July 31, 2014

"Skeletal remains" turn out to be hoax

The Sheriff's Office and Florida Fish and Wildlife officers responded to reports of a body underwater offshore of the 7 mile bridge this morning at 11 a.m.. The "body" turned out to be a fake skeleton.

A Georgia man was diving with his buddy when he spotted what he thought was a body. He called the Sheriff's Office to report it.

Deputy Wilfredo Guerra responded by water, along with two FWC officers. Initial reports were the body had it's feet tied together, and it was anchored to a pole of some sort.

A diver recovered the "body" which turned out to be a fake skeleton. The skeleton was removed from the water so there would not be any such reports in the future.

Woman collapses after diving

An 18 year old woman from the United Kingdom collapsed after a dive Wednesday.

18 year old Eva Prendergast had been diving at 110 feet. She was on a dive trip on the Rainbow Reef dive boat. She reportedly surfaced and was back on board the boat when she complained of a headache. She then collapsed and was unconscious. She was put on oxygen and transported to shore where Deputy Dave Campbell met the boat at Key Largo Homeowners Park on Marina Avenue.

Prendergast was taken to Mariner's Hospital where she was reported to be in and out of consciousness. She was then airlifted to South Miami Hospital for treatment.

Two reports of fishing/dive gear stolen

Sheriff's deputies took two reports Wednesday of fishing and dive gear stolen from boats.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Deputy James Hager responded to Seaview Drive on Duck Key to reports of a boat burglary. The owner said he was last on his boat Sunday. When he returned to the boat Wednesday, he noticed a number of items were missing including pole spears, a spear gun, fins, a weight belt, fishing tackle, and other items. The boat was parked in the front yard of the residence.

This morning, Deputy Hager spoke with a victim over the phone. She said she wanted to report a theftt from her boat. She said she would meet with him later, but was currently on the water diving for lobster. She told Deputy Hager someone had taken items from their boat overnight, including a fishing pole and three spear guns. She said the boat was parked next to her condominium at 150 Coco Plum Drive in Marathon.

The Sheriff's Office would like to remind everyone to secure valuable items in a safe place. Remove fishing gear, dive gear and electronics from boats when you are not on board. There are people that come to the Florida Keys for the express purpose of stealing unattended gear from boats left parked and unattended overnight.

July 30, 2014

Man arrested for Stock Island burglary

Detectives arrested a Key West man for burglarizing a Stock Island business.

On May 28th, Sunset Watersports at the Hurricane Hole Marina reported someone stole cash from their rental booth on May 22nd. There was video surveillance in the booth which recorded the theft as it took place.

The manager of the booth told Detective David Cruz he recognized the suspect as an employee he'd just fired. He said it was 22 year old Donald Dorman.

Detectives Cruz and David Brummer went to Dorman's residence and questioned him. He admitted to taking the money. Dorman was arrested Tuesday and charged with burglary and grand theft and he was booked into jail.

Man charged with aggravated child abuse

A Big Pine Key man was arrested Tuesday, charged with aggravated child abuse.

On June 28th, Major Crimes Detective Manuel Cuervo was notified of a six week old baby transported to Lower Keys hospital after the mother called 911 to say the child had stopped breathing.

23 year old Humberto Rojas was playing video games and babysitting at a home on Donna Road, Big Pine Key when the infant stopped breathing. Rojas said the child had swallowed a baby wipe and had stopped breathing as he'd made efforts to remove the wipe from the baby's throat. He called the child's mother to tell her what happened and she subsequently called 911.

Doctors at Lower Keys hospital said the child's injuries appeared to be suspicious; they said the injuries were not consistent with the story told by Rojas. The baby was subsequently airlifted to Miami Children's Hospital for treatment, in critical condition.

Detective Cuervo continued to investigate the case, also consulting with physicians at Miami Children's Hospital, the University of Miami's Child Protection team, with the child's own physician and with the Department of Children and Families.

The mother was extensively interviewed, along with others who had cared for the child.

A warrant was issued for Rojas as a result of the investigation. On Tuesday, he was charged with aggravated child abuse.

It was determined, through this extensive investigation, that the child was developmentally incapable of swallowing a baby wipe on his own. The child's injuries  included multiple rib fractures, a fractured leg and foot and lung contusions. These injuries were reportedly not consistent with the story told by the suspect to detectives and others who interviewed him.

