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Tavares Mayor Suspended After Arrest for Insurance Fraud

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Florida governor Rick Scott issued an executive order Thursday suspending Tavares mayor Robert Wolfe after his arrest the afternoon before on one count of felony insurance fraud.

According to investigators, Wolfe received $17,234.65 from his homeowner's insurance policy to repair damage from two different water leaks. Once construction began, investigators say he told his insurance company that his home was unlivable on account of the construction, which involved having the flooring torn up, the kitchen disassembled, and the digging of a trench from his kitchen to a bathroom.

Wolfe then allegedly filed a claim for additional living expenses so he, his wife, and his three dogs could live in a rental house. Investigators said he told them that he needed to live in the rental residence for two months as living at his own home was not "practical or functional." He allegedly sought $9,300 for the purpose.

However, Wolfe is alleged to have later told investigators from the state Division of Insurance Fraud that he never left his own residence, nor paid anyone a rental fee. Investigators further claim to have surveilled both Wolfe's residence and the house he said he rented. They say that, over a four-day period, they noticed no activity within the rental home, but did notice two of Wolfe's vehicles at his residence as well as noting that lights were on within and that he was walking his dogs adjacent to his residence.

Investigators also claim that Wolfe told them "off the record" that he made the insurance claim to cover expenses he felt he was owed that he did not receive in the two prior claims.

Tavares Vice Mayor Lori Pfister is acting mayor in Wolfe's absence. She will appoint a replacement councilmember subject to the approval of a majority of the current council.

Wolfe has had a challenging year so far. In January, a member of the council moved unsuccessfully to have him removed from the body after his wife was allegedly involved in a domestic incident with her twin sister. Sharon Wolfe was arrested early on January 2 for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon (domestic), false imprisonment, and obstruction of 9-1-1. She was arrested three days later for violating her pre-trial release. Ultimately Sharon received probation on those charges.

In early May, Robert Wolfe was arrested for allegedly discharging a firearm in his residence the prior month. Sharon made the initial claim that led to the arrest, but allegedly changed her story, which led to her arrest on charges of perjury and violation of probation on May 16. Sharon is currently being held at Lake County Jail on those charges.

Robert, who operates a tile and marble contracting company, bonded out at around 6:30 Wednesday afternoon. His arraignment is scheduled for August 8.

As a Florida Board Certified Criminal Attorney and nationally certified Criminal Trial Lawyer, Bjorn Brunvand has defended clients in both state and Federal court against white-collar crimes like insurance fraud, tax fraud, embezzlement, public corruption, and perjury, among others. Contact him today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area charges.

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