SAO INVESTIGATION: Sebring man charged with fraud

SEBRING – After a three-month investigation by State Attorney’s Office Investigator Stephen Menge, Robert Stephen Wiggins, 32, of 3745 Sparta Road in Sebring, was arrested Thursday and charged with scheme to defraud, five counts of grand theft, six counts of contracting without a license and workers compensation fraud.

Robert Wiggins

He obtained $14,861.36 from multiple victims. Wiggins was arrested Thursday and was held on a $10,000 bond for his charges but has since bonded out.

The State Attorney’s Office was originally contacted on April 25 by a citizen who wished to file fraud complaints against Wiggins. Since then, a total of 12 victims came forward to file complaints.

Wiggins worked as a handy man in the stock room for K Signs & Aluminum in Sebring. Since window rescreening was Wiggins’ specialty, he would often be sent out to do those jobs.

While out on the job, Wiggins would solicit additional work from the homeowners, and he would find work through referrals from neighbors.

Wiggins told most of the victims he’d need a deposit before starting the construction. In many of the cases, he started some of the work but never returned to complete it.

The work Wiggins solicited required him to be licensed as a “Specialty Structure Contractor.”

An investigator with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation found “no evidence that Robert Wiggins has ever had a current or active license as a state registered or state certified construction contractor…”

If you believe you are one of Wiggins’ victims, please contact Investigator Menge at 863-534-4920 or smenge@sao10.com.

SENTENCING UPDATE: Gainey sentenced to 30 years for DUI manslaughter

William Gainey – convicted of two counts of DUI manslaughter – was sentenced to 30 years in prison by Judge J. Dale Durrance Friday morning.

Patresa Ivey, left, mother of the 4-year-old victim, tells Judge J. Dale Durrance about how the death of her son and husband affected her. She and other family members talked during the sentencing Friday morning about how Gainey’s actions impacted them.

The sentencing follows a jury trial from last month where Gainey was found guilty.

On May 29, 2015, Gainey, 62, of Lake Wales, mixed alcohol and narcotics before driving and striking the vehicle of Christopher Ivey, killing him and his 4-year-old son, Jayden.

In Friday’s sentencing, Assistant State Attorney Melissa Gravitt stated Gainey doubled his oxycodone intake and drank alcohol before operating a vehicle and slamming into the back of the Ivey’s vehicle at almost 80 MPH. Gravitt said Gainey accelerated just before impact, requesting that Durrance issue the maximum sentence.

Family members of the victims wept as Durrance said Gainey would spend two consecutive 15-year sentences for both counts.

Prior to Durrance’s decision, family members gave their final comments to Durrance and showed him pictures of the victims prior to his decision.

William Gainey, 62, of Lake Wales, sits in the courtroom during his sentencing Friday morning. Judge J. Dale Durrance sentenced Gainey to 30 years in prison after he was convicted of two counts of DUI manslaughter.

“Reality didn’t set in,” Jayden Ivey’s mother, Patresa Ivey said. “I thought the next morning they were coming home.”

Another family member said she didn’t think any time Gainey served would be enough after he took two lives away.

Ryan Ivey, Jayden’s 12-year-old brother, approached Durrance to talk about his father and brother but broke down crying and had to be helped back to his seat.

Gainey apologized to the family and was taken from the courtroom by bailiffs after the sentencing.

JURY VERDICT: Lea guilty, faces life in prison

After a 25-minute deliberation by the jury Thursday, 24-year-old Stephen Lea was found guilty of three felonies, punishable by life in prison.

Assistant State Attorney Mattie Hardin shows members of the jury that the State Attorney’s Office has met its burden by proving each of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt in all charges brought against Lea. The jury found Lea guilty of all three counts after only 25 minutes of deliberation.

Lea, of Lakeland, was convicted of robbery with a firearm, shooting deadly missiles into an occupied vehicle and aggravated assault with a firearm following a two-day trial.

The case was investigated and submitted by the Lakeland Police Department (LakelandPD), whose members testified in court both Wednesday and Thursday.

On June 18, 2014, Lea – a convicted felon on probation – was an accomplice to a robbery where the victim was struck with a firearm and had about $250 stolen from him.

Lea testified Thursday saying his involvement in the crime was necessary. Lea claimed a man who was with him robbed the victim, got in the car and pointed a gun at him, forcing Lea to drive the vehicle and flee.

But in closing statements Thursday, Assistant State Attorney Mattie Hardin reminded the jury that Lea sat in the car and waited on the co-defendant for three minutes while the crime took place instead of leaving the scene.

While attempting to flee after the victim was struck and robbed, Lea intentionally tried to run over the victim before suggesting the co-defendant should harm him.

“You encouraged (the co-defendant) to take care of the witness with that gun,” Hardin said.

She said Lea told him to “Just shoot him (the victim), and stop wasting time.”

After the crime, Hardin said, Lea spent a month evading the police with the co-defendant.

“You don’t hide from the police with somebody who held a gun to you in order to commit a crime. You don’t plan to run away with someone who held a gun to you in order to commit a crime,” Hardin said in her closing statement.

“You don’t get to do any of these things without being held responsible,” she said.

Lea’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 5.