The baby's mother said she'd bathed him the day before and did not notice any such injuries. The baby had been seen by his doctor on June 19th. The doctor said she did not see any such injuries at that time.

At last report the baby was recovering from his injuries at Miami Children's Hospital.

July 28, 2014

Keep your gear safe while participating in sport lobster season

During this week’s two day sport lobster season, many visitors will be in the Florida Keys with their boats, boating equipment and dive equipment. With those visitors will come those who prey upon them: thieves targeting fishing and dive gear.

Every year during the two day sport lobster season, deputies take numerous reports about fishing and dive gear taken from houses, condos, hotels and boats. Usually, the gear is left unattended. Many times people report they left the gear outside to dry after a boating trip and returned to find it gone.

Keep this in mind and make sure you don’t leave valuable dive and fishing gear unattended at any time. It would be a shame to have your trip ruined by a thief who sneaks onto your boat at night and takes your fishing poles, or by someone coming underneath your house and taking your dive gear that is sitting outside to dry.

Another crime prevention tip: if you park your vehicle at a bridge approach, make sure you lock it and don’t leave valuables visible inside. We frequently get reports from people who have their vehicles burglarized while parked in these areas.

Two day sport lobster season is this week

The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone the two day sport lobster season is coming up this week. Anyone who plans to participate in catching lobster in Monroe County during the two day season on July 30th and 31st should make sure to familiarize themselves with both state law and with local ordinances in the Florida Keys.

The Sheriff’s Office will have extra patrols at boat ramps, bridges and on the water during the two day season. Anyone caught with illegal lobster will be charged accordingly. All Sheriff’s Office boats will be on patrol, and deputies will also be operating a number of WaveRunners donated to the Sheriff’s Office by Riva South Motorsports. Riva South donates the WaveRunners  each year to be used for law enforcement purposes such as this, as well as for regular patrols of hard to reach shoreline areas and residential canals.

According to state law, during the two-day sport lobster season, recreational divers and snorkelers can take up to six lobsters per person daily in Monroe County. Spiny lobsters must have a carapace length greater than 3 inches to be legally taken during the open season. Divers must possess a measuring device, and lobsters must be in the water while they are measured. Harvest of egg-bearing females is prohibited. Spiny lobsters must remain in whole condition until they are brought to shore. Harvesters cannot use any device that might puncture, penetrate or crush the shell of the lobster. Night diving for spiny lobsters during the two-day sport season is not allowed in Monroe County, and all harvest of lobsters is prohibited in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park during the two-day season. Lobster harvest is also prohibited at all times in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, certain areas in Pennekamp Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

A Monroe County ordinance makes it “unlawful for any person to dive or snorkel in any manmade water body or marina, or within 300 feet of an improved residential or commercial shoreline beginning three days prior to the opening of and during the entirety of the lobster mini-season and for the first five days of commercial lobster season.” This ordinance also applies in the cities of Marathon and Islamorada except that the restriction does not apply in Marathon the three days before the mni season or the first five days of the commercial season.

You must have a recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit to recreationally harvest spiny lobsters unless you are exempt from recreational license requirements. Information about these licenses and permits is available online at MyFWC.com/License.

Before, during and just after the two day sport season there will be more boats and trailers on the roadways, and more traffic in general. Sheriff Rick Ramsay wants to remind everyone to drive carefully. Pay attention to those around you, be patient and don’t pass in no passing zones. Drinking and driving is, of course, illegal; drunk boating is also illegal and our officers will be watching for this dangerous behavior on the water as well as on the roadways of the county.

“We enjoy all the visitors here in the Keys during the two day sport season,” said Sheriff Ramsay. “But we want to make sure everyone is aware of the law, and is behaving in a responsible, and safe, manner.”

Dive team assists with missing boater; body recovered

The Sheriff's Office dive team assisted over the weekend with recovery of a body of a missing fisherman at the DryTortugas. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the case. Preliminary reports are a fishing boat sunk Friday in the early morning hours; one person was rescued by good Samaritan boaters while the other person on board was trapped inside the sunken vessel.

July 25, 2014

Sheriff’s Office organizes National Night Out events August 5th

On Tuesday, August 5th, the Sheriff's Office will sponsor National Night Out events in the Upper, Middle and Lower Keys. All of the events will feature food, refreshments, and a great chance to meet your neighbors, members of the Sheriff’s Office from a wide variety of divisions, departments and special teams and many others who are involved in the field of public safety and community service here in the Florida Keys.

