Bulldogs deny Eagles eighth straight crown

SPRING HILL – Maybe Class 3A, District 1’s Bunnell-Flagler Palm Coast should make Hernando County a yearly stop.

The Bulldogs, who finished 10th 3A-Region I last winter, made their first-ever trip count to the 16½-hour, 23-team, 24th Springstead Invitational sponsored by Foster’s Roofing.
Bulldogs deny Eagles eighth straight crown
A 1993 Flagler Palm Coast alumnus, Tom Bartolotta watched his mat men depart Spring Hill with their fifth straight tournament title of the season.

On Saturday, the ‘Dawgs pieced together an 11-match win skein that created separation and concluded with a meet-high 10 placers (top four or better) and six finalists, to deny the host 2A-5 Springstead Eagles their eighth straight Springstead Invitational crown, 241.0-190.0.

Though the Spring Hill crew garnered a tourney-high three champions in four finals bouts, both FPC and Orlando-Edgewater each departed with two champions.

Coach Bartolotta was precise and on-point with his comments following his team’s second win over the three-time defending 2A state champions from SHS in two weeks.

On Dec. 20-21 at the 18th annual Cougar Invitational at Plant City-Durant, the Eagles dropped their last two finals – spoiling a stunning come-from-behind bid, 207.5-203.0.

“We knew coming in that Springstead would be ready for us this time,” admitted Coach Bartolotta. “The tournament obviously went great for us. We wrestled really well. I thought we wrestled the tournament of our lives.

“Anytime you go somewhere and score 240 points, it’s a great feeling,” he added. “The (11-0) run we had just after the 106-pound match in the semis helped seal it. This is our fifth tournament win, but we’re ranked 19th (in 3A). Maybe this sends us some love.”

SHS’ second-year skipper Sal Basile gave credit to the Bulldogs.

“As a competitor you never want to accept a loss,” admitted the 2013 2A Florida Dairy Farmer’s Coach of Year Basile. “But we were simply out-wrestled. Flagler dominated. They came in with 14 guys and 10 left as placers – they nearly scored 250 points.

“On the other hand we had a handful of guys (six) that placed – that was the difference,” added Basile. “As far as individual matches, this was the toughest Springstead Invitational we’ve had in years. We could make it so we could win it every year, but we don’t.

“We brought in Flagler and several teams with solid individual kids like Auburndale, Winter Haven and Edgewater to make it a much tougher tournament,” said Basile. “On Monday, we’ll start to sort out the pieces and figure some things out.”

Springstead finished runner-up – for the first time since 2006 – behind six placers featuring: Matt Landgraff (first) at 106, Michael McDonald (first) at 120, Andrew Smith (third) at 132, Jordan Rivera (first) at 145, Corey Humphrey (second) at 220 and Travis O’Neil (third) at 285.

On evaluating his performers, “Mikey (McDonald) has been doing some extraordinary things on a weekly basis,” described Basile. “And Matt has been handling his business week-to-week, too. He just manhandled a good-looking Armwood kid in the finals.

“Guys like Quentin (D’Alessandro) wrestled great. He won four times and finished one win shy of placing,” added Basile. “Our puppy at 138 (frosh Travis Williams) won two matches, both by pins, and (Robert) Holdway is beginning to turn the corner at 152.”

Rivera reached a milestone by becoming just the 10th Eagle to win the Springstead Invitational three times joining Richie Bliss, John Dreggors, Corey Hill, Shawn Landgraff, Mike Marshall, Cody Ross, Nick Soto, Jimmy Stevenson and Schuyler Swanton.

Ross holds the school and county record with four wins this event.

Rivera, a senior and three-time state placer, finished 4-0 with three pins to improve to 15-1 lifetime in this event.

After opening the meet with his 72nd, 73rd and 74th pins of his career, he solved second-seeded and 2013 1A state qualifier Robert Napolitano of Gulf in the finals under the Eagles’ signature dome light, 6-2.

Rivera, the Eagles’ lone defending state champion, was one of three multiple Springstead Invite champions.

For the second straight winter, the top-seeded Landgraff garnered gold. The third-year letterman notched an outstanding 5-0 run featuring a career-best four pins.

Despite never pinning more than three opponents in any of his previous 23 IBTs (individually bracketed tournaments), Landgraff stuck in succession Tampa-Chamberlain’s Andrew Hunyh (1:03), Winter Haven’s Antoine Cruz (1:37), Tampa-Sickles’ Lee Darden (1:40) and FPC’s Zac Branning (1:56) to reach the finals.

