tampabay.com

'90 lotto winner unfit for trial

Physical and mental ailments delay the trial of a Spring Hill man on federal tax charges.

By KEVIN GRAHAM, Times Staff Writer
Published August 23, 2007


TAMPA - The one-time Florida Lotto jackpot winner and his wife arrived late, walking into federal court Wednesday with matching orange canes and a stack of medical records.

Without mentioning the large plastic bag of prescription bottles that Alex Toth, 59, carried, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Jenkins declared him incompetent to stand trial on charges of filing fraudulent tax returns.

The Internal Revenue Service says Toth and his wife, Rhoda, owe more than $550,000 in back taxes. It says they lied about their income in 2000, 2001 and 2002. If convicted, both could get 24 years in prison.

The Spring Hill couple won $13-million from the Florida Lotto in 1990. Both filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection several years ago. In a previous interview with the Times, Rhoda Toth said the money tore her family apart.

"Sometimes I wish we could give it back," she said.

Jenkins gave Alex Toth up to four months at a federal medical facility to treat his mental and physical ailments before setting a trial date.

Toth, who had a heart attack and stroke in recent months, suffers from coronary artery disease and Type II diabetes, Bjorn E. Brunvand, his defense attorney, said in court filings.

Toth's general practitioner, Dr. Gary Levine, listed other chronic problems in a letter. Toth had neck surgery after being rear-ended by a car driving 70 to 80 mph and has chronic pain syndrome. He also has chronic anxiety and panic attacks, Levine wrote.

"I do not feel Mr. Toth could withstand any type of lengthy trial," Levine said. "I do not feel that his diabetes and chronic pain would allow him to sustain any confinement in a prison."

Psychiatrist Michael Maher also testified that Toth was unfit for trial.

"He requires in-patient evaluation and medical care," Maher said. "His psychiatric problems need to be addressed as well."

After the hearing, the Toths wouldn't talk about their life now.

"As far as how we're doing, we're getting by," Alex Toth said. "Day by day."

Their car wouldn't start when they tried to leave for court Wednesday morning, Rhoda Toth told the judge. She said they had to wait for a neighbor to jump-start it.

It could take a week to place Alex Toth at a facility for treatment and even longer before a space there becomes available.

Meanwhile, the Toths remain free on bail. They rely on help from their son, Steven Moser, and his wife, with whom they live in Spring Hill.

Rhoda Toth once told a judge that Moser threatened to kill her while seeking a restraining order against him a decade ago. The mother and son have made up.

Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.