and been sentenced to five years of probation.

    Donald Bender, 56, was charged in July with grand theft in connection with helping defraud a finance company out of more than $341,000. He was adjudicated guilty during a court hearing Tuesday.

    Bender's former boss, William O. Bennett, 68, the dealership owner, also was charged with grand theft. At his arraignment Nov. 19, Bennett pleaded guilty to the state charge and was sentenced to 311/2 months in prison.

    Both men also were prosecuted by federal authorities. Bender was prosecuted on bank fraud charges and sentenced in May 2001 to 12 months and a day in prison and 36 months of supervised release.

    Bennett pleaded guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced in May 2001 to 40 months in prison and three years of supervised release. His sentence on the state grand theft charge will run concurrently with his federal sentence, which he is still serving.

    Bennett owned a group of auto dealerships in Pinellas County in the 1990s, including Bennett New Car Alternative, which ran ads with the slogan, "Everybody Rides!"

    Ex-corrections deputy gets 3 years' probation

    LARGO -- A former Pinellas Sheriff's Office corrections deputy has pleaded guilty to charges he had sexual contact with a female inmate.

    Page C. Wells, 60, was arrested in August on charges of having sexual contact between a detention facility employee and an inmate, and giving contraband to inmates.

    Sheriff's officials said Wells gave female inmates cigarettes while he drove them to court, then made sexual remarks and asked the inmates how they would pay him back. One female inmate said he grabbed her hand and placed it on his crotch. She later threw up in her holding cell and told her lawyer what had happened, arrest reports state.

    Internal affairs investigators launched an investigation. Wells resigned a few days later, on April 4. He had worked for the Sheriff's Office for 21 years. Investigators later found two other female inmates who accused Wells of similar acts, arrest reports state.

    Adjudication was withheld against Wells after he pleaded guilty on Monday. He was sentenced to three years of probation.

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