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    Tampa Bay briefs

    By Times staff writers

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 17, 2001


    Fights start when deputies close club

    DUNEDIN -- A disturbance broke out about 11 p.m. Friday when sheriff's deputies shut down Club Bliss, an all-ages dance club at 28780 U.S. 19 near Dunedin.

    Deputies had received a report of a gun in the crowd, and a report that rival gangs were going to fight in the no-alcohol club. Deputies arrived and found the club overcrowded, with 500 to 1,000 people inside, said Pinellas sheriff's Sgt. Chuck Kanehl.

    "This place has been nothing but trouble," Kanehl said. The club has been open about two months.

    Fights started in the parking lot as the club emptied out. Dozens of deputies were called. One deputy with a loudspeaker kept telling patrons to leave or they would be arrested. A few people were arrested on charges of obstructing justice, and an ambulance took one person to a hospital.

    Doctors get probation for patient referral kickbacks

    TAMPA -- Why, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara wanted to know, would a respected doctor with a lucrative medical practice get involved in taking kickbacks in exchange for referring patients to a Clearwater laboratory?

    "Stupidity," said Dr. Russell Bufalino.

    Bufalino, of Clearwater, was one of two doctors sentenced Friday for receiving money in exchange for referring patients to Clearwater Clinical Laboratories. Also charged were James McKeown Sr., founder of the company; his son, James McKeown Jr., who was involved in the day-to-day operations of the lab; and Vincent "Vinny" Gepp of Palm Harbor, the lab manager.

    In August, Bufalino and Dr. Robert L. Hartzell of Spring Hill pleaded guilty to receiving payments in return for Medicare referrals.

    Although Bufalino and Hartzell faced potential prison sentences, Lazzara placed both on three years' probation. They also were ordered to perform 50 hours of community service in each of those three years and to pay $500 in restitution and a $10,000 fine. The others face sentencing later.

    Hospital prepares to open cancer information office

    SEMINOLE -- The VA Medical Center at Bay Pines will become the first veterans hospital of 173 in the country to have an American Cancer Society satellite office on its premises.

    The office will be dedicated at 11 a.m. Monday at the VA Medical Center, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd. in the J.C. Cobb Room, on the hospital's first floor (Building 100). An open house is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. in the ACS office, in the hospital's Patient Education Resource Center, also known as PERC.

    Robert J. Samuels, founding chairman of the Florida Cancer Education Network, will be the main speaker at Monday's 11 a.m. dedication. He also serves on the board of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

    The event is open to the public. For information, call the VA library, (727) 398-9366, or the Cancer Society, (727) 546-9822.

    Woman accused of giving sips of beer to 8-month-old

    CLEARWATER -- A woman was arrested Thursday on a child abuse charge after workers at a Clearwater restaurant saw her give three or four sips of beer to her 8-month-old baby, police reported.

    Paula Edith Murano, 37, of 650 Bay Esplanade, also was charged with drunken driving after she was pulled over while driving with the child in her car, police reported.

    According to police, both she and her boyfriend, William Gerard Paige, 33, of the same address, also were charged with leaving the restaurant without paying their bill.

    In the baby's diaper bag were three unopened cans of beer, police reported. The baby's milk bottle smelled rotten and was filled with curdled milk and dirt, police noted in an arrest report.

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