The goal of National Night Out is to bring the community together to get to know one another and to discuss how we can all make our neighborhoods safer and more secure in the future. The Sheriff's Office will have extensive Crime Prevention information to share at the event. Community members will learn how to heighten their crime and drug prevention awareness.

The Sheriff’s Office hopes to generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs and strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships. Everyone participating will send a message to criminals letting them know that Monroe County neighborhoods are organized and fighting back against crime.

“This yearly event is an important one for agency. We get the opportunity to meet the people we are charged with serving and protecting,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “National Night Out is a lot of fun for us, and for those who attend. I hope everyone will take this opportunity to meet their neighbors, learn about Crime Prevention and meet the deputies who are out there patrolling our community and keeping it safe,” he said.

The Key Largo event will be Tuesday, August 5th from 6 – 8 p.m. at Key Largo Community Park. Captain Don Fanelli and Lieutenant Al Ramirez want to invite the entire community to attend their free event. Members of the Sheriff’s Office will be on hand, along with others from the public safety community; there will be food, refreshments, a local DJ will play music and everyone should have lots of fun.

The Islamorada National Night Out event will be held at Founder’s Park in Islamorada Tuesday, August 5th from 6 to 8 p.m. Captain Corey Bryan and Lt. David Carey invite everyone to join them and have some fun. Visit with members of the Sheriff’s Office, Islamorada Fire/Rescue and other public safety and community groups. There will be free food and refreshments.

The Marathon event will be held on Tuesday, August 5th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Stanley Switlik School. Captain Gene Thompson and Lt. Derek Paul invite everyone to join them and have some fun. There will be free food and refreshments, and residents will be able to visit many law enforcement, public safety and community groups at the event. 

The Big Pine Key event will be at Big Pine Community Park on Tuesday, August 5th  from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.  There will be free food and refreshments and a wide variety of law enforcement and other public safety agencies will be on hand to talk with community members.

The Stock Island event will be at Bernstein Park, Tuesday, August 5th  from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. There will be free food and refreshments and a wide variety of law enforcement and other public safety agencies will be on hand to talk with community members.

Marathon man arrested after search warrant

A Marathon man was arrested on drug charges after a search warrant at his residence Thursday.

Sheriff’s Special Investigation detectives went to the home at 308 12th Street in Marathon at 11:30 a.m. to serve the warrant. The suspect, 35 year old Tanaris Walker Sr., opened the door. At the home, detectives found an orange pill bottle with nine small plastic bags of crack cocaine inside. The cocaine weighed 5.6 grams.. They also seized $667 in cash, presumed to be the proceeds of drug sales.

Walker was arrested. He was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia. 

Man dies while snorkeling offshore of Key Largo

 A Georgia man died while snorkeling offshore of Key Largo Thursday.

71 year old John Marshall of Johns Creek, Georgia was on board a 25 foot private vessel with nine others near Carysfort lighthouse. The group was snorkeling shortly after noon. Witnesses say Marshall was on his way back to boat. When they next saw him he was face down in the water.

They pulled him into the boat. Another boat nearby pulled up with a doctor on board who began performing CPR. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded to the emergency and brought Marshall to shore at Ocean Reef, but he was pronounced dead.

Major Crimes Detective Vince Weiner responded and will be investigating the death. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of Marshall’s death.

July 24, 2014

New Jersey man dies in apparent dive accident

A New Jersey man died after diving offshore of Key Largo Wednesday morning.

The victim is identified as 45 year old Gary Lanier of Kenvil, New Jersey. He was on a dive trip with his two teenage children, age 15 and 18. They were diving the Spiegel Grove with Blue Water Divers out of Key Largo.

According to witnesses, including his two children, Lanier began having trouble as he surfaced from his dive. One of the dive mates who was diving with the group said Lanier began having trouble while at the surface and she was assisting him. She said she helped get him on board the vessel. At that point he had become unconscious and stopped breathing so she began performing CPR.

The Coast Guard responded to distress calls and brought Lanier in to Marina Avenue in Key Largo. Paramedics transported Lanier to Mariner’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Major Crimes Detective Vince Weiner will be investigating the incident. There will be an autopsy performed to determine the cause of his death.

