May 29, 2011

Accident involving patrol vehicle

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating an accident involving a Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle and a small electric vehicle this morning on the Boca Chica four lane, just north of the Boca Chica bridge.

Deputy Scott Ward was southbound going to a special duty detail at Higg’s Beach in Key West when the accident took place at 7:45 a.m. He reportedly ran into the rear of the small electric vehicle. The driver and only occupant of that vehicle was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami by Monroe County’s Trauma Star helicopter. Deputy Ward was uninjured in the accident.

Southbound lanes of the highway are still closed as the investigation continues. Officers on the scene are alternating traffic in the northbound lanes.

Florida Highway Patrol will be the investigating agency and will be the agency to release any further details about the accident.

House fire Plantation Key

Plantation Key – Firefighters and deputies are on the scene this morning of a house fire on Plantation Key.

The owner of the home called Sheriff’s dispatchers at 4:30 a.m. to report a fire in the garage area of the home, located at 186 Orchid Street. He told dispatchers everyone was out of the building. When deputies arrived just minutes later, they reported the home fully engulfed in flame.

By 5 a.m., firefighters reported having the fire under control. The State Fire Marshall’s Office was notified of the incident.

Electrical line knocked down; stops traffic

Rock Harbor – A power line was knocked down Saturday morning, possibly by a backhoe working in the area of the 95 mile marker of Highway U.S. One.

Traffic was disrupted in both directions at 9 a.m. for about 45 minutes as crews from Florida Keys Electric Co-op responded to deal with the situation. The electrical line reportedly fell across two vehicles, a jeep and a recreational vehicle, both of which reportedly had occupants inside. No one was injured in the incident, and the roadway was cleared and open to traffic by 9:45 a.m.

May 27, 2011

Detectives investigating credit card fraud cases

Upper Keys – Credit card fraud is becoming more prevalent as thieves learn to steal credit card numbers over the internet. These types of cases are also very difficult for law enforcement to investigate, because suspects are often operating remotely, from another state or another country. Detectives are spending more and more time on these specialized cases, and the Sheriff’s Office has officers trained in how to investigate them correctly.

Rumors surfaced on the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page this week that someone in the upper Keys was stealing credit card numbers using a credit card skimming device. Detective Sgt. David Carey says that is not the case.

“We have had 10 credit card fraud cases in the Upper Keys in the month of May, which compared to other months is sadly enough not necessarily a high number,” Carey said. “Five of them were reported on May 25th, with what appears to be the same point of origin,” he said.

If there are other cases out there that haven’t surfaced yet, he wants to encourage those people to come forward and report it. “We can’t investigate a case we don’t know about,” he said. “It is important to report such crimes so we can stop them – that way others won’t run into the same problem,” he said.

Initial investigations into most of the cases in May showed the stolen numbers were used to purchase goods in other counties of Florida, in Texas and in New Mexico. According to Carey, this typically indicates internet fraud, rather than skimming, Carey said. Because all the cases had the same point of origin – a restaurant in the upper Keys – it is likely the business’s computers were compromised by malware on their server they didn’t even know was there.

If a business – or a person for that matter – doesn’t have adequate security software installed, they are vulnerable to malware being installed on their computers remotely. It can be done by a visit to a compromised web site, by downloading a file that is infected, or in many other ways, according to Carey.

Once the “bad guy” has the information, it is then easy for him/her so sell the credit card numbers to others on the internet who use the numbers to make fraudulent purchases.

“It is really important for people to check their credit card and debit card statements frequently for fraudulent charges,” Captain Don Fanelli, the Upper Keys District Commander said. “Credit card companies all have on line web sites where you can do this. If you find a fraudulent charge, report it to your bank or credit card company immediately, and report it to law enforcement as well,” he said.

Sheriff’s detectives will be working with the Secret Service on these cases – and on other cases county-wide. In the meantime, like all crime, people can do a lot to protect themselves as well.