Landgraff, a two-time state placer, couldn’t pin Seffner-Armwood senior Kyre Kelly – so he did the next best thing, dismantling him via an 18-3 technical fall.

“It was harder to win here last year,” admitted the 16-year-old Landgraff, who climbed to a team-best 26-1 and walked away with a plaque for Most Pins in the Least Amount of Time. “This time, I felt like I dominated.

“That last kid (Kelly) was pretty strong, but overall I thought I had a decent tournament. I know I’ve got to keep working on setting up my shots.”

On Springstead’s second-place finish, “There’s really nothing to say, Flagler beat us in our house by 50 points,” he remarked. “Everyone, including me, should be held accountable. You can’t put the blame on what happened this weekend to any one person.”

Like Landgraff, McDonald turned in his second straight gold-medal effort at home. The top-seeded McDonald finished 4-0, featuring three pins.

In his wake, the two-time state qualifier and 2013 state placer pinned Edgewater’s Maurice Williams (2:56), Tampa-Hillsborough’s Justice Lemon (0:38) and Fivay’s Cole Manion (2:58).

In the tourney finals, McDonald (25-0) steamed-rolled FPC junior and second-seeded Alfred Shavers via a technical fall (16-1).

Both Manion and Shavers were credentialed grapplers – each qualified for states last winter.

Despite being named Outstanding Wrestler Lightweights, the Eagle captain took the loss to FPC hard.

“I came in here wanting to avenge what happened at Durant,” pointed out the 17-year-old McDonald. “We nearly pulled that tournament out. Then this weekend they just put a whooping on us.

“Yes, the loss bothers me a lot,” added McDonald. “This happened after our best practices of the year, so it’s kind of shocking to me. I’m not use to losing at home.”

In addressing his Springstead Invite gold medal, “Shavers is a tough kid, but I keep telling myself I’m the best kid,” said McDonald. “I thought winning here last year was tougher. I won’t get a whole lot of satisfaction until I win a state title.”

The second-seeded Humphrey (22-5), a senior, pinned three opponents en route to his finals bout against Edgewater senior and 2013 state qualifier Jack Bales.

Bales was awarded a controversial two-point takedown at the buzzer at the edge of the mat to edge Humphrey, 3-1.


As predicted, Weeki Wachee notched four placers to finish eighth with 79.5 points.

“Overall, Kiwanis was a little tougher,” pointed out third-year Weeki Wachee mentor Joe Felice. “But this tournament had some tougher weight classes. It was no picnic at 160, 120, 132 or 220.

“I’m not happy with eighth place but I’m not disappointed,” he added. “We don’t want to wrestle for eighth. But at least now, some people on the outside will start taking notice of us.”

The Hornets were paced by senior Anthony Vines at 285 (second), senior Dante Padilla at 120 (third), senior Jesus Nieves at 132 (fourth) and Nathaniel DeJesus at 145 (fourth).

Vines extended his win skein to 11 in a row with three pins across his first three matches. The trio of pins pushed his county-leading total to 29.

In the finals, Chamberlain senior and 2013 state qualifier Robert Mosley ended the proceedings in 33 seconds.

Coming in, Padilla needed four wins to reach the school’s 100-win plateau. Going 5-1, Padilla became the first Hornet to achieve the feat with a 2-1 nod over Tampa-Gaither’s talented Nick Peshek.

He followed up by earning a third-place bronze medal by edging Fivay’s Manion, 4-3.

“I felt like I should have been in the finals,” insisted the 17-year-old Padilla, who is tied for the county lead in wins at 35-5 with teammate Vines. “The 100th win was nice; it’s something I’ll get to tell my kids about.”

Hernando High finished 11th overall with 63.5 points. HHS was paced by senior Jesse Gaudin (third) at 220.

The top-seeded Gaudin was upset by Bales in Saturday’s semifinals, 4-2.

Gaudin concluded the day 4-1 behind his team-leading third and fourth pins of the tourney over Land O’ Lakes sophomore Darryus Lowe (0:51) and Auburndale’s Cole Rausch (4:21).

“The brackets were screwed up,” explained the 18-year-old Gaudin, who left Spring Hill at 26-2. “I should have met the Edgewater kid in the finals. He’s a great competitor. I’m not real disappointed because this isn’t the state championship.”

Though senior Brennan Ertl failed to place in the loaded 160-pound bracket, Friday’s opening-win over Manny Orengo served as his 100th career victory.

With the win, Ertl became the 20th member of the HHS elite fraternity in 42 seasons.