July 23, 2014

Sheriff's Animal Farm open Sunday, July 27th

The Sheriff's Animal Farm will be open this Sunday July 27th, between 1 - 3 p.m. Bring the family and come visit the animals at the farm, including horses, a cow, pigs, goats, bunnies, alligators, tropical birds, Kinkajous, Sloths, a Lemur, Kramer the Emu, a family of Patagonian Cavys, a skunk, an opossum, tortoises and turtles, snakes and many more. It is free of charge, but donations are welcomed because that is how the farm is sustained.

The farm has a few new animals to visit, including two Alpacas – Arabella and Snowflake - and Hemingway the Toucan. Come on out and meet them!

The farm is located just off of College Road, on Stock Island, at the Sheriff’s Office Headquarters complex. Groups may schedule special tours at the farm by calling Farmer Jeanne Selander at 305-293-7300. Visits to the farm are free, and donations are welcome

July 22, 2014

Key Largo man faces attempted murder, arson and animal cruelty charges

A man who set his apartment on fire in a suicide attempt was arrested today for two counts of attempted second degree murder, arson and two counts of animal cruelty.

On July 16th shortly after midnight, 48 year old John Merendino lit his apartment on fire in an alleged attempt to commit suicide. His two cats died in the fire. There were people at home in the two other apartments in the building who were forced to evacuate their homes because of the fire.

A woman in the neighboring apartment called for help when her smoke alarm went off. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found Merendino in his apartment, in a bathtub full of water. As paramedics tended to him, he told them he purposefully lit the apartment on fire in an attempt to kill himself.

Big Coppitt Key man faces more charges

A man arrested late last week for burglarizing two vehicles, stealing credit cards and using them at area businesses faces more charges this week.

22 year old Eric Pazian was arrested last week after he used a credit cards stolen in car burglaries first to purchase items in several businesses in downtown Key West, and then to pay a cab driver to take him home. The cards were taken from two unlocked cars parked on Driftwood Drive in the Key Haven neighborhood on Stock Island. Detectives used the cab driver’s information to find where Pazian lived and to recover the cards he had stolen. Many of the cards were found in the bedroom of his residence; more were found in a car he’d been using that belonged to his roommate. In the bedroom and in the car, detectives found several credit cards belonging to two other women who lived at homes on Floral Avenue in the same neighborhood.

They contacted the women whose names were on the cards. Both women confirmed their unlocked cars had, indeed, been burglarized at about the same time as the first two burglaries Pazian was charged with. Neither one of them had reported the crimes.

Pazian, who is currently in the Monroe County Detention Center, was further charged with two counts of burglary, two counts of theft and two counts of fraudulent use of a credit card.

Man charged with taking repaired scooter without paying

A Stock Island man went to jail Monday for taking his scooter from a scooter repair shop without permission and without paying.

The owner of Island Scooters told Deputy Lazaro Valdes 48 year old James Whitley brought his scooter in to the shop last week for repairs. While it was being repaired he rented another scooter from the shop for four days. Once his own scooter was fixed, he returned the rental scooter. The shop’s owner told him he owed money for the repair and for the rental. Whitley said he couldn’t pay for it. The owner told him he could not have his scooter unless he paid.

While the shop owner was working, Whitley entered the back room of the business without permission and took his scooter without paying for it.

Detective Sgt. Donald Catala was on Flagler Avenue in the city on Monday afternoon and saw Whitley on his scooter. He was aware of the report taken by Deputy Valdes, and he stopped Whitley and called the deputy to respond to the scene. Whitley was taken into custody and charged with burglary, theft and fraud. He was taken to jail.

July 18, 2014

Islamorada clean up

 The group photo shows just a few of the 32 people who showed up for a recent clean up in Islamorada. Thanks to everyone who showed up to help!

Summer camp is great fun!

 The Florida Sheriff's Association Summer Camp held at Gerald Adams School wrapped up last week. All the kids had a great time getting to know the Sheriff's Office.

Painting at Big Pine Academy

 Big Pine Academy got a face lift thanks to members of the Sheriff’s Office who got together to paint some of the classrooms this week.

Two marinas in Middle Keys have boat equipment thefts

Sheriff’s detectives in the Middle Keys are investigating two incidents this month in which suspects stole GPS devices and other marine electronics from boats stored at area marinas.

On July 8th, four boats were reported to be burglarized overnight at the Driftwood Marina on Coco Plum Road. Between last night and this morning, six more boats were burglarized at the Duck Key Marina.