1. If at all possible, use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards companies will cover fraudulent charges over $50. Banks are not required to cover fraudulent charges on a debit card, although many do.
2. Keep an eye on your credit card every time you use it, and make sure you get it back as quickly as possible. Try not to let your credit card out of your sight whenever possible.
3. Be very careful to whom you give your credit card. Don't give out your account number over the phone unless you initiate the call and you know the company is reputable. Never give your credit card info out when you receive a phone call. (For example, if you're told there has been a 'computer problem' and the caller needs you to verify information.) Legitimate companies don't call you to ask for a credit card number over the phone.
4. Never respond to emails that request you provide your credit card info via email -- and don't ever respond to emails that ask you to go to a website to verify personal (and credit card) information. These are called 'phishing' scams.
5. Never provide your credit card information on a website that is not a secure site.
6. Sign your credit cards as soon as you receive them.
7. Shred all credit card applications you receive. If you don’t others can intercept them and apply for credit in your name.
8. Don't write your PIN number on your credit card -- or have it anywhere near your credit card (in the event that your wallet gets stolen).
9. Never leave your credit cards or receipts lying around.
10. Be aware of your surroundings and shield your credit card number so that others around you can't copy it or capture it on a cell phone or other camera.
11. Only carry around credit cards that you absolutely need. Don't carry around extra credit cards that you rarely use.
12. Check your credit card account frequently. Most companies have an internet site where this can be done at any time during the billing period.
13. If you find any charges that you don't have a receipt for -- or that you don't recognize -- report these charges promptly (and in writing) to the credit card issuer.
14. Shred anything with your credit card number written on it.
15. Carbon paper is rarely used these days, but if there is a carbon that is used in a credit card transaction, destroy it immediately.
16. Never write your credit card account number in a public place (such as on a postcard or so that it shows through the envelope payment window).
17. Ideally, it's a good idea to carry your credit cards separately from your wallet -- perhaps in a zippered compartment or a small pouch.
18. Never lend a credit card to anyone else.
19. If you move, notify your credit card issuers in advance of your change of address.

Memorial Day weekend: be careful out there

Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest traffic weekends in the Keys. The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone to be careful.

If you plan to travel this weekend, be patient. Traffic will be heavy, and it may take extra time to get to your destination. Passing other cars can be extremely dangerous in heavy traffic, and won’t get you were you are going much faster anyway so just plan a little extra time for your trip, then enjoy the ride and don’t worry about getting ahead of the car in front of you.

Sheriff’s deputies will be out in force this weekend trying to keep the motoring public safe. In particular they will be watching for people who are driving dangerously: following too close, passing in no passing zones, passing in center turn lanes and speeding.

If you plan to party this weekend, remember to designate a sober driver ahead of time to drive you safely home. The same applies if you are going out on your boat and are planning to drink alcoholic beverages. Make sure someone sober is there to bring you and the vessel home safely. We will have all of our boats and personal watercraft out on the water this weekend patrolling for violators.

With many visitors here for the long weekend, we would also like to remind everyone to lock your car doors and don’t leave valuables in plain sight. If you have to leave valuables in the car, put them in the trunk, or at least out of sight where they won’t be a temptation for thieves.

Don’t leave fishing or diving equipment lying around outside your residence to dry, where it can be easily picked up by a passing thief. We get many reports of these types of items stolen from docks, back yards and from under stilt homes. Take your GPS out of your boat when you finish for the day; many of them are stolen as well.

Most of all, enjoy your weekend. You will see a heavy police presence on the roadways all weekend; in particular in the upper Keys as people leave on Friday, and as they return on Monday.

Stay safe and enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.