Nature Coast Technical’s attempt at a top-10 finish for a sixth straight year ended with a thud. The Sharks finished 19th overall behind 11 wins in 31 bouts.

The lone Shark to place was junior Mark Espinosa at 126 (fourth).

Hernando County’s expected fifth team, Central, was a mysterious no show. It marked the second tourney this year in which the Bears failed to participate (the other was Ocala-Forest).

With CHS not in attendance, the Springstead Invite record of 23 teams from 2011 was tied this weekend and not broken.

2014 Springstead Invitational Team Standings:


1. Bunnell-Flagler Palm Coast (FPC) 3A-1 241.0

2. Springstead (SPG) 2A-5 190.0

3. Tampa-Hillsborough (HILL) 2A-8 107.5

4. Auburndale (AUB) 2A-7 101.0

5. Orlando-Edgewater (EDGW) 3A-2 97.5

6. Hudson-Fivay (FIV) 2A-9 97.0

7. Wesley Chapel (WC) 1A-6 81.0

8. Weeki Wachee (WW) 1A-6 79.5

9. Tampa-Sickles (SIC) 3A-7 78.0

10. Tampa-Gaither (GAIT) 3A-8 76.5

11. Hernando (HER) 1A-6 63.5

12. Seffner-Armwood (ARM) 2A-7 62.5

13. Tampa-Chamberlain (CHAM) 2A-8 59.5

13. Inverness-Citrus (CIT) 2A-5 59.5

15. Land O’ Lakes (LOL) 2A-8 57.0

16. The Villages (TV) 1A-5 56.0

17. Winter Haven (WH) 2A-7 53.5

18. Wesley Chapel-Wiregrass Ranch (WGR) 2A-8 49.0

19. Nature Coast Technical (NCT) 1A-6 38.5

20. New Port Richey-River Ridge (RR) 2A-9 38.0

21. New Port Richey-Gulf (GF) 1A-6 33.0

22. Land O’ Lakes-Sunlake (SNL) 2A-8 26.0

23. New Port Richey-Ridgewood (RW) 1A-6 13.0


2014 Foster’s Roofing Bunnell-Flagler Palm Coast 241.0

2013 Foster’s Roofing Spring Hill-Springstead 229.5

2012 Foster’s Roofing Spring Hill-Springstead 248.0

2011 Foster’s Roofing Spring Hill-Springstead 251.0

2010 Foster’s Roofing Spring Hill-Springstead 328.5

2009 Foster’s Roofing Spring Hill-Springstead 255.5

2008 Springstead Inv. Spring Hill-Springstead 216.5

2007 Brijbag Invitational Spring Hill-Springstead 197.0

2006 Brijbag Invitational Tampa-Jesuit 222.5

2005 MasadaHealthcare Tampa-Chamberlain 175.5

2004 MasadaHealthcare Brooksville-Hernando 202.0

2003 MasadaHealthcare Brooksville-Hernando 209.0

2002 Dr. Batista Spring Hill-Springstead 193.0

2001 Dr. Batista Spring Hill-Springstead 253.5

2000 Oak Hill Hospital Spring Hill-Springstead 196.0

1999 Nations Bank Spring Hill-Springstead 209.0

1998 Barnett Bank Spring Hill-Springstead 232.0

1997 Barnett Bank Spring Hill-Springstead 212.5

1996 Barnett Bank Tampa-Jesuit 170.5

1995 Barnett Bank Spring Hill-Springstead 170.5

1994 Barnett Bank Dade City-Pasco 157.5

1993 Barnett Bank Spring Hill-Springstead 181.5

1992 Springstead Inv. Palatka 156.5

1991 Springstead Inv. Spring Hill-Springstead 145.0

2014 Springstead Invitational Finals

106 – Matt Landgraff (SPG) tech. fall. Kyree Kelly (ARM), 18-3.

113 – Jake Kosachiner (FPC) dec. Jarred Lanier (WGR), 6-5 (3OT).

120 – Michael McDonald (SPG) tech. fall. Alfred Shavers (FPC), 16-1.

126 – Joe Galvan (WC) pin Evan Insalaco (FPC), 2:54.

132 – Max Quinones (WGR) dec. Kaz Maia (FPC), 3-2.

138 – Devin Glenn (AUB) major dec. Chase Spurling (GAIT), 13-4.

145 – Jordan Rivera (SPG) dec. Robert Napolitano (GF), 6-2.

152 – Jackson Trivett (FPC) dec. Andrew Martin (SIC), 8-3.

