(WFLA) — 2015 was a banner year of changes in the Tampa Bay area, thanks to the efforts of the WFLA 8 On Your Side investigative team.
Veteran investigative reporters Steve Andrews, Mark Douglas and Shannon Behnken uncovered illegal activity and unjust behavior and then pushed for change.
Here’s a look at what they accomplished in 2015-
Florida Senator Wilton Simpson wants to put a stop to home sellers lying about their dangerous sinkholes on real estate disclosure forms. This follows multiple 8 On Your Side investigations by Shannon Behnken into real estate disclosure fraud. (See video above)
In February, Largo police arrested former Down Syndrome Network of Tampa Bay president Shirley Lawyer on grand theft charges. Steve Andrews’ 8 On Your Side investigation began back in 2014. He discovered that Lawyer took $20,000 to $100,000 in funds that had been donated to the charity. Just this week, the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office filed formal charges against Lawyer
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) has just launched a new investigation of the beleaguered Edwinola Retirement home in response to an 8 on Your Side report about fire code failures in that assisted living facility in Dade City.
Pasco County residents, stuck with inexplicably high water bills, are getting relief after a 14-month 8 On Your Side investigation by Shannon Behnken. The investigation that started it all focused on a bill of more than $3,000.
Steve Andrews’ 8 On Your Side investigation into a nuisance home in Hillsborough county led the county to change its code enforcement ordinance. The home on Berkford Road was jammed with junk, mobile homes, trailers, garbage and dilapidated buildings, plus it owed $1 million in code enforcement fines. In four months 8 On Your Side accomplished what the county was unable to do in 17 years.
Florida insurance fraud detectives claim the two men solicited 97 homeowners for storm repairs covered by insurance, then pocketed the insurance money without doing any repairs. The alleged roof repair rip-off scheme was uncovered a year ago by an 8 On Your Side investigation by Mark Douglas.
7) Spring Hill couple found guilty of wire fraud after selling home but failing to disclose sinkhole underneath
8 On Your Side’s Shannon Behnken exposed the sale last fall, when the new buyers discovered the sinkhole and lost their homeowner’s insurance. 8 On Your Side did some digging and found the Jasens had cashed an insurance settlement check for $153,000 years earlier and failed to fix the hole. They cashed in again when they sold the house.
Steve Andrews raised questions about inaccurate billing for SunPass tolls during 2015. There were so many issues, Senator Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg helped change the penalty for late toll fees. Instead of people losing their licenses, registrations will be put on hold.