Detective Sgt. Tom Walker says owners of such businesses need to make sure they have working surveillance equipment and good lighting on their property to help guard against such crimes, and to help detectives identify suspects if crimes do occur. He also reminds owners that thieves can come by water as well as by land. He also recommends boat owners remove expensive electronics from their boats if at all possible.

“Over the next week or so I will be sending detectives to marinas in the Middle Keys to help owners with security survey’s of their businesses. We will make suggestions as to how they can make their property safer. It will then be up to them to implement those security suggestions,” he said.

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 a 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 www.tipsubmit.com.

Man charged with vehicle burglaries, fraud

A local man is in jail charged with burglarizing two cars and using credit cards he stole from the cars at several local businesses.

On the morning of July 16th, the victims called the Sheriff’s Office to report their two cars had been burglarized overnight. Deputy Lazaro Valdes responded to their home on Driftwood Drive in Key Haven to take a report. The victims told him a wallet was stolen from each car; in the wallets were credit cards and various pieces of personal identification. The victims checked with their credit card companies and discovered several cards had been used at several different businesses in Key West overnight. One card had also been used to pay for a taxi ride.

Deputy Valdes contacted the taxi company to speak with the driver who accepted the card as payment. The driver told him he’d dropped a man off on Mars Lane on Geiger Key. He gave a description of the man to the deputy. Lower Keys detectives were assigned to investigate. Detective David Cruz went to a bar in Key West where the suspect had used one of the cards. He obtained surveillance video of the suspect at the bar. His description matched the description given by the taxi driver. In the video, the suspect was wearing an Aeropostle T-shirt and had tattoos on his forearms.

Detectives Cruz and John Underwood went with Deputy Valdes to Mars Lane where they began knocking on doors in the area where the taxi driver said he’d dropped the suspect off. At a residence on Star Lane, they found a man who recognized the suspect’s description as his roommate, 22 year old Eric Pazian. Pazian was sleeping, so they woke him to ask him what he’d been doing the night before. He denied committing the crimes, but on the floor of his room they found an Aeropostle  T-shirt matching the one in the video; they also found credit cards belonging to the victims. Pazian was arrested and booked into jail.

Further investigation turned up a vehicle Pazian had been using, parked in the parking lot of a downtown restaurant. The car belonged to Pazian’s roommate, who gave Detective Sgt. Donnie Catala and Detective Dave Chavka permission to search it. Inside, detectives found the rest of the credit cards and personal identification stolen from the two victims. They also found two bottles of liquor Pazian had purchased with a stolen card. Video surveillance from other businesses obtained by Detective Chavka also showed Pazian using stolen credit cards to make purchases. Pazian has been charged with two counts of vehicle burglary and multiple counts of grand theft, theft, credit card fraud and criminal use of another person’s identification without their consent. 

July 17, 2014

Key Largo man charged with compressor theft

A Key Largo man was caught on camera stealing a compressor from an Upper Keys business Tuesday.

Deputy E.B. Askins responded to Upper Keys Crane Service Tuesday afternoon and met with the owner who said a Nu Tone HVAC compressor valued at $1,000 had been stolen from the business. He said he discovered the theft after returning from lunch on Tuesday. When he checked his surveillance cameras, they showed two men in a gold Ford Ranger truck taking the compressor.

Deputy Askins received information the truck in the video might be at the Moon Bay condominium complex. He checked with someone who lives there. The resident identified a man named Jason Sergo, 33 years of age, who drives a gold Ford Ranger truck. Sergo is a known scrap metal hauler.

Deputy Askins issued a notice to be on the lookout for the truck and contacted the Homestead Police Department, asking them to check scrap metal yards in their area to see if Sergo had been to one of them with the compressor. A detective with Homestead Police discovered Sergo had, indeed, been to one of the scrap yards and had dropped off the compressor, which had already been destroyed.

Sergo’s truck was stopped in Key Largo  as he was returning to Monroe County by Deputy Jacques Rozek. When Deputy Askins confronted Sergo, Sergo admitted to taking the compressor. He was charged with grand theft and was taken to jail. At the jail, three plastic bags with cocaine residue inside were found in his pockets. He was further charged with introducing contraband into a detention facility.

Investigations are continuing in an attempt to identify the man who assisted Sergo in stealing the compressor.

July 16, 2014

Bicycle safety event in Key Largo

The Health Department will be holding a bicycle safety event on July 26th. Here are the details - mark your calendars now!

