May 5, 2015

Deputy needs help identifying credit card fraud suspect

Deputy Nick Whiteman says he needs help identifying a credit card fraud suspect operating in the Marathon area.

On April 30th, Deputy Whiteman responded to the Publix in Marathon and met with the store manager. She told him she suspects a male who has been in the store several times over the past couple of months is using stolen or fake credit cards.

She told Deputy Whiteman uses the cards to buy cartons of cigarettes. On this particular occasion, there were three transactions. One was declined, then approved when he used another card.

Photos were captured of him by surveillance cameras in the store. Deputy Whiteman is hoping someone will recognize him from the photos and call us with his identity so we can further investigate.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, tall and muscular with tattoos on both arms. Anyone with information about this person should contact the Sheriff’s Office. Callers may also contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Tipsters can remain anonymous and, if a tip leads to an arrest in the case, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line at or via a text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.

Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony

Multiple boat burglaries in Marathon

Sheriff’s detectives are investigating multiple boat burglaries in the Marathon area.

The owner of a 29 foot Catamaran center console boat kept at a home on Mockingbird Lane called Monday afternoon to report his electronics taken from his boat overnight, including a Chartplotter, Sonar controller and a stereo.
The owner of a 37 foot boat kept at a home on Calle De Luna reported his electronics were removed from his vessel sometime between Sunday night and Monday, including two GPS / Chartplotter / Radar units and a Garmin Autopilot.
A woman who lives on Copa D’ Oro called to report her neighbor’s boat had been burglarized. She said she keeps an eye on the boat while the owner is out of town. Detectives did find evidence items had been removed from the vessel. They are attempting to contact the owner to find out exactly what items were taken.
The owner of a boat kept on Santa Barbara said his 23 foot Parker center console boat had been burglarized between Sunday night and Monday. Suspects removed a Chartplotter / GPS unit and several rod and reel combinations.
Deputy Kendall Baily, while on patrol on Mockingbird Lane, found a boat burglary. The center console catamaran had electronics missing from it. He spoke with the vessel’s owner who was not at the residence. He will be returning to the residence today to determine exactly was taken from his boat.
The owner of a boat on Copa D’ Oro called Monday to report his 20 foot Mako center console vessel had been burglarized. Suspects removed a Yeti cooler, speakers and a Garmin GPS.
While Deputy Nick Whiteman was investigating another boat burglary on Copa D’ Ora, he found another boat on that street – a 28 foot Grady White - had been burglarized. Suspects had attempted to remove the lower units from the motors, but were unable to because they had locks installed. Suspects removed two Garmin GPS units from the boat.

The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone that crimes such as these are preventable. We recommend not leaving expensive equipment on board your vessel when it is not in use.

Anyone with information about these crimes should contact the Sheriff’s Office. Callers may also contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Tipsters can remain anonymous and, if a tip leads to an arrest in the case, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line at or via a text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.

Business burglaries on Stock Island

Sheriff’s detectives are investigating multiple burglaries and attempted burglaries to businesses on Stock Island.

Hansen and Bringle Cabinets – the owner arrived at work at 3:20 a.m. Monday to find a window broken, a cabinet pried open along with a lock box. A shed was also broken into.
El Mocho Restaurant – The owner arrived at work at 6 a.m. Monday to find the cash register tampered with and cash gone. Suspect made entry through a rear window.
CBT Construction – The owners reported someone broke into their trailer, which was parked at a property on Avenue A they were working on, and stole tools and equipment inside. 
S & V Hardware – Deputy Matt Dowling was on patrol at 6:20 a.m. Sunday when he checked the property and found someone tried to pry open the side door of the business. There was considerable damage to the side door and the lock that secures it. A shed on the property that belongs to someone else also showed damage from someone trying to force the door.
Standard Marine Supply – The owner arrived at work Sunday afternoon to find someone smashed a window at the rear of the business. It does not appear any entry to the building took place.

Anyone with information about these crime should contact the Sheriff’s Office. Callers may also contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Tipsters can remain anonymous and, if a tip leads to an arrest in the case, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line at or via a text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.

Detention deputy arrested in Homestead

A Monroe County Sheriff’s detention deputy was arrested Monday night for child abuse.

47 year old Juan Cotto was hired by the Sheriff’s Office in April of 2012 as a detention deputy. He is currently assigned to a post at the Marathon jail facility.

Homestead Police placed him under arrest for child abuse – not causing bodily harm. Details of the arrest should be obtained from that agency.

At this time, Cotto’s employment status is under review.

May 4, 2015

This week is National Correctional Officers and Employees Week

This week – May 3rd to the 9th - our agency and others across the nation take time out to recognize the employees working in our three detention facilities in Monroe County. This is National Correctional Officers and Employees Week.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation creating this special week. Employees working in detention facilities have a difficult job. They are charged with working in a truly stressful environment and at the same time, ensuring the custody, safety and well-being of those under their care.

