Some Florida leaders benefited from money taken by St. Pete special needs trust company founder

Some Florida leaders benefited from money taken by St. Pete special needs trust company founder

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Some former state leaders are offering to donate money they received from a man accused of taking $100 million from the St. Petersburg trust fund company he founded for people with disabilities.

Leo Govoni is accused of taking the money in the form of loans between 2009 and 2020 from the Center for Special Needs Trust Administration to one of his companies, Boston Finance Group, in Clearwater. During that time, Govoni made several campaign contributions.

Although it's been a decade since Govoni donated $2,000 to former State Sen. Jeff Brandes' campaign in 2014 and his campaign account no longer exists, Brandes said he'd donate that money from his personal account to help families impacted by this situation.

RELATED: Court records reveal how much families lost in case of embattled Pinellas special needs trust company

"It was devastating, and I can only imagine it was just a gut punch to think that these allegations could be true," Brandes told FOX 13 Monday. "Whatever I can do to make them whole. You know, clearly, I don't want to have to go to bed at night thinking about kids suffering that fully expected their lifetime of needs to be taken care of, only to find out that they were robbed."

Other politicians who benefited from donations from Govoni, whose business roots run deep in Pinellas County, include Attorney General Ashley Moody, former Florida Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls and former State Rep. Chris Latvala. FOX 13 reached out to each of them and only Latvala commented Monday in a statement that read:

"The donations in question are from nearly a decade ago and those campaign accounts have long been closed and the funds dispensed of. The situation is a tragic one but Mr. Govoni has not been convicted of any crime or found guilty of any wrong doing. In the event that he is, I will be making a contribution to the victims impacted by his actions."

PREVIOUS: State attorney general watching St. Pete special needs trust’s bankruptcy, accusations founder took $100M

Govoni, meanwhile, has ignored all recent attempts by FOX 13 to contact him. He has previously said he denies the allegations against him.

FOX 13 first broke the story last month, when the Center filed for bankruptcy and accused Govoni of taking money from more than 1,500 trusts, leaving some completely drained of, in some cases, millions of dollars. Court records show one account was drained of more than $4.5 million.

Govoni, Boston Finance Group and his business partners are now at the center of a class action lawsuit. Last week, an attorney for Govoni filed a motion to halt the lawsuit for now.

READ: St. Pete special needs trust fund founder accused of taking $100M becomes target of lawsuit: Court records

In that filing, Govoni's attorney included a series of loan agreements between him and the Center, which began at $2.5 million in 2009 and rose to $100 million by 2012. A Center spokesperson said that's the first time anyone not associated with Govoni has seen those documents.

The bankruptcy filing claimed some of Govoni's associates oversaw the Center's finances and accounting, helping him hide the loans and prevent the Center's new leadership from accessing critical documents, including the ones filed as evidence last week.

This comes as a court-appointed trustee, who is tasked with running the Center, reportedly indicated he plans to close it down and find another company to administer the trusts.


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