A couple renting the big house behind the bright white fence seemed like excellent tenants, their landlord says. They paid their rent on time. They kept the grass neatly trimmed.
Neighbors watched the pair light tiki torches along the driveway in the evenings. The torches led floods of cars beyond the picket fence onto the property at the end of a dead-end street.
“We are a party family,” the property’s owner, Sheriff Iguaran, recalled his tenants explaining when they rented the house about a year ago.
“As long as there is no crime activity, I don’t have any problem,” responded Iguaran, who owns and lives in the house next door.
It wasn’t until last week, he said, that he learned his renters at 11326 Brightridge Drive in Seffner hosted what authorities have called an illegal swingers club.
Iguaran said he received a letter from county code enforcement about the alleged business and notified his tenants of the infraction by certified mail.
Authorities stepped in Saturday, arresting tenants Steven Bowers, 56, and Cynthia Bowers, 55, both of St. Petersburg.
They say the Bowers’ social activities at the rental house had boomed into an unlicensed sex club business, where swingers partied and singles paid to mingle. Alcohol flowed with a bring-your-own-bottle policy.
Also arrested were Ricky Zabala, 55, and his wife. Pamela Zabala, 54, of Orlando, who authorities say helped operate the swingers club.
All four face charges of operating a sexually oriented business without a license and operating a bottle club without proper zoning and licensing. All four were released from jail Saturday.
Reached by phone Sunday, Cynthia Bowers and Ricky Zabala both declined to comment.
Authorities say Iguaran, as a landlord, isn’t liable for actions inside his rental house.
He said he wasn’t aware of what detectives say they discovered inside the rental house: three bedrooms lined with beds, a dancing pole in the living room, a spanking table and large-screen televisions playing pornographic movies.
“I don’t see nothing,” he said, “nothing against my policies as a landlord.”
He lives on the same fenced-in property and gives addresses for both houses in an annual report filed with the state in April for an Hispanic modeling agency he runs called Bellas Y Zenzuales.
He said he wanted to distance himself from the incident. It’s up to his tenants, he said, to resolve the issue with law enforcement.
“That’s not my business,” he said.
Neighbors said they could tell something was happening inside the two-story house. The bustle of traffic on a dead-end road, said Chad Van Meter, 26, was a tip-off.
“It’s about time,” he said. “I figured they’d get busted sooner or later.”
St. Petersburg Times