May 26, 2011

CART Exercise a success

Local, State and Federal law enforcement agencies in Monroe County worked together today on a Child Abduction Response Team exercise in the Lower Keys. The exercise is designed to bring agencies and their resources together to practice responding to a child abduction scenario.
The first hours of a child abduction are crucial, and it is extremely important for law enforcement to respond quickly, and to bring all their resources to bear as soon as possible after the abduction occurs. By practicing the response to a child abduction, all the agencies involved make sure they know one another, and make sure they know what is expected from them in a real event.
During today’s exercise, the scenario involved a child abducted as he walked to his bus stop on College Road, Stock Island. Following leads, officers soon responded to a the Hickory House Restaurant (now closed) and apprehended one of two suspects who abducted the child. Subsequent investigation led officers to the nature walk area adjacent to 1800 Atlantic Condominiums. The second suspect, and the child he abducted, were found near the beach area. The suspect was apprehended and the child recovered safely.
Deserving special mention in this event: Sheriff’s Detective Manny Cuervo, Sheriff’s Detective Sergeant Linda Mixon and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Jeff Hutcheon, all of whom worked extremely hard to plan and pull together all the resources necessary to make this a success.
Photos and videos of this exercise can be viewed at :

Man arrested for battery, abuse of disabled daughter

Marathon – A Marathon man was arrested Tuesday, charged with hitting, and abusing his disabled adult daughter.
On May 19th, Sgt. Suzanne Morgan and Deputy Jon Barry Huff responded to the American Legion in Marathon where they spoke to the bartender. She told him she was concerned that 62 year old John Black was not caring properly for his adult daughter, who is disabled. She said most days, Black shows up with his 31 year old daughter at 9 a.m. and they stay until 11 p.m. She said the daughter wears disposable diapers and Black never brings extra, or changes them. She said he sits her down in another room, and then sits at the bar and drinks.
She told the officers the daughter appears to always be very hungry, is dirty, smells and is unkempt in general. She said on the 19th, Black made himself a sandwich. When he set it down and walked away for a minute, she started eating the sandwich. When he returned, he began yelling at her; he struck her in the head twice. After the bartender told him he needed to care for his daughter, he yelled at her, then grabbed his daughter by the arm, slapped her again in the back of the head and took her outside.
When the officers went to Black’s home on 37th Street, he walked outside. They went inside to check on the daughter, and she had abrasions all over her chin and both knees. She appeared to be very underweight, could not speak, and did not appear to have bathed for a long time. She was taken to Fishermen’s Hospital, after which she was turned over to the Department of Children and Families.
A warrant was issued for Black’s arrest. On Tuesday, he was picked up and charged with battery and abuse of a disabled adult. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

May 25, 2011

Marathon man attacks another with a machete

Marathon – A Marathon man is under arrest, charged with attempting to murder another man with a machete Tuesday night.

The attack took place at Trailerama Trailer Park on 15th Street in Marathon, at lot 29. The victim, 45 year old Eduardo Gonzalez, lives in the trailer. He told Sgt. Joel Slough and Deputy Christian Galls he allowed the suspect, 52 year old Fidel Gonzalez Gutierrez, to move in with him a few day ago.

He said the two of them were sitting outside just before 8:15 p.m. He asked the suspect to move out of the trailer and the suspect became enraged. The suspect went into the kitchen and got a machete; he returned and began to swing it at the victim. The victim said he threw a couple of cinder blocks at the suspect to defend himself, but the suspect kept swinging the machete, hitting the victim in the left arm twice with it. The suspect fled the scene after cutting the victim.

When the officers arrived, they began to search the area for Gutierrez, who was eventually found hiding in a wooded area adjacent to 15th Street and Ocean Terrace. He was taken into custody.

Both men were taken to Fishermen’s Hospital for treatment of injuries. The victim suffered two deep lacerations to his arm; the suspect had an injury on his arm, and complained of pain on his side.  Gutierrez was then transported to jail, charged with attempted murder.

May 24, 2011

Tavernier man charged with sexual assault

Islamorada – A Tavernier man is under arrest, charged with sexually assaulting a woman in January in Islamorada.