Please join the Sheriff’s Office in thanking all of our Corrections deputies and employees for their hard work and dedication.

Naples man found dead offshore

A 30 year old man from Naples, Florida was found dead offshore of Big Pine Key Sunday.

Detectives from the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit say there were no signs of foul play and no evidence of trauma on the body of Kevin Ferreira.

Ferreira arrived in the Keys on Friday and checked into the Big Pine Fishing Lodge. He then was seen launching his boat just before 9 a.m. He never returned to shore.

On Sunday, when his family had not heard from him, they called the lodge and realized he was missing. They then called the U.S. Coast Guard.

While that agency was searching for Ferreira, good Samaritans riding personal watercraft spotted his boat near Cook’s Island at 2 p.m. They then located his body on a sandbar near the boat.

Ferreira’s body was brought in to shore with the assistance of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and has been turned over to the Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the cause of his death.

Fraud / Grand theft suspect caught in Ohio

A woman who took part in a scheme to defraud the Tom Thumb convenience store in Key Largo of cash in April was arrested in Ohio.

On April 3rd, the clerk from the Tom Thumb store received a call from someone purporting to be from the store’s corporate office. The caller said he would be sending someone by to pick up cash to pay an invoice, along with two cartons of cigarettes.

A woman later came to the store, said she was the daughter of the person sent by the corporate office, and picked up cash and cigarettes. The clerk later checked with the store manager who told him to call the Sheriff’s Office because she knew the corporate office would never do such a thing.

Surveillance video showed the vehicle the woman arrived in. The Ohio tag was traced to 34 year old Kristy Eiler of Hamilton, Ohio. A photo of Eiler was positively identified by the clerk.

A warrant was issued for her arrest and on April 25th, she was picked up in that state on the Monroe County warrant. She will be returned here to face charges of grand theft and fraud.

Here is a link to her booking information in Hamilton County, Ohio.

May 3, 2015

Two arrested in connection with burglary

A couple was arrested Saturday after burglarizing two trailers at Galway Bay trailer park in Marathon.

Deputy Greg LaRochelle responded to Galway Bay Trailer Park Saturday afternoon to reports of a burglary to one of the trailers in the park. The victim told him he came home at 4 p.m. and found 31 year old Nicholas Belanger in the bedroom of his trailer. He said Belanger had taken his 9mm pistol from the nightstand and was holding it when he walked in. The victim said when he confronted Belanger, Belanger threw the gun on the bed and pushed him, then fled from the trailer.

The victim was able to identify Belanger because Belanger used to live in the trailer next door. When Deputy LaRochelle checked the trailer next door, he found evidence Belanger had also entered that residence.

Witnesses who live nearby told Deputy LaRochelle they saw Belanger enter both trailers at about 4 p.m. Saturday. They said he was riding in a green sport utility vehicle driven by a woman, later identified as 26 year old Kayla Courtemanche. They said they saw Belanger come running from one trailer and jump in the SUV, which then quickly drove away.

Investigations by Detective Scott Ward indicated the couple might be in the area of Big Pine Key, where Courtemanche lives with her father. Deputy Andrew Hudson spotted the green SUV – a Kia Sportage – southbound at the 31.5 mm at 5:30 p.m.He attempted to stop the vehicle on 1st Street but briefly lost sight of it. He caught up with it at 1st Street and Avenue H. Courtemanche was driving.

She was initially uncooperative, but later admitted Belanger had been in the car with her and had fled from the vehicle on foot. She was arrested and charged with being an accessory to Belanger’s crimes.

Just before 9 p.m., Deputy Darren Jensen spotted Belanger walking on Avenue A, Big Pine Key. Belanger was taken into custody. He was charged with burglary with battery on the occupant, armed burglary, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and resisting arrest.

Woman arrested for forging doctor’s note

A 45 year old woman was arrested for forging a doctor’s signature on a note excusing her from work.

Deputy Vicki Fleck-Lockwood responded to Dr. George Peterson’s office. The doctor told her he was contacted by the Monroe County School Board about one of his patients. He said he’d seen her in October and given her a note excusing her from work for one day. According to the school board, she had turned in a note with his signature on it excusing her from work for three weeks.

Deputy Fleck-Lockwood met with Amy Wardlow, who admitted altering the doctor’s note. She was arrested and charged with fraudulently using another person’s identity without their permission. She was booked into jail.

Two arrested on marijuana charges

A traffic stop at 10 p.m. Saturday led to the arrest of two Key West men after a large amount of marijuana was found in their car.

Deputy William Daniels was on Long Key when he saw a vehicle southbound with a headlight out. He pulled the car over on North Conch Key, at the 63 mile marker. When he approached the car he could smell the odor of marijuana inside.

