Contractor's Probation Reduced In Tampa Housing Bribery Case
TAMPA - A building contractor who admitted taking bribes from former city housing chief Steve LaBrake has been released early from his probation sentence. Dean Ryan, 68, pleaded guilty in 2004 to bribing a public official and conspiracy to commit federal offenses. He testified in the LaBrake trial and was sentenced in 2005 to five years of probation and six months of house arrest. Ryan finished paying his court-ordered restitution of $72,000 in September, and his attorney filed a motion asking that his probation be terminated early. Today, U.S. District Judge Richard Lazarra granted the motion, shaving two years off Ryan's probation. LaBrake and his wife, Lynn, were convicted in November 2004 on more than 25 counts each of conspiracy and wire fraud and more than two dozen charges of accepting gratuities.Ryan had built the LaBrakes a 4,200-square-foot South Tampa home for a cut-rate price in exchange for several inflated home-building contracts paid for with federal dollars. He said during the trial that he didn't know he was committing a crime until he met with federal agents several times. His testimony was considered crucial to the government's case against the LaBrakes, which involved explaining a complex trail of money to jurors. Steve and Lynn LaBrake remain in prison. A judge sentenced them to five years and nearly 3 1/2 years in prison, respectively. Steve Labrake, incarcerated in Pensacola, has a projected release date of March 22, 2009. Lynn LaBrake, who is imprisoned in Orlando, is set to be released in June. Ryan's attorney, Ronald P. Hanes, wrote in his motion that Ryan's actions "were primarily the result of Steve LaBrake's manipulation rather than his own criminal intentions or greed." Hanes noted that LaBrake hired him to frame LaBrake's house and then "insisted on multiple and expensive additions," getting behind on payments. "LaBrake turned to Mr. Ryan to carry the expenses of the construction. Mr. Ryan had subcontractors and employees relying on him for their livelihood, and Mr. Ryan found himself in a very difficult position." Ryan paid $16,500 for a pool at LaBrake's residence and $13,379 for a credit card debt in exchange for LaBrake having the city award Ryan contrcts for 14 new homes, paying him $30,000. "Essentially, LaBrake used city contracts to pay off LaBrake's own debts through Mr. Ryan," Hanes wrote. Hanes described Ryan as "a simple and humble man" who "learned a painful lesson from this case." "As a result of this offense," Hanes wrote, "Mr. Ryan lost his career, company and reputation. ... Mr. Ryan has been punished to an extent that an additional two years of probation will not serve any considerable purpose."