Bicycle safety event Saturday, Stock Island

The Monroe County Health Department is holding a bicycle safety event this Saturday on Stock Island. Here are the details:

Key Largo fire appears to be suicide attempt

A man injured in a fire in Key Largo admitted setting the fire in an attempt to commit suicide early today.

The fire occurred in an apartment on Bonito Lane at the 95.2 mile marker of the highway. The smoke detector in apartment A went off at 12:05 a.m. When Deputy Greg LaRochelle arrived at the scene, he found all the tenants had escaped the building except the tenant in apartment B.

Firefighters arrived on the scene and began fighting the fire, which they confirmed appeared to have started in apartment B. Inside apartment B, they found 48 year old John Merendino in the bathtub with the water running. He was breathing, but unconscious. Paramedics treated him and transported him to the hospital. While he was being treated, and in the presence of Deputy LaRochelle, Merendino admitted to starting the fire in a suicide attempt.

Merendino’s two cats perished in the fire.

The State and County Fire Marshall’s offices responded and will be investigating the case. 

July 14, 2014

Two day sport lobster season coming up

The two day sport lobster season is coming up at the end of the month - July 30 - 31st. Take some time to
brush up on the laws that apply to the season. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a terrific website with lots of great information about lobster season, and about other regulations that relate to saltwater fishing, diving, spearfishing and all the fun water-related activities we enjoy here in the Keys. Here is a link:

July 11, 2014

Cleaning up Stock Island

Deputy Lazaro Valdes, on Sgt. Linda Mixon’s squad in the Lower Keys, spends time each week working with Monroe County Public Works to clean up various areas of Stock Island. Here, he helped them with areas at 10th Avenue and on 5th Avenue. 

Cleaning up after the Fourth of July

 The Sheriff’s Office was out cleaning up after all the Fourth of July celebrations county-wide last weekend. Top left, some of the trash picked up from Indian Key fill in Islamorada by Lt. Patrick Major and a team of inmates; bottom left, Deputies Caridad Bellon and Shaun Lones from Sgt. Mike DiGiovanni’s squad pick up discarded and sometimes still live fireworks from the bike path at the 80 mile marker of the highway. In the two right hand photos, inmates from the Marathon jail pick up trash on Sombrero Beach after the fourth.

MCSO cleans up bay bottom

Dive Team members and boat handler Spencer Curry spent time Thursday cleaning trash from the Boca Chica bay bottom. They picked up three garbage cans full of  bottles and cans, along with a lower unit from a  boat, car tire and a foam mattress. This will be an ongoing effort as there is considerably more to clean up in that area. In the photo, Deputy Curry and Dive Team member Henry Hamilton.

K-9 team meets kids at summer camp

K-9 team Deputy Danielle Malone and Tracer made an appearance at the Florida Sheriff’s Association Summer Camp going on this week at Gerald Adams Elementary School on Stock Island. They showed the kids how Tracer finds drugs and the kids got to meet Tracer up close.

Explorers compete at state level

Explorers during domestic violence scenario training.
 Explorers attend State Delegates Conference
Sheriff’s Office Explorers and their advisers traveled to Osceola County in June to compete at the state level against many other explorer programs.
Competitions included firearms, active shooter, physical agility, traffic stops, crisis intervention, dealing with domestic calls and crime scene investigation.

Monroe County took first place in the active shooter competition, second place in physical agility and firearms in the .38 caliber category. They did very well in a number of other areas, including drill team and other firearms categories.

MCSO drill team did well in competition with other
counties in Florida.
Congratulations to Explorer Thomas Mirabella who was voted in as chaplain for the state explorer board. Adviser Deputy Will Schlegelmilch was also voted range master at the state level for his third consecutive term.

Competitions included felony traffic stop scenarios.

Explorer Thomas Mirabella talks to a suicidal subject
during Crisis Intervention training.

Adviser Deputy Nancy Torrijos and the first place
Active Shooter explorer team with heir trophy.

Advisor Deputy Will Schlegelmilch gives safety instructions
at the range prior to firearms competition.

Sunbelt Rentals good community partner

Sheriff Ramsay gave certificates to the two managers of Sunbelt Rentals recently for being great community partners. Duane Francis (in the picture) and Mike Werner are quick to volunteer services and equipment when we need them for our various community activities and it is much appreciated.

Communications Officers join Crime Stoppers Run

Communications Officers Ben Elmore and Ben Fox volunteered for and ran in the Crime Stoppers / Rotary 5K run/walk on July 4th in Key West. Ben Elmore is attending the local law enforcement academy on a scholarship funded by this yearly event.

