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Two men attempt to use stolen credit cards at U.S. 19 Wal-Mart

By Times Staff Writers
Published January 16, 2008


LARGO - The Largo Police Department is trying to identify two men in a credit card fraud.

On Jan. 5, a woman left the Lifestyles Family Fitness Center at 2178 East Bay Drive around 7 p.m. and discovered her vehicle had been burglarized in the parking lot. Her purse was stolen.

On the same date, at 7:28 p.m. and 7:48 p.m., two men used the victim's credit cards at the Super Wal-Mart on U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park.

One attempted to purchase a digital camera and a high-definition DVD player. However, the victim had already reported the card stolen, so the purchase was denied.

The other person, using one of the victim's other credit cards, purchased $400 in Wal-Mart gift cards. The gift cards were used at a separate location.

The men left the Wal-Mart in a white Chevy Suburban. The Largo Police Department is asking the public for assistance in identifying the men. Anyone with information is asked to call (727) 586-7427.

Carrie Weimar, Times staff writer


Cleveland Street owners miss sandwich boards

Cleveland Street business owners say the newly revitalized downtown thoroughfare is missing one element: sandwich board signs.

The signs are banned in the city, although during the $10-million Cleveland Street rehab project, local leaders allowed them.

But once the 18 months of construction wrapped up in December, they had to come down.

Now, owners have begun petitioning city leaders, asking them to change the ordinance because they say the signs increase foot traffic through their doors. But the City Council declined to act on the issue during a work session Monday, saying the businesses have enough ways to advertise and don't need the sandwich signs.

The owners, though, aren't giving up, and plan to raise the issue at Thursday's council meeting.

"There were some positive responses, so we're going to continue to push the issue," said Doc Shillington, co-owner of the Rabbit Hole, a health food cafe.

Mike Donila, Times staff writer


Peacocks' location remains a mystery

An unusual white peacock known as Barry ambled over to Alex Valdivieso to angle for a Ritz cracker.

Wish granted.

Then Valdivieso, 56, scratched the dirt and left. Barry scratched back, bent down and gulped down a bug. Valdivieso said he and other neighbors had to teach Barry to find food because his mother rejected him as a chick.

Now some neighbors say Barry and the other peacocks are in mourning. They said they miss their family and call for them.

Their 28 feathered friends are gone.

Robert Fortunato, a 27-year resident of the Bayview neighborhood, had them trapped and hauled away. At first, he wouldn't tell a reporter where they went except that they are on a few acres, "probably in a better place."

Without answers, neighbors are buzzing with theories, speculation and resentment.

"I heard that he sold them," Valdivieso said.

Farm-raised adult peacocks commonly are offered for sale for hundreds of dollars.

Worse, Lisa Kadlec, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1988, said she was told the trapper was related to Fortunato's girlfriend, making it a lucrative inside job.

That's ridiculous, said Fortunato, 60, a project manager for IBM.

"I didn't sell them," he said. "Those people are crazy."

Eileen Schulte, Times staff writer


Voting may be early, but not very convenient

Early voting began Monday in advance of the Jan. 29 presidential primary, giving Pinellas residents the chance to cast ballots at their convenience and avoid the Election Day rush.

But some North Pinellas residents are miffed because the nearest early voting location to them is in Clearwater, and the remaining two are even farther away, in Largo and St. Petersburg.

"It doesn't surprise me," said Jim McDonald, president of the Council of North County Neighborhoods, a civic group based in East Lake. "They once again have fallen short of the needs of the people of north county."

For the November 2006 general election, there were 11 early voting sites. Of those, four were north of Clearwater - in Tarpon Springs, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor and Dunedin.

According to the county's Planning Department, 303,100 of Pinellas' 952,655 residents live north of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. That's about 32 percent.

Then the state mandated that counties trim their property tax revenue. By the March 2007 election, the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Office had reduced the number of early voting sites to the current three, allowing the office to reduce its budget by $500,000.

"We had to cut something," elections office spokeswoman Nancy Whitlock said Monday. "If you look around the state, you will see a lot of counties have done this."

Will Van Sant, Times staff writer

[Last modified January 16, 2008, 00:22:33]

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