The 27 year old victim called the Sheriff’s Office to report the incident January 9th. She said she’d been drinking with friends at Hog Heaven Sports Bar the night before. She said as she was leaving, a man who was with the group that she didn’t know was walking with her.  She said he took her into a wooded area and held her down by the neck. She said he told her to “shut up”. He then allegedly sexually assaulted her.

Afterward, she said he left and she went home. She later identified her attacker from a photo line-up as 23 year old Alexander Acs. A sexual assault examination was done on the victim and DNA from her attacker was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It was positively matched to DNA obtained from Acs.

After receiving the positive DNA match back from FDLE, Detective Daniel Mehler obtained an arrest warrant for Acs. Today, he was arrested and charged with sexual assault. He is currently in the Monroe County Detention Center.

Silver Alert recovered in Monroe County

A Eustis, Florida man who’d been reported missing by family members on Sunday was recovered after he was spotted driving through Marathon Monday night.

The wife of 72 year old Kenneth Smith reported him missing to the Eustis Police Department Sunday. On Monday at 8:45 p.m. Deputy Monica Young spotted his black Chevrolet Corvette southbound at the 48 mile marker of the highway. She pulled him over on Sunshine Key, after confirming it was, indeed, his vehicle.

Deputy Young said Smith appeared t be calm, but disoriented. He said the last thing he remembered is being on Highway 441 and he wasn’t sure how he got to the Florida Keys.

Smith was taken to Fishermen’s Hospital and his family was notified he’d been found.

May 23, 2011

Reminder: Key Largo Sheriff’s Office open Wednesdays

This is a reminder to those living in the Key Largo area: the Sheriff’s Office at the Murray Nelson Building in Key Largo is open on Wednesdays to provide services to the community.

The office is staffed by a records clerk and is open Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The office offers limited services including fingerprinting, background checks, copies of reports, hurricane re-entry decals and general information. For fingerprinting, remember the cost is $5.00 (in cash) and you must bring a picture identification, and a fingerprint card.

The office does not offer services from the evidence and property division, and does not offer any Civil Process services however. Those wishing to retrieve property must still go to the Plantation Key Substation.

If you have any questions about the services offered at the Key Largo office, please feel free to call the Roth Building at 305-853-3211.

Anyone wishing to meet with Sheriff Bob Peryam in the Key Largo office can make an appointment with his aide, Val Marinello. Val can be reached at the Sheriff’s headquarters building, 305-292-7001. Those wishing to meet at the Key Largo office with Captain Don Fanelli or Lt. Nancy Alvarez, the Upper Keys District and Station Commanders, they may also make an appointment to do so by calling 305-853-3211.

Captain Don Fanelli says he hopes people in the Key Largo area will take advantage of the office hours close to home. “We opened this office one day a week in an effort to save citizens from having to drive all the way to Plantation Key,” said Captain Fanelli. “We want to be responsive to all of our customers, and to make our services as convenient as possible.”

Man dies in the water offshore of Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key – A man’s body was pulled from the water just offshore of the Koehn Avenue Boat Ramp Sunday afternoon. No foul play is suspected in the death.

Witnesses told Deputy Kim Trullender 55 year old Terry Kettig of Big Pine Key walked into the water near the boat ramp shortly after 1 p.m. to go swimming. A short time later, his body was spotted floating.  

Both the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and members of Big Pine Fire-Rescue responded to assist with recovering the body. There were no obvious signs of foul play on the body, which was turned over to the Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.

The victim’s belongings, including  a chair, a blue T-shirt, a wallet, cell phone and a cooler with three Natural Ice beers inside were found at the boat ramp.

May 21, 2011

Teen steals gun from store, shoots himself

Big Pine Key – A 19 year old Summerland Key man stole a gun from Jig’s Reel and Gun on Big Pine Key, then shot himself in the head with it.

