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Man Forced Woman, 85, to Buy Meat, Pinellas Deputies Say

Erick J. Harmon | Andrew Tsaffaras | Ronald Vanwie Jr.

The woman said she was terrified of him and paid $200 for the meat for her safety, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said. Pinellas County Consumer Protection had two others arrested who worked for the same company.

LARGO – A St. Petersburg man is accused of strong arm robbery during which he allegedly forced an 85-year-old woman to pay $200 for meat she did not want, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said.

Ronald. Vanwie Jr., 43, of St. Petersburg, was charged with one count each of robbery, burglary, theft from person over 65 years of age, home solicitation without a permit, and failure to provide a three-day right to cancel.

Two other men who work for the same Pinellas Park company as Vanwie were also arrested in connection with unrelated cases investigated by Pinellas County Consumer Protection.

Consumer Protection officials charged Andrew Tsaffaras, 56, of Clearwater, with five counts of home solicitation sale without a permit, five counts of failure to provide a three-day right to cancel, three counts of burglary, and one count of scheme to defraud.

Consumer Protection officials charged Erick J. Harmon, 39, of Seminole, with one count each of burglary, scheme to defraud, home solicitation sale without a permit, and failure to give a three-day right to cancel sale.

Sheriff’s detectives said they began investigating Vanwie on May 11 after Shirley McGathey, 85, reported a robbery to deputies. McGathey told deputies she was outside of her Largo residence
to get her mail when Vanwie approached her and tried to sell her some meat.

McGathey, who was recently injured and uses a walker, told deputies that she told Vanwie she did not want to buy the meat but he followed her to the front door of her residence. McGathey told
Vanwie again she was not interested in buying meat and tried to go inside her home. McGathey tried to lock the front door but Vanwie forced his way into her home.

Investigators said McGathey repeatedly told Vanwie to leave her home and he refused. Vanwie insisted she was going to buy meat from him and became increasingly more aggressive each time she declined to purchase the meat.

McGathey told detectives she was frightened of Vanwie who insisted she pay $500 for the package of meat. McGathey told Vanwie she did not have $500, but would pay $200 if he would leave her home. Vanwie placed the unwanted package of meat in her freezer, collected the $200 check from McGathey, and left her home.

Investigators said McGathey told them she was terrified of Vanwie and was forced to pay him for her safety.

Deputies said Vanwie has a past history of reported aggressive meat sales and a conviction of home solicitation without a permit.

Detectives arrested Vanwie at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday (May 31).

During the investigation, deputies said the learned that Pinellas Consumer Protection was investigating cases with the same modus operandi involving two additional employees of the Pinellas Park grocery that employs Vanwie.

On Friday (June 1), Consumer Protection officials got arrest warrants for Tsaffaras and Harmon. Detectives from the Sheriff’s Office helped arrest them.

The investigation continues and detectives are asking anyone with additional information and or who might have been a victim to contact the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Detective J. Holden at (727) 582-6200 or e-mail him at jholden@pcsonet.com.

Photo shows, from left, Erick J. Harmon, Andrew Tsaffaras, and Ronald Vanwie Jr.

Pinellas Sheriff | Pinellas Consumer Protection | Crime | Arrests | Tampabay News

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Man Forced Woman, 85, to Buy Meat, Pinellas Deputies Say
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Man Forced Woman, 85, to Buy Meat, Pinellas Deputies Say
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The woman said she was terrified of him and paid $200 for the meat for her safety, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said. Pinellas County Consumer Protection had two others arrested who worked for the same company.
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TB Reporter
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