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2006 candidate heads to prison

Angelo Cappelli gets 21 months for stealing money from an estate.

By ABHI RAGHUNATHAN and JOSE CARDENAS, Times Staff Writers
Published January 15, 2008


ST. PETERSBURG - Angelo Cappelli was once a political hotshot with an Ivy League pedigree and backing from some of the biggest names in Pinellas County.

Now, he's a disbarred lawyer and convicted felon who's heading to prison.

Judge Joseph Bulone sentenced Cappelli to 21 months behind bars on Friday after Cappelli pleaded guilty to charges of grand theft and perjury.

"He wanted to get this behind him," said Frank Louderback, Cappelli's attorney. "He's very remorseful and feels very bad about what happened."

Louderback said there was no plea agreement with prosecutors. Cappelli's family still supported him, and a handful of people came to court on his behalf, Louderback said, including St. Petersburg Housing Authority board member Deveron Gibbons.

St. Petersburg police arrested Cappelli, 38, in August after an investigation found he stole more than $100,000 from the estate of a deceased bank client. He had been working at SunTrust Bank for the past four years as a wealth and investment adviser.

Cappelli stole the money from the estate of an 83-year-old man named Mario Granata and used the cash to pay for personal expenses such as homeowners insurance.

After a relative complained, SunTrust officials launched an investigation and relieved Cappelli of his duties in late June. St. Petersburg police got involved shortly after.

Well-known developer Mel Sembler and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker supported Cappelli's run against Democrat Bill Heller for House District 52 in 2006. Cappelli ended up raising $160,000 more than Heller but lost the race in a difficult election year for most Republicans across the state.

Cappelli could have gotten more than 30 years in prison. Assistant State Attorney Mark McGarry said he asked for a sentence at the bottom of the guidelines because Cappelli had no prior criminal record.

Bruce Bartlett, the chief assistant in the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, said Cappelli was remorseful and paid the money back soon after he was caught.

Still, Bartlett said, Cappelli's crime cost him more than just his freedom.

"He can't practice law," Bartlett said. "Everything he worked for all that time is gone."

Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or 727 893-8472.