July 9, 2014

Man arrested for burglarizing motor home

A Key Largo man was arrested after he was caught leaving the scene of a burglary of a motor home.

Just before 6 a.m. today, Deputies Brian Cross,  Pedro Garcia and Jacques Rozek responded to North Blackwater Lane to check out a report of a suspicious person in the area. When they arrived, they found 53 year old Julio Maximo Fernandez. He was pushing a bicycle and a shopping card which had numerous items of clothing still on hangers, bed linens and bottles of wine inside. When asked about the items in the cart, he said he got them from a nearby dumpster.

A check of the area revealed a motor home with the doors wide open which appeared to have been ransacked. The homeowners where the motor home was parked were contacted. They said the motor home was theirs. They also identified the items in the shopping cart as belonging to them and coming from inside their motor home.

Fernandez was arrested, charged with burglary and grand theft, and he was booked into jail.

Miami man arrested on multiple drug charges

A Miami man was arrested Tuesday night, charged with possessing cocaine and multiple types of pills as well as drug paraphernalia.

Sergeants Evan Calhoun and Linda Mixon were inside the Circle K Store on Big Coppitt Key at 10 p.m. Sgt. Calhoun walked into the men’s restroom at the store and saw a man sitting backward on the toilet snorting something off the back of the toilet with his nose.

When 61 year old Kenneth Kukec exited the restroom, he had his hands in his pockets and refused to remove them when ordered to. The officers removed his hands from his pockets and escorted him outside the store for further investigation. In one of the pockets where he had his hands, Sgt. Calhoun found an open pocket knife. A plastic bag with white powder inside was also found in his pants pocket. A swab of the back of the toilet was positive for the presence of cocaine.

A zippered pouch was found stuffed in the back of his shorts. Inside the zippered pouch the officers found syringes, more cocaine, a pill crusher and three bottles of various types of pills. The pills were identified as controlled substances prescribed to persons other than Kukec.

Kukec had a rental car parked at the gas pumps at the store. In the trunk of the car deputies found a briefcase. In the briefcase they found four more pill bottles containing more controlled substances which were not in Kukec’s name.

Kukec was charged with possession of cocaine, four counts possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, four counts possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest. He was booked into jail.

Marathon man charged with robbing, beating another man

A Marathon man was arrested for robbing and beating another man Sunday night.

Just after 11 p.m., Sgt. Spenser Bryan and Deputy Orlando Alvarez responded to 3520 Overseas Highway where they met with the victim, who said he’d been beaten and robbed by 39 year old Kenyatta Scott. He said he was on 41st Street in Marathon when he was confronted by Scott, who demanded money from him. When the victim told Scott he had no money, Scott attacked him hitting him in the face and knocking him to the ground. Scott beat him with a belt, then checked the victim’s pockets taking the two dollars he had then leaving the scene on foot.

As the officers were investigating, Scott walked up with a belt over his shoulder. When Deputy Alvarez asked him why he had the belt, Scott said “I whooped him with it”. A witness who saw the incident take place corroborated the victim’s statement.

Scott was arrested. He was charged with battery and robbery and he was booked into jail.

July 8, 2014

Reminder: The Sheriff’s Office will accept old or outdated medications

Drug Drop program: Environmentally friendly way to dispose of medications

Note: The Sheriff's Office will not accept medications from commercial establishments

Monroe County – The Monroe County The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone about the drug disposal program offered at all our county Sheriff's Substations and the reasons why it is important to dispose of medications in the right way. The program has been an ongoing success. The Sheriff’s Office collected 245 pounds of various medications county-wide in the first six months of this year.

Anyone – with the exception of commercial establishments -  may bring no-longer-needed prescription drugs and other over the counter medications in, or call and someone will pick the medications up for disposal.

People who call to have medications picked up can do so with no questions asked. The goal of this program is to dispose of the items properly, not to catch people with illegal drugs.

Proper disposal of prescription and over the counter medications is important. Flushing them down the toilet or sink can introduce dangerous and environmentally damaging substances into the water system; throwing them away in the trash can also introduce them into the environment, and runs the risk of them winding up in the wrong hands. The medications collected by the Sheriff’s Office are safely burned in the Sheriff's Burn Unit.