160 – Jordan Mainer (EDGE) dec. Andrew Scherer (FIV), 6-4.

170 – Colton Jackson (TV) pin Dakota Jordan (GAIT), 0:53.

182 – Nicco Lightfoot (FIV) pin Max Reynolds (RR), 5:53.

195 – Scott Pendleton (AUB) dec. Jonathan Muniz (FPC), 9-2.

220 – Jack Bales (EDGE) dec. Corey Humphrey (SPG), 3-1.

285 – Robert Mosley (CHA) pin Anthony Vines (WW), 0:33.

2014 Springstead Invitational Consolation Finals

106 – Zac Branning (FPC) pin Brandon Smith (WW), 3:20.

113 – Jacob West (HILL) ec. Krystian Velez (GAIT), 8-4.

120 – Dante Padilla (WW) dec. Cole Manion (FIV), 4-3.

126 – Jeremy Gardner (HILL) pin Mark Espinosa (NCT), 1:50.

132 – Andrew Smith (SPG) dec. Jesus Nieves (WW), 4-3.

138 – Eric Rosso (FPC) pin Sean Nugent (WC), 4:14.

145 – Kory Bryl (FPC) pin Daniel Soto (TV),1:46.

152 – Jacob Eweles (WH) dec. Jesus Bejarano (HILL), 3-2.

160 – Justin Boyle (FPC) dec. Brandon Taylor (CIT), 8-5.

170 – Connor Knauer (HILL) dec. Cedrick Lowe (LOL), 3-2.

182 – Nathan Love (WC) pin Peterson Joseph (EDGE), 3:57.

195 – Nick Tyler (SIC) pin Bradley Wiesenauser (CIT), 2:03.

220 – Jesse Gaudin (HER) pin Colton Rausch (AUB), 4:21.

285 – Travis O’Neil (SPG) pin Willie Edom (ARM), 1:54.

2014 Springstead Invitational Awards

Fastest Pin – Zac Branning in 15 seconds (FPC).

Most Pins in Least Amount of Time – Matt Landraff four in 6:16 (SPG).

Outstanding Wrestler Lightweights – Michael McDonald (SPG).

Outstanding Wrestler Heavyweights – Jordan Mainer (EDGE).

Springstead Individual Results


106 Landgraff, Matt 5 0 4 1st

113 Rivera, Richie 2 2 2 –

120 McDonald, Michael 4 0 3 1st

126 D’Alessandro, Quentin 4 2 2 –

132 Smith. Andrew 4 1 3 3rd

138 Williams, Travis 2 2 2 –

145 Rivera, Jordan 4 0 3 1st

152 Holdway, Robert 2 2 1 –

160 Swift, Billy 2 2 0 –

170 Buonanno, Vincent 3 2 0 –

182 Lindsey, Matt 0 2 0 –

195 Burzumato, Ryan 0 2 0 –

220 Humphrey, Corey 3 1 3 2nd

285 O’Neil, Travis 4 1 4 3rd

TOTALS (14) 39 19 27 –

NCT Individual Results


120 Gibson, Jordan 0 2 0 –

126 Espinosa, Mark 3 2 0 4th

132 DeFranco, Joey 1 2 0 –

138 Jazikoff, Jeramie 2 2 1 –

145 Alicea, Raivyn 0 2 0 –

152 Alicea, Christian 0 2 0 –

182 Gray, Le’Shaun 2 2 1 –

195 Ritchie, Frank 1 2 1 –

220 Contegiacomo, Anthony 2 2 1 –

285 Brooks, Dean 0 2 0 –

TOTALS (10) 11 20 4 –

Hernando Individual Results


106 Watson, Jordan 0 2 0 –

113 Hester, Matt 0 2 0 –

120 Mosher, Bailey 2 2 0 –

126 Watson, Austin 3 2 1 –

132 Fouts, Johnny 0 2 0 –

138 Maniates, Codey 2 2 2 –

145 Swain, Ricky 1 2 0 –

152 Hammett, Colton 0 2 0 –

160 Ertl, Brennan 2 2 1 –

170 Webber, Austin 1 2 1 –

182 Terkevich, Abel 3 2 2 –

195 Whitaker, Lane 1 2 0 –

220 Gaudin, Jesse 4 1 4 3rd

TOTALS 19 25 11 –

Weeki Wachee Individual Results


106 Smith, Brandon 4 2 1 4th

120 Padilla, Dante 5 1 1 3rd

126 Gibson, Hunter 0 2 0 –

132 Nieves, Jesus 3 2 2 4th

138 Enoch, Brandon 0 2 0 –

145 DeJesus, Nathaniel 5 2 2 –

152 Beck, Gavin 0 2 0 –

220 Gathright, Kyle 0 2 0 –

285 Vines, Anthony 3 1 3 2nd

TOTALS 20 16 9 –

Program gives holiday gifts to seniors in need

SPRING HILL – Slippers. Razors and shaving cream. A single CD.

