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Cuban business ties lead to new federal charges

A former Clearwater businessman's interests figure into bankruptcy fraud and perjury charges.

By LARRY DOUGHERTY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2000


TAMPA -- Former Clearwater businessman Thomas H. Boylan's legal journey took another turn this week when he was indicted on charges of bankruptcy fraud and perjury.

Boylan's attempts to develop a port in Cuba led to his arrest last year under the rarely enforced Trading with the Enemy Act. The charges were later dismissed.

At the time, federal prosecutors denied suggestions by Boylan's attorney that the ultimate target in the case was former U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons, who favors relaxing the nation's nearly 40-year-old trade embargo against Cuba.

This week, nearly a year after the trading with the enemy charge was dropped, Boylan was charged with not disclosing the assets of his Cuban development company when he filed for personal bankruptcy two years ago.

Although his indictment was unsealed Thursday, Boylan, 45, did not appear before a federal magistrate by the end of the business day. Nor did jail computers reflect his arrest as of Thursday afternoon.

Boylan is believed to be in Cuba, where he has a residence and a girlfriend, said the attorney for Boylan's estranged wife.

Agents from the FBI and the U.S. Customs Service showed up at a child support hearing for Boylan earlier this month in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, said the attorney, Mary Ellen Borja. But Boylan failed to appear.

Boylan had been negotiating to build a combination seaport, airport and free-trade zone in the north Cuban port of Mariel, about 100 miles from Key West. Boylan had made no secret of his plans, even talking about them on CNN. In doing so, he placed himself amid a growing crowd of businessmen trying to anticipate an opening of Cuban markets after Castro.

But Customs investigators decided that the particulars of Boylan's dealings broke the law. They warned him to stop, then initiated an undercover investigation.

During that investigation, Boylan suggested that Gibbons was a knowing supporter of his plan, prosecutors said. Prosecutors later discredited that notion. Gibbons denied wrongdoing, and said he had spoken to Boylan only once for a couple of minutes at a Washington social event.

Customs investigators also suspected that a high-ranking U.S. Commerce Department official, John C. White, of the department's International Trade Administration, had participated in Boylan's Cuba plans. White no longer works for Commerce, and he has declined to be interviewed about his dealings with Boylan.

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