Firearms instructor jailed on identity theft charge

Authorities say he took an ex-police officer's identity to set up shop.

By Joel Anderson, Times Staff Writer
Published February 20, 2008

SPRING HILL - The instructor's name was John and he appeared to have all the proper certification to teach a firearms safety and concealed-weapons carry course. He was also a former police officer and owned a gun shop in Spring Hill.

But his surname wasn't really Cavanna, authorities say, and that was ultimately the problem.

John Hamilothoris, 38, of Brooksville, faces a charge of identification theft following an arrest Wednesday for using a former police officer's name and credentials to teach a firearms course. He remained behind bars in the Hernando County Jail in lieu of a $500 bail.

Authorities say Hamilothoris conducted a course Jan. 26 at his gun shop, Action Arms at 128 Commercial Way, while posing as John Cavanna, a former officer with the Brooksville Police Department. One of the participants in the course knew Cavanna, who had recently moved out of state, and contacted him after the class, said Sgt. Donna Black, a spokeswoman with the Hernando Sheriff's Office.

The witness "knew Cavanna was out of state," Black said. "And then Cavanna checked into it."

Cavanna alerted the Sheriff's Office, which spoke to two people who had taken the course. The students gave authorities their completion certificates for the course that showed Cavanna as the instructor, including his credentials with the National Rifle Association.

A sheriff's deputy went to the next course, on Feb. 9, and found that Hamilothoris was teaching the class. Hamilothoris identified himself only as "John" and taught the course under the name of another instructor. Hamilothoris had permission to use the instructor's name but still lacked the proper credentials to teach the course, according to the arrest report.

Hamilothoris, who retired as an officer from the New York Police Department in February 2005, is not an NRA certified instructor nor is he certified through the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Several employees at Action Arms on Tuesday afternoon referred all questions to Hamilothoris. The phone number listed for Hamilothoris' home was not accepting calls Tuesday.

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or 754-6120.