The wish lists for Hernando County seniors in need were far less extravagant than their younger counterparts and consisted more of necessities than niceties.

On Wednesday, volunteers with the local “Be a Santa to a Senior Program” helped wrap gifts and assemble bags of stocking stuffers.

The gifts will be distributed this week to about 400 Hernando County seniors who are low-income or underserved.

The gifts were either donated by local individuals or companies. A major benefit, held earlier this month at Rookies with local celebrities working as wait staff, was a main revenue source, said the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Denise Moloney, who also serves on the program’s committee.

“These little gifts make a big difference,” Moloney said. “They’re happy someone is thinking of them.”

Moloney explained the sheriff’s office has participated in the program in past years in Pasco County. This is the first year the program is taking place in Hernando County.

“We’re very happy to bring it here,” Moloney said.

Maureen Reiser, owner of Home Instead Senior Care, said the Spring Hill location of the adult homecare company opened last year.

“There’s been an outpouring of generosity (from the community),” Reiser said.

Reiser said the seniors in the program were identified through local assisted living facilities, churches and programs such as Mid Florida Community Services and Meals on Wheels.

“Needy can mean loneliness too,” Reiser said, which is why an estimated 50 volunteers will personally deliver the gifts to their recipients.

Reiser said the event organizers and volunteers were examples of an “amazing force at doing the right thing.”

Those interested in helping deliver the gifts can call Home Instead Senior Care’s main line at (352) 340-5900.

wbiddlecombe@hernando today.com

(352) 544-5283

Incarcerated woman booked on murder charge in Hernando

SPRING HILL – A woman sentenced to five years in prison for injecting her 16-year-old daughter with an opiate is now facing a first-degree murder charge in the drug overdose death of another woman.

According to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, Meghan White, 38, was at the Microtel at 6298 Nature Coast Boulevard in Spring Hill in August 2012 with Krista Rodgers.

Rodgers, 22, died as a result of a drug overdose at the hotel.

When questioned by detectives, White admitted to injecting Rodgers with an illegal narcotic, which resulted in her death.

The sheriff’s office was not able to provide details into how White and Rodgers knew each another.

The case was presented Nov. 20 to a grand jury, which indicted White in connection with Rodgers’ death, according to the sheriff’s office.

A warrant was prepared for White’s arrest on one charge of first-degree murder.

Deputies transferred White, also known as Meghan Jean Hughes, from Lowell Correctional Institute to the Hernando County Jail on Wednesday.

White was serving a five year sentence at Lowell Correctional after signing a plea deal in May for injecting her 16-year-old daughter with Dilaudid in December 2012 at a Brooksville hotel, four months after Rogers’ death.

White gave her daughter Methadone the following day to prevent sickness, according to investigators.

She was charged with child abuse and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription in that case.

Court documents show White said she injected her daughter so she wouldn’t injure herself.

At a sentencing hearing, White admitted she was a “junkie” who had been shooting up for a decade, and said her daughter had a pill problem and stole from her family to fuel it.

“She threatened me that day . I tried to help her, that’s all I did,” White said during the sentencing. “I love her and I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Spring Hill Garden Club to host scarecrow in the garden festival

Fall-like weather is just around the corner. It’s time for pumpkins, the turning of the leaves, autumn weather and now, scarecrows.

The Spring Hill Garden Club is hosting its very first “Scarecrows in the Gardens” community event next Saturdayay to celebrate fall and raise funds for Spring Hill’s only landmark waterfall.

On Oct. 12, handmade scarecrows, made by Spring Hill Garden Club members and local residents, will be placed on display for visitors in the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens, located at 1489 Parker Ave., just off of Spring Hill Drive, in Spring Hill.

In addition, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the club will have a fall plant sale, refreshments, and a raffle of gift certificates and donated arts and craft items.

Many fun activities for the kids are also planned, such as pumpkin painting, face painting, balloons, a scavenger hunt and photo opportunities with a live scarecrow, who will be none other than the Angela Bennett, club president.

Local musician George Marshall will provide live entertainment.

