Top 5 at noon: A Tampa lawyer, his friend and a tale of greed and deceit; nearly 400 high-end apartments to become part of Midtown Tampa project; and more

Tampa lawyer Walter

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.

A TAMPA LAWYER, HIS FRIEND AND A TALE OF GREED AND DECEIT

Not long after moving to Florida, Andrew Berke met Tampa real estate lawyer Walter "Chet" Little. Berke, an executive with a shipping company, and Little, a $400,000 a year partner in a top Tampa law firm, soon became friends. For over a year the men texted back and forth — often in code — about other public companies represented by Little’s firm. All were in confidential talks about mergers and other actions that would affect their stock prices. Meanwhile, the men’s bank accounts began to swell — eventually by a total of more than $700,000. After their arrests, one would quickly admit he acted out of greed. One would later claim a bipolar condition had distorted his judgment. As often happens with the specter of years behind bars, one friend turned against the other.

PREMIUM CIGARS HAVE SECOND CHANCE TO GAIN EXEMPTION FROM FDA REGULATION

A "Save This Factory" banner will be re-hung next week on J.C. Newman Cigar’s Ybor City factory, and the company’s SaveCigarCity.com website lobbying against government oversight of premium cigars will be re-launched. Both were tactics company president Eric Newman used to fight the Food and Drug Administration as the agency weighed whether to lump in premium cigars with mass-produced stogies, vaporizers and e-cigarettes as part of its regulatory expansion over tobacco. His effort failed and, in 2016, the FDA chose to regulate premium cigars. But Newman and his industry now have a second chance under a new administration that touts itself as anti-regulation and pro-business.

MASSIVE MIDTOWN TAMPA PROJECT SIGNS CRESCENT COMMUNITIES TO BUILD 390 APARTMENTS

Crescent Communities has built hundreds of high-end apartments around Tampa in recent years and will build 390 more above a base of ground-floor stores and restaurants as part of the $500 million Midtown Tampa project, developers announced today. Construction on the Novel Midtown Tampa apartments is scheduled to begin late this year, with completion expected in the second half of 2020. The apartments will be part of Midtown Tampa’s 1.8 million square feet of office, residential, retail, entertainment and hospitality development on 22 acres at the southeastern corner of Interstate 275 and Dale Mabry Highway.

WILL ALABAMA/ARIZONA STATE TRANSFER BLAKE BARNETT FLOURISH AT USF?

Naturally, the reports of former Alabama/Arizona State QB Blake Barnett moving on to USF might prompt Bulls fans to ponder the success rate of prominent graduate-transfer quarterbacks. Well, our homework has shown history provides nary a clue as to how Barnett might perform in green and gold. Fact is, grad transfers have performed with wildly varying degrees of success at football’s most scrutinized position. Check out some who have flourished, and others who have flopped.

AN OPEN LETTER TO JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE BEFORE HIS TAMPA SHOW

Look, Justin. We love what you do, Jay Cridlin writes. You are a valued member of the pop music community. It’s why you headlined this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, why your new album Man of the Woods debuted at No. 1, why your concert Tuesday at Amalie Arena is virtually sold out. But it’s also pretty clear you’re no longer the world’s biggest pop star. You might not even be in the top 10. People are talking, Justin. The New Yorker called your halftime show "oddly benign" and "eerily un-self-aware." Your Metacritic scores are in the 50s. The pendulum of public perception is swinging. Is it fair of us to ask what went wrong?

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