tampabay.com

Hillsborough official held in license scam

By BRADY DENNIS
Published November 18, 2006


TAMPA - A veteran Hillsborough County building employee landed in jail Friday on allegations that he accepted thousands of dollars in bribes.

Investigators say that John Demetrius Oats, 31, had for years been issuing fake county contracting licenses in exchange for under-the-table payments. He used licenses that previously belonged to a contractor who was "now deceased," a sheriff's spokeswoman said.

Oats faces charges of money laundering, bribery, fraudulent use of personal information and unlawful compensation or reward.

His sister-in-law, Kimberly Lymuel, also was arrested on money laundering charges because she cashed two of the checks, reports stated.

Oats has been suspended without pay, and should the allegations prove true, he will lose his job with the county.

County Administrator Pat Bean said Oats' scheme unraveled thanks to a whistleblower, Ron Collodi. Collodi, a general manager in the building services division, noticed a problem when a contractor tried to renew his county license. He said the license number didn't match the one on file with the state of Florida.

Collodi reported the matter to the county's Professional Responsibility Section, which investigates about 180 complaints a year and works like a police department's internal affairs unit. PRS notified the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office in March, and the two agencies conducted a joint investigation.

Oats has worked for the county since 1993 and in the same department for the past 10 years. He is based out of the Northwest office, one of five satellite offices of the building services division, part of the county's Planning and Growth Management Department.

Oats remained in custody Friday evening in lieu of $28,500 bail. Lymuel turned herself in Friday afternoon and was released after posting $15,000 bail.