“George Marshall is a country singer from Apalachicola who has lived in Spring Hill since 2004. He recently released a song, “Four Right Turns,” nationally to Country Music Radio and 350 overseas stations,” club publicist Shirley Jacques said.

The handmade scarecrows will stay on display in the gardens until Nov. 15. Visitors to the gardens will be allowed to vote on their favorite scarecrow. The winning scarecrow will receive a “People’s Choice Award.”

It is free to attend the “Scarecrows in the Gardens” event, but donations will be accepted. Pumpkin painting is $1 each. Raffle tickets are $1 each or six tickets for $5. All proceeds will benefit the general maintenance of the Spring Hill waterfall.

“The Spring Hill Garden Club resumed responsibility for the waterfall in January 2011 when the Hernando County Parks and Recreation Department had to relinquish their involvement due to budget constraints,” Jacques said.

Needs for the waterfall include the annual inspection of the irrigation system, tree-trimming in the areas around the waterfall, and cleaning and resurfacing of the waterfall pond.

“We are also looking for ‘Supporters of the Waterfall,'” said Jacques.

Individual and businesses can help support and maintain the Spring Hill waterfall by becoming a sponsor. There are five levels of sponsorship available, including: Patron – $250; Sponsor – $100; Donor – $50; Contributor – $25; and Scarecrow Sponsor – $10. The Spring Hill Garden Club is a non-profit organization and contributions are tax-deductible.

Contact the Spring Hill Garden Club at (352) 683-9933 or visit www.nature coastgardens.com.

Spring Hill ‘pioneer’ dies

SPRING HILL – When it comes to listing pioneers of early Spring Hill, some names come immediately to mind.

Realtor Patricia Fleck, whose name was synonymous with community involvement, and Harold G. Zopp, who had a Spring Hill library named for him, are two who had a huge impact in the community.

Tony Mosca Sr., who founded the Spring Hill Home and Property Owners Association, also belongs in that pioneering group. Mosca died Monday at the age of 87.

Right up to the end, despite being afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, Mosca was involved in his beloved Lion’s Club, one of his favorite organizations.

His zest for life continued well into his later years, said his son and former county commissioner Tony Mosca Jr.

“I remember dad as a go-getter – somebody who had a dream and followed it all the way to the end,” the younger Mosca said. “He always inspired me to do the best I can. He gave it his all in any task that he undertook.”

Born in Providence, R.I., Mosca met his future wife Mary in Watertown, Mass. where he became a police officer. After being injured, he retired and moved to Hernando County around 1973 and almost immediately became involved in the fledgling community called Spring Hill.

His love affair with the area took hold while he had been selling real estate for the Mackle Brothers and Deltona Corporation, which developed Spring Hill in 1967.

“He soon learned to appreciate the life he had and longed to retire in the lovely community of Spring Hill and encouraged his children to follow him to keep his family close together,” said Mosca, who served as Hernando County commissioner from 1990-94.

In the 1980s, the elder Mosca founded the Spring Hill Home and Property Owners Association, which took on the job of enforcing deed restrictions in Spring Hill.

Around 1990, he convinced the then-Spring Hill Civic Association to take over that role. He eventually merged his organization with the civic association, which at that time was a potent political force in the county.

“That was the closest thing to local government that we had,” Mosca said.

Mosca Sr. was an avid golfer and is credited with getting the first hole-in-one at Spring Hill Country Club.

Former County Commissioner June Ester remembers Mosca Sr. as a kindly gentleman.

“He was the kind of guy who, when he saw you, would tip his hat to the ladies, give up his seat and always had nice things to say about you. He was a nice, sweet man. They need a lot more like him nowadays.”

Ester said Mosca Sr. owned much property in Spring Hill and was a partner in an ownership group that sold the land where the Publix now sits at Mariner and Northcliffe boulevards.

Ester agreed that Mosca was a pioneer in Spring Hill. He is survived by son Anthony Jr. and his wife Kathy, daughter Liz and her husband Jerry, three grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

The family will hold a private funeral service for Mosca on Thursday. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made to the Dawn Center of Hernando County domestic violence shelter, at P.O. Box 6179, Spring Hill FL 34601.


(352) 544-5290

Spring Hill couple jailed after using driver’s license to cash fraudulent checks

A Spring Hill couple was arrested Monday after authorities said the pair knowingly cashed two forged checks at a local check-cashing business.

Eric Berg, 49, and Stephanie Swartz, 37, are each charged with one count of fraud.

According to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, the incidents occurred on April 18 and 19 at the Super Star Discount Beverage, 10243 County Line Road.

