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Police: Teacher tried to hire hit man

PLANT CITY, Fla., Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Police in Florida said they have arrested a teacher accused of attempting to have a former colleague killed.

The Plant City Police Department said James Pepe, 55, was arrested Thursday outside of Bloomingdale High School on a charge of solicitation of first-degree murder, the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times reported Friday.

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Police said Pepe and Robert Meredith were initially on friendly terms when they bought taught at Strawberry Crest High School in Dover, but they started feuding for reasons not revealed by officers and Pepe eventually transferred to Bloomingdale High.

"This relationship got to a point where Pepe felt that any negative thing that happened to him at work, he thought Meredith was behind it," Officer Tray Towles said.

Towles said Pepe came to believe Meredith was spreading rumors about him.

"Meredith was allegedly telling everybody (Pepe) was a child molester," Towles said.

Police said a friend of Pepe's contacted them in August and said the teacher had attempted to hire him to kill Meredith.

The police department and the FBI set up a sting operation and an undercover officer contacted Pepe and claimed to be a hit man contacted by his friend.

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Police said Pepe told the undercover officer during the Sept. 13 call "he had an issue he might need taken care of" for a fee of $2,000.

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