Kenneth Jenison had a suicide note in his pocket when he was loaded on board an ambulance after the shooting incident. He died after being airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

Sheriff’s dispatchers received the shoplifting call at 6:50 p.m. The caller said a young man bought a box of ammunition, then asked to see a handgun. He reportedly grabbed the gun and ran out of the store to a waiting taxi. The maroon colored vehicle left southbound on the highway.

Deputy Spenser Bryan spotted  the taxi at the 28 mile marker northbound, but the driver told him he’d already dropped his passenger off near the 27 mile marker. The description he gave of his passenger matched the same description given by the clerk at the store where the gun was stolen.

Deputy Bryan, along with Deputies Todd Jones, Scott Ward and Sgt. Ken Fricke started in that direction. Deputy Jones spotted the young man – later identified as Jenison – near a red trailer in the front of Studio 27 Auto Upholstery. Jenison went behind the trailer. Deputy Jones then reported hearing a shot fired in that location.

The owner of the upholstery shop then came running up to the deputies. He said he’d just seen someone behind the trailer shoot himself.

Jenison was found on the ground behind the trailer, with a gunshot wound in his head. The .38 Smith and Wesson handgun he stole from Jig’s Bait and Tackle was found beside him. Deputies began CPR; during the course of CPR, Jenison regained a pulse. An American Ambulance passing by the scene stopped and assisted until Monroe County Fire Rescue could arrive and take over.

He was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, but was declared dead at that hospital a short while later.

A member of the ambulance crew that transported him found 12 bullets in his pocket and a suicide note.

Detectives arrest 18; wrap up 6 month drug operation

Detectives hold a briefing prior to making 18 arrests on outstanding
drug related warrants on Friday.
A six month long drug investigation targeting drug dealers in Marathon and Big Pine wrapped up Friday, with detectives from the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Division rounding up 18 suspects. More arrests are expected.

Detectives worked a total of 68 investigations during the time period in question, including sale of prescription medications, trafficking in cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana. They were assisted in the Friday arrests by patrol deputies, investigators from the Sheriff’s HIDTA group, Sheriff’s Corrections staff and agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The following people were arrested:

Thomas Patrick Ward, 50, of Marathon
Sale of cocaine
Possession of drug paraphernalia
Bond total $31,000

Andre Kenvis Howard, 28, of Marathon
Two counts of Sale of cocaine
Two counts of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond Total $120,000

Johnnie Leatherwood, 39, of Marathon
Two counts of Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond Total $165,000

Timothy Holmes, 48, of Marathon
Sale of cocaine
Bond Total $25,000

Kizmet Yatz Qualla, 37, of Marathon
Two counts of Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $70,000

Clarence Michael Bryant, 49, of Marathon
Two counts of Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond Total $62,000

Scott Jerome Baker, 47, of Big Pine Key
Sale of Marijuana
Bond $25,000

Manuel Antonio Artiles, 27, of Marathon
Sale of cocaine
Bond $10,000

Brett Alan Gipson, 54, of Marathon
Sale of cocaine
Bond $50,000

Dywane John Hardge, 34, of Marathon
Two counts of Sale of cocaine and manufacturing
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $172,000

Irene Hester, 38, of Marathon
Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $52,000

Michael Robert Gunderson, 24, of Big Pine Key
Trafficking of Opium
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
Bond $40,000

Edward Arthur Brusseau, 45,of Big Pine Key
Two count of Trafficking in cocaine
Bond $200,000

Vanessa Lynne Suarez, 30, of Big Pine Key
Two Counts of sale of Opium
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $102,000

David Ashley Harris, 39, of Big Pine Key
Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $27,000

David Thomas Blanco, 26, of Big Pine Key
Sale of Opium
Sale of cocaine
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $107,000

Julio Oscar Sosa, 19, of Big Pine Key
Sale of cocaine
Sale of Opium
Bond $155,000

Daniel Bruce Wiggington, 51, of Big Pine Key
Trafficking in Opium and sale schedule II
One count of using a two way communication device while committing a felony
Bond $99,000