On April 18, Berg went to the store to cash a payroll check for $297.33 from Calling America Telemarketing LLC in St. Petersburg.

Berg provided his Florida driver’s license as proof of identification to the clerk. Since the information on the license matched the check, the clerk cashed the check, the report states.

On April 19, Swartz went to the same store to cash a check for $277.41 also from Calling America Telemarketing LLC.

She also provided her driver’s license as identification, at which time she was given the cash.

After depositing the checks the business owners were notified the account number of the checks was fraudulent, the report states.

The clerk who cashed the check told investigators photocopies of the suspects’ driver’s licenses were made prior to cashing the checks.

Deputies confirmed the suspects’ identities using information from the photocopies, the report states.

On Monday deputies conducted a traffic stop on Berg’s vehicle where the couple was arrested.

During questioning, both suspects admitted to cashing the fraudulent checks.

They told investigators that they received the fraudulent checks through a “Mystery Shopper” business on the Internet, the report states.

According to authorities, Berg had been warned by Detective Irene Gray on April 4 that the “Mystery Shopper” business was a scam and not to participate in it.

Spring Hill woman who is 9 months pregnant jailed on battery charges

SPRING HILL Tanena Taylor is nine months pregnant.

Authorities said she wasn’t overcome with back pain or fatigue Sunday afternoon.

Instead, the “irate” 20-year-old expected mother barged into somebody’s home and attacked her ex-boyfriend and another woman in the house with her fists, a flip-flop and a plastic baby toy, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

Taylor was charged with burglary with battery and domestic battery. Because of her advanced pregnancy, she was transported to Spring Hill Regional Hospital before being medically cleared to go to jail, deputies said.

She remained at the Hernando County Jail as of Monday morning, according to arrest records.

The sheriff’s office was called shortly before 4 p.m. to 1447 Kenlake Ave. Deputies said they interviewed Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, Matthew Strunk, 23, who is the father of the suspect’s 1-year-old son and her unborn child.

Strunk told the sheriff’s office Taylor lashed out at him because their son was in the same household as Brianna Nutter, 18, whom she doesn’t like, according to an arrest affidavit.

“(Strunk said Taylor) began to hit him with her fists and forced her way into the residence,” wrote Deputy Bradley Oakland in his report.

While inside the house, Taylor punched and struck Nutter with a flip-flop, according to the sheriff’s office.

Taylor forced her way into a back bedroom, grabbed her son, handed him to a friend who put the child in Taylor’s car, deputies said.

Strunk and Nutter went outside, at which time Taylor started hitting her ex-boyfriend with a plastic toy, according to the affidavit.

Strunk suffered injuries to his face, neck, back and chest, Oakland wrote.

Taylor was arrested at the house after deputies arrived.

She told Oakland her ex-boyfriend had attacked her and had purposely held her down until the sheriff’s office arrived, according to the deputy’s report.


wholt@hernandotoday.com (352) 544-5283


Sheriff’s office: Woman steals headphones, violates probation

SPRING HILL A Hernando Beach woman under arrest on charges of retail theft Monday had her bond revoked after law enforcement learned she was on felony drug probation.
Woman steals headphones

Trisha Lyons, 27, is believed to have taken a pair of gaming headphones from the Walmart at 1485 Commercial Way, and returned them for $74.51 of store credit.

Lyons admitted to taking the headphones after being taken into custody, and is being held on no bond at the Hernando County Jail.

Court records show Lyons was adjudicated guilty of drug equipment charges in December 2011, and had her adjudication withheld on a cocaine possession charge, and sentenced to two years drug offender probation.

Children removed from suspected grow house

Three children were removed from a house Thursday after child care representatives responded to an anonymous tip and saw marijuana in plain view inside a house, deputies said.

The Florida Department of Children and Families was called that afternoon to 10427 Tilburg St. and were accompanied by a deputy with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, according to a media release.

The tipster told DCF that marijuana plants were being grown inside a home where children lived, authorities said.

When DCF and the deputy went inside the house, they saw the remains of marijuana cigarettes and drug paraphernalia and could detect an odor of “fresh marijuana,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Christopher Morales, 34, was charged with numerous marijuana-related charges in addition to child neglect and possession of codeine. His wife, Lumary, was charged with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, cultivation of marijuana and child neglect.

Christopher and Lumary Morales were held at the Hernando County Jail in lieu of $51,000 and $10,000 bail, respectively.

After DCF saw the drugs, the sheriff’s office’s vice unit was called to respond, deputies said.