The passenger, 19 year old Shayne Alongi, handed over a small plastic bag with two marijuana cigarettes inside. Both men said there was no more marijuana in the car. Deputy Daniels then asked Alongi and the driver, 18 year old Adam Lepine, to step out of the car so he could search it.

A plastic bag with marijuana and several items of drug paraphernalia were found in a backpack. More marijuana was found in a red duffle bag and in suitcases in the back of the car. A total of 111 grams of the illegal substance were seized, along with a grinder, a scale and other drug paraphernalia.

Alongi was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Lepine was charged with possession of marijuana, four counts possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Both men were taken to jail.

May 1, 2015

Woman arrested for elderly abuse

A 59 year old Marathon woman was arrested Thursday for elderly abuse.

The 90 year old victim told Deputy John Babula he and Judith St. Clair got into an argument at 7:45 p.m. over money. He said during the argument she pushed him several times. The victim went out onto the balcony of his home and yelled to his neighbors for help, asking them to call the Sheriff’s Office.

The neighbors intervened in the confrontation and called the Sheriff’s Office. St. Clair was placed under arrest. She was charged with battery on a person over 65 years of age, elderly abuse and, because she struggled with deputies as they took her into custody, she was charged with resisting arrest.

April 30, 2015

Communications Division video recently put together this great video showing our Communications Division in action. Take a look!

This week marks anniversary of officer’s death

Monroe County – This week marks the anniversary of the line-of-duty death of Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Alexander. Deputy Alexander died in a traffic accident May 3rd, 1998 while working road patrol for the Sheriff's Office in the Key Largo district.

He had just left roll call at the Plantation Key Substation and was on the way to his duty station at the Ocean Reef Resort. For some reason, he pulled off of the highway and onto Val Jean Way, in Tavernier. He was stopped at a stop sign at Val Jean Way and Highway U.S. One when he pulled out into the path on an oncoming semi-tractor trailer truck, and was broadsided on the driver’s side of his vehicle by the truck.

Deputy Alexander had worked for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office for just less than a year. He’d previously worked for the Miami-Dade Police Department for 16 years, leaving that department as a lieutenant. He worked for the Sheriff’s Office on the midnight shift as a deputy at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo. He was also on the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.

April 29, 2015

Accident with road block

Update: 10:10 a.m. - Northbound traffic is now moving at the 78 mile marker.

Road block at the 78mm. Dump truck collided with another vehicle. truck is on its side and debris is in the road.

Man arrested for giving false information

A 19 year old man from Summerland Key was arrested Tuesday, charged with giving false information to law enforcement during the course of a home invasion robbery investigation.

The crime took place on May 27th of last year on Grassy Key. During the robbery, shots were fired and one man was hit. A lengthy investigation took place and a number of people were arrested in connection with the crime, which turned out to be drug related.

During the investigation, 19 year old Jacob Paquette gave false information to deputies and detectives. He later admitted to the falsehoods.

On Tuesday, he was charged with making a false report to a law enforcement officer. He was booked into jail on the charges.

Vehicle hits bicyclist, Islamorada

A vehicle struck a pedestrian this morning in Islamorada. The bicyclist was airlifted by Trauma Star to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami to be treated for his injuries. The crash took place at midnight at the 84.5mm of the highway. The roadway was closed for approximately an hour and a half, but traffic was diverted onto the old highway. Florida Highway Patrol is the investigating agency in this case.

April 28, 2015

Lower Keys - Alcohol Coalition Checks

On April 23, 2015, The Special Investigations Division conducted an operation checking businesses that sell alcohol in the Lower Keys.  Twelve businesses were checked including restaurants, convenience stores and bars.  Two of the businesses served alcohol to a minor during the checks.  The two clerks who sold the alcohol were issued Notices to Appear before a Monroe County Judge. 

The following are a list of the Businesses, and attendants who sold the alcohol:

Dion’s Quickmart –  30989 Avenue A, Big Pine Key, FL. Attendant: Mary E. Whylie, 53 years of age.  Notice to appear issued (NTA).

Murray’s Market –  24550 Overseas Highway, Summerland Key, FL.  Attendant: Tracy L. Bryson, 51 years of age.  Notice to appear issued (NTA).

The Sale Clerk violations are:

Up to 60 days in jail, a $500.00 fine, $235.00 in court cost, $75.00 in cost of prosecution, and $40.00 in cost of investigation.

The Licensee Violations are:

1st-Offense $1000 fine and 7 day suspension.
2nd-Offense $3000 fine and 30 day suspension.
3rd-Offense Revocation of license.

The remaining businesses checked, were in compliance with the law.  This operation was conducted in cooperation with the Monroe County Coalition for a Safe and Drug Free Community.