When Orange County deputies arrested Frank Bower last month for allegedly trying to break into a mansion, investigators say the 54-year-old immediately admitted to taking part in a violent Windermere home invasion days earlier.
[VIDEO: Local 6's first report]
Confessing sins is nothing new to Bower, who became a pastor and founded a religious-based organization after he says he spent years working for the mafia, a job Bower claims once landed him on Florida's death row.
Although supporters say the pastor has helped hundreds of people through his ministry, a Local 6 investigation has found that many of the colorful stories Bower has shared about his life are not true.
"I grew up in the Gambino family," Bower told the congregation of the NewLife Church in Sullivan, Illinois while visiting as a guest speaker there in 2010. "I was 18 years old, graduated high school, and went to work for the mob."
Bower claimed he was smuggling cigars from Cuba in 1979 when some men ambushed him.
"I came into the Everglades and they tried to stop us there and rob us and I shot two guys. Killed one of them. He was an off-duty cop," said Bower.
Bower was sentenced to death for that murder, the pastor told the church congregation.
"I was 19 years old and headed for death row. It's exactly where I ended up. Florida State Penitentiary death row," said Bower. "If you've ever heard of (serial killer) Ted Bundy, he was a roommate."
Bower explained that he was released from prison in 1982 after an appeals court overturned his murder conviction.
But Local 6 has confirmed Bower's story is pure fantasy.
"He was never on death row," said Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jessica Cary.
State records show Bower has never been arrested for murder. In October 1981, while Bower claims he was locked up in prison, records show police in Citrus County stopped him for reckless driving.
In a recent book written about Bower's life, "The Incredible Journey of a Mafia Soldier", the pastor claims he was sent to prison in 1987 for shooting someone else.
"Two would-be tough guys tried to rob me and my crew of about $50,000 worth of anabolic steroids I was carrying," Bower claims in the book. "And they paid for it with their lives."
Court records confirm Pinellas County deputies arrested Bower in November 1987 for possessing and selling steroids while carrying a firearm, but he was not charged with shooting anyone. Department of Corrections records show Bower spent just three months incarcerated in a minimum security facility and a work release center.
Bower was released from custody on May 12, 1988. He would not be arrested again for another 26 years to the day, when Orange County deputies say he and three accomplices attempted to break into the Dr. Phillips area home of former N'Sync boy band member Joey Fatone.
Bower, Henry Contreras, Johnathan Contreras, and Andres Perez are also accused of taking part in a robbery at the mansion of Windermere businessman Bill Kitchen less than two weeks earlier. Surveillance photos Kitchen posted on Facebook show him and his female companion tied up as men wearing ninja masks rob his home.
After damaging phones and computers which the couple could have used to call for help, the robbers stole more than $26,000 in cash and jewelry before driving off with Kitchen's car, according to investigators. The vehicle was recovered a few miles away.
Once Bower got out of prison in 1988, he claims he went to work for mob boss John Gotti.
"I became John's personal bodyguard," Bower told the church congregation in 2010. "I loved John. He was like a dad to me." Bower also bragged about his relationship with mobster Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, who Bower described as his "best friend."
"The power and fame that came with that is crazy," said Bower. "The money was incredible."
Local 6 has been unable to verify whether or not Bower really worked for the mafia.
In a 2001 St. Petersburg Times article, Bower never mentioned having ties to organized crime. Instead, Bower told the newspaper he was working a general manager for a Homosassa car dealership during the late '80s.
"Selling cars was a good and legitimate cover for all his underworld activities with the mob," author Bill Keith wrote in his book about Bower.