A search warrant was signed and deputies returned to the house and discovered 33 marijuana plants in the master bedroom along with 19 root balls of “already-harvested plants,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Nearly 800 grams of processed marijuana were found in the master bedroom and bathroom and some of it was on a drying rack in the shower, deputies said.

The codeine tablets were found in the same bathroom.

Additionally, a 9mm handgun was discovered under the mattress of the bed in the master bedroom and at least one of the three children was staying in that room, deputies said.

The couple was arrested one day after vice deputies arrested a 41-year-old Spring Hill man on allegations of operating a grow house.

Yosvani Medero-Burgo had 49 marijuana plants in a man-made structure in his backyard off Dorado Street that was wired to steal electricity from the meter, deputies said.

Medero-Burgo remains behind bars in lieu of $37,000 bail.

wholt@hernandotoday.com (352) 544-5283

Detectives: 18-month publix check cashing fraud enterprise ends in Brooksville


Something didn’t seem right about the two homeless people cashing checks at the grocery store Friday.

At least not according to Tim Roth, an off-duty postal inspector who noticed them and kept his eyes on them for a while.

check cashing

Roth thought they looked so suspicious he followed them by car for 10 miles – from the Publix at 14371 Spring Hill Drive to the Publix at 19390 Cortez Blvd. – where he witnessed them cashing more checks, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

He called local law enforcement and Brooksville police officers were dispatched to the area, but by the time they arrived the suspects had exited the store. They tailed them and pulled them over the moment they saw the driver commit a traffic infraction, authorities said.

There were five people in the car and all of them wound up spending the night behind bars.

Hernando County Sheriff’s Detective Dustin Mormando, of the agency’s Economic Crimes Unit, was called to assist with the investigation. He said he interviewed the five suspects that evening and all of them admitted to taking part in a check-cashing scheme.

“I was told before I spoke to them that one of the women wanted to talk, so I knew going in I was going to have at least one (admission), but to get five in a row like that? Yeah, that’s very surprising. It’s not common at all,” said Mormando.

The arrest of the accused mastermind was considered a big one for the sheriff’s office – and for Publix. The crime ring has been extensive – stretching across Florida and beyond, according to a sheriff’s office media release.

The suspected ringleader, Leon “Slim” Stovall, 33, is accused of stealing about $1 million from Publix, one of the largest grocery chains in the Southeast.

Deputies said Stovall planned and supervised the operation, printed the counterfeit checks and altered the identification cards used by those who went into the stores.

Stovall told Mormando during his interview that his target was “Publix and only Publix” based on its lax check-cashing policy, the detective said.

Publix requires an identification and signature from someone who cashes a check of $500 or less. If it is fraudulent, they don’t find out from the bank until days later, according to the sheriff’s office.

“We have been working with local law enforcement for over a year on this case,” said Shannon Patten, a Publix spokeswoman. “This group of thieves targeted multiple Publix locations and cashed hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent checks.

“We are always updating our procedures and upgrading our systems to help reduce our exposure to check fraud,” Patten continued. “Check cashing crime is something we contend with daily and while we are thrilled that arrests have been made, we know it’s not over.”

Also arrested Friday were Amanda Renee Berry, 22, Tammy Anette Duncan, 41, Joshua Scott Hicks, 26, and Walter Clinton “Fresh” Ingram, 40.

Berry, Duncan and Hicks were accused of cashing the checks. Ingram was the driver, deputies said.

All five were charged with organized fraud.

Lt. Michael Burzumato, a sheriff office’s spokesman, said a rental vehicle, several altered identification cards, various cell phones, a laptop, printer, blank checks and more than $3,100 in cash were seized during the investigation.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also was involved with the case. Agents from that agency interviewed Stovall at the sheriff’s office, according to the media release.

Mormando said it was while he spoke with the FDLE agent in charge Monday that he realized how big of a case it was.

The FDLE had been investigating the check fraud for about 18 months, he said.

Stovall would recruit homeless people, pay to drive them out of town, put them up in hotels and provide them with fake identification cards, Mormando said.

He also would pay them with either cash or drugs, according to the sheriff’s office.

Stovall wanted his hired help to cash checks far away from the cities they lived so that no one could identify them on surveillance footage, said Mormando.

All of the suspects arrested Friday were from the Orlando area.

By the time he was caught, the excitement of overseeing a criminal enterprise had worn off for Stovall, said Mormando.

“He was tired of running and he wanted it to be over,” he said.

wholt@hernandotoday.com (352) 544-5283