NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA)- A Pasco County judge denied James Staten’s request to be released from jail with no bond and instead lowered the bond from $2.8 million to just over $1 million.
Staten’s attorney argued that original $2.8 million bond was “almost offensive.” After the hearing, one of Staten’s attorneys told Investigator Shannon Behnken that the new bond set was still too high and that Staten would remain in jail for now.
Prosecutors argued that Staten is a flight risk due to the amount of time in jail he faces if found guilty on all 35 felony counts. The state alleges Staten committed fraud in relation to his company Olympus Pools, spending at least $1.3 million of customers’ funds on a “lavish’ lifestyle.
Better Call Behnken will have the latest on the court proceeding on what is next in this case today at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on WFLA News Channel 8.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says Staten used customers’ money to buy Super Bowl tickets worth more than $50,000 and expensive trips. In court, a financial investigator with FDLE testified that business credit cards were used on numerous personal expenses, including charges to Nordstrom department store and the luxury brand, Louis Vitton.
Staten’s mother testified that her son is a loving husband and father and needs to be home.
she said he stopped trying to finish pools only because the state of Florida forced him to relinquish his contractor’s license amid complaints.
Staten’s wife was in the courtroom but declined to speak.
Staten turned himself in at the Pasco County Jail last week. The FDLE said Staten is facing 35 counts related to fraud.
Mark Brutnell with FDLE said Staten defrauded 140 victims in Hillsborough, Pasco, Sarasota, Polk, Manatee and Pinellas counties.
Olympus Pools customer Carmen Simpson was in court and said she felt the judge was fair in her lower bond. Simpson said she was pleased to see Staten in court.
“It was a great feeling to see him there because of what I’ve gone through all these years with my pool. And it was a sad situation at the same time because I think it’s a lesson for all contractors, and I think every contractor should have been sitting in there and learning a lesson.”