Tampa transition program called fraudulent - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa transition program called fraudulent

Posted: Updated:
Travis Seaman, mugshot Travis Seaman, mugshot
Mike Graves, Lake County Public Defender Mike Graves, Lake County Public Defender
Ruben Alvarez, President/CEO, Touched by the Hand Ruben Alvarez, President/CEO, Touched by the Hand
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

A public defender says a Tampa based organization that claimed to offer counseling for the homeless, sex offenders and addicts pulled the wool over his office.

Mike Graves is the Public Defender for the 5th judicial circuit, which consists of Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties.  Last week, Graves sent a memo to all of his attorneys instructing them that Touched by the Hand Outreach Inc. (TBTHOI) is not a viable option for any of their cases.

"Never before have I had a case in which it was just basically all fraudulent with the exception of having a place to live... that all services were untrue," Graves said.

TBTHOI is a two building 8 apartment complex on Tampa's North 50th Street.

Its C-E-O and president is Ruben Alvarez, a convicted sex offender, with a lengthy criminal record.

In his literature, Alvarez claimed his organization offered AA/NA meetings, and a social skills department that provided education on computer skills.

Former Chief Operating Officer Lena Volmer contends those services did not exist.

"There's no computer access for the clients," Volmer said.

The organization's literature also states TBTHOI also worked with job placement agencies to provide employment.

"There are none, there's nothing within that facility that prepares these people for anything," Volmer stated.

Volmer says she donated items to TBTHOI through the years, state records show she became C.O.O. in March. Alvarez fired her a month later.

Last November, the Public Defender office recommended to a judge that instead of prison, 24 year old Travis Seaman, a convicted sex offender, who violated his probation, be sent to TBTOI for counseling.

Graves, who took office just this year, says Alvarez talked a good game and convinced a social worker and attorney in the office that TBTHOI offered what they needed.

"A secure living environment, that was something we thought would be important to the judge, drug abuse counseling, sex abuse counseling," Graves said.

A judge sent Seaman to TBTHOI to complete a 12 to 24 month transition program.

"It stated that it was a 9, 12 or 24 month program and then I got sentence to it and they told me that I had to graduate it, and I did graduate, but it was only like after four months that I graduated," Seaman said.

Graves contends the options for sex offenders are few. Other programs that his office contacted for placement recommended TBTHOI. He says Alvarez offered what the court was looking for.

"They did indicate that there would be some vocational training or at a minimum, assistance in finding work and that the program or the entity...would be available for anywhere between a 12 and 24 month period," Graves said.

"After a couple of days of being there I called my parents and the one guy who was helping me out and told them this place was nothing but a scam, but I had no other place to go," Seaman said.

Graves' office remained unaware of TBTHOI's shortcomings until 8 On Your Side started asking questions about why it recommended placing Seaman there.

"When I found these matters out, thanks to the media, I have emailed and instructed every attorney in our 5 county offices, that they are not to consider whatsoever this particular entity," Graves said.

Ruben Alvarez has not responded to a request for an interview. The founder and president of TBTHOI is now sitting in jail. He violated his probation when a urine sample tested positive for cocaine. A judge sentenced Alvarez to 5 years in state prison.

 

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Pinellas homeowner ends up the loser after local government mistake on property taxes

    Pinellas homeowner ends up the loser after local government mistake on property taxes

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 5:59 PM EDT2014-07-22 21:59:58 GMT
    This Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in PinellasThis Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in Pinellas
    Melanie and Jeffrey Cornwell should have been getting a tax break for years on part of the homestead property in Dunedin they call their "little piece of Heaven." But due to a mistake at the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office, they won't see any rebates for previous taxes, just a break on future tax bills.
    Melanie and Jeffrey Cornwell should have been getting a tax break for years on part of the homestead property in Dunedin they call their "little piece of Heaven." But due to a mistake at the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office, they won't see any rebates for previous taxes, just a break on future tax bills.
  • RECALL: Fruit at Trader Joe's & Costco

    RECALL: Fruit at Trader Joe's & Costco

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 5:45 PM EDT2014-07-22 21:45:14 GMT
    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.
    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.
  • How thieves clone your credit cards

    How thieves clone your credit cards

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 9:15 AM EDT2014-07-22 13:15:02 GMT
    File photoFile photo
    Patricia Stack didn't know her debit card number had been stolen until she tried to withdraw money from her bank account. "A couple weeks ago I tried to get money out to pay my power bill and there was nothing in it."
    Patricia Stack didn't know her debit card number had been stolen until she tried to withdraw money from her bank account. "A couple weeks ago I tried to get money out to pay my power bill and there was nothing in it."
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.