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    Tampa Bay briefs

    By Times staff and wire reports
    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published December 9, 2001

    Man fatally shoots himself in stomach

    TAMPA -- A Tampa man died Friday evening after accidentally shooting himself in the stomach, sheriff's officials said.

    William Carl Morris, 43, was in a recliner at his home at 5420 Baptist Church Road near Seffner when his semiautomatic handgun fired about 6 p.m.

    Sheriff's officials said he had been drinking.

    Morris was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he died.

    Police identify woman shot to death in vehicle

    TAMPA -- Police have identified the woman shot to death in a vehicle near 34th Street and Comanche Avenue on Friday night as 24-year-old Felicia Hines.

    Hines, who police said had no known address, was riding in a 1999 Isuzu Amigo driven by her boyfriend when she was shot about 8:30 p.m. She later died at Tampa General Hospital.

    Her boyfriend, who was not identified by police, told officers he thought he heard the sport utility vehicle backfire and turned to see the woman slumped in the passenger seat.

    No arrests have been made.

    Airman gets 12 years for selling pipe bombs

    TAMPA -- A former airman at MacDill Air Force Base has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for making and selling pipe bombs.

    "I'll just do the smart thing and keep my mouth shut," Robert Denham said during sentencing Friday in U.S. District Court.

    Denham, then an airman first class, was arrested a year ago and accused of selling two pipe bombs to an undercover agent for $250 each.

    Agents said they found two more pipe bombs in his Pinellas Park apartment when they arrested him.

    Denham, 21, had been at MacDill for about a year. He pleaded guilty to selling a destructive device and transfer of explosive materials used to commit a crime of violence.

    Judge orders Eckerd to pay overbilling fine

    TAMPA -- A judge has told the Eckerd drugstore chain to pay a $1.7-million fine for overbilling the government for Medicaid prescriptions.

    Eckerd Corp. had signed a plea last summer agreeing to the fine.

    U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday ordered the chain Friday to comply with the plea it signed with prosecutors in July, thus ending a five-year probe into the company's billing practices.

    The Clearwater-based Eckerd, founded in 1898, has grown to be the nation's fourth-largest retail drug chain with 2,650 stores in 20 states. The company admitted to overbilling Medicaid, government insurance for the poor, and failing to keep accurate records.

    When stores ran low on inventory, Eckerd pharmacists gave customers a partial prescription, telling them to return for the remainder, according to the agreement. Some customers didn't come back.

    The company admitted returning unclaimed pills to the shelf for resale, then billing insurers such as Medicaid for the full amount, the plea agreement states.

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