Lake County deputies could be cleared in illegal bar investment case

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. —

A current deputy and former Lake County law enforcement officer are still under investigation for their possibly illegal investments in a Tavares wine bar.

Maj. Gerry Montalvo was third in line at the Lake County Sheriff's Office, but the veteran resigned after becoming the focus of an internal affairs investigation into his involvement with a confidential informant and his investments in a new wine bar.

Also being investigated for his role in the wine bar is Deputy Shane Pitman. Authorities launched the investigations after learning Montalvo and Pitman handed over money to Pitman's wife and Montalvo's then-girlfriend to help open the Tavares bar.

According to Florida law, it is illegal for any law enforcement officer to be directly, or indirectly, involved with a place that sells alcohol.

But figuring out whether the two broke that law has not been easy for investigators. This week, Channel 9 learned officials went to the state Attorney General's Office to get an opinion.

The Sheriff's Office clearly wanted to make sure they had all their bases covered, so they came up with seven different scenarios of the deputies' involvement at the bar and put them into writing before sending them to the Attorney General's Office.

The attorney general sent an opinion back that was pretty clear cut, according to Channel 9's Kenneth Craig.

"As long as this deputy sheriff is not directly or indirectly participating in his wife's bar business, he doesn't run afoul of the law," said WFTV legal expert Bill Sheaffer.

In the end, Sheaffer said the opinion could clear the deputies.

"This was the best way for Sheriff (Gary) Borders to show there's not even the appearance of impropriety," said Sheaffer.

The Sheriff's Office wouldn't comment except to say the investigation is still ongoing.