·       In the Upper Keys, medications will be accepted at the Plantation Key Substation Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. For pickup, call 305-853-3211 during office hours.
·       In the Middle Keys, the Marathon Substation will accept any medications Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For pickup, call 305-289-2430 during office hours.
·       In the Lower Keys, citizens can drop off medications at the Freeman Substation on Cudjoe Key or at the Sheriff's Office headquarters building on Stock Island Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or call 305-745-3184 for pickup.

Caution: people who are going to bring their medications in themselves need to make sure to keep prescriptions in the prescription bottle until they drop them off to show proof the prescription is legitimately theirs. 

Graffiti removal, Tavernier

Deputies on Sgt. Mike DiGiovanni’s squad are tackling graffiti in Islamorada. Here are Deputy Shaun Lones and Marine Deputy Martin Digrius  painting out graffiti underneath the Tavernier Creek Bridge.

Sheriff's Office meets Indiana school class

Sgt. Mike DiGiovanni and Deputy Caridad Bellon came across this group of school kids and their teachers from Monroe County Indiana, riding north through the Keys. The group is spending their summer biking from Florida to Indiana.

Helping out on Stock Island

 Monroe County Public Works, on Stock Island working on another project, agreed to fill a low area in front of an area business where there was lots of standing water after rain storms. Deputies Freddy Rodriguez and Matt Dowling noticed the problem area while on patrol and asked Public Works for their assistance. Thanks to the teamwork of the Sheriff’s Office and Public Works, standing water in this area should no longer be a problem. Great job to everyone involved!

July 7, 2014

Security equipment to Samuel's House

Sheriff Ramsay and Lt. Sprinkle-Huff presented some security system equipment to Samuel’s House Executive Director Elmira Leto.  The security system had been previously used by the Communications Center.  Executive Director Leto said she will use the equipment to enhance the security of the Samuel’s House.  The system will allow the Samuel’s House personnel to view people trying to enter the property and verbally communicate with them prior to allowing them access to the property.

Sergeant promoted to lieutenant

Marathon Sergeant Dennis Coleman was promoted to Lieutenant by Sheriff Rick Ramsay. He will take the place of retiring Lt. Cindy Peryam, in the Sheriff’s Office Professional Standards Unit.

Detective promoted to sergeant

Detective Spenser Bryan was promoted to Sergeant by Sheriff Rick Ramsay. Sgt. Bryan will be working in District 4/5 on road patrol.

Vehicle auction

 We will be auctioning off a few vehicles this month. Here is the two page bid instruction sheet and the list of vehicles to be auctioned for anyone who may be interested.

July 5, 2014

Man charged with business burglaries

A Big Pine Key man was arrested early Friday, charged with stealing alcohol from a Marathon restaurant and “breaking his dog out of jail”.

Deputies Orlando Alvarez and Rosary Ponce responded to the Sunset Grille on Knight’s Key at 2:30 a.m. Friday to a report from a security guard, The guard said a man with a dog had come on the premises, then had fled on foot when confronted.

The deputies found 46 year old Luke Meadows underneath the Seven Mile Bridge. Beside him they found a dog he said was his and two crates full of bottles of liquor. Meadows admitted to breaking in to the Sunset Grille and stealing the bottles of alcohol.

While the deputies were interviewing Meadows, he told them he’d “broken his dog out of jail”. When they asked for further details, he admitted to breaking in to the Marathon animal shelter and removing the dog – a German shepherd chow mix - from a locked cage in the shelter.

Meadows was charged with two counts of burglary and one count of grand theft. He was booked into jail.

July 3, 2014

Miami man faces more charges

A Miami man, arrested on June 14th for stealing a boat and trailer from a home in Key Largo, faces more charges.

38 year old Giovanny Lluis was arrested after a traffic stop by Deputy Vaughn O’Keefe revealed he’d taken the $30,000 Hydra Sport and was headed northbound with it. He was initially booked on charges of grand theft and driving with his license suspended. His truck, used in the boat theft, was seized and towed. Detective Yunier Galvez was assigned to investigate further.

Inside the truck, Detective Galvez found evidence of more crimes. A GPS in the truck was traced to a home on Peace Avenue in Key Largo. The Sheriff’s Office already had an active investigation into  a burglary reported at the home. A second GPS found in the truck was traced to a home on Villa Bella Drive in Islamorada. Although there was no reported burglary at the home, Detective Galvez found evidence someone had entered a pontoon boat on the property and stole the GPS from the boat. The owner was contacted and identified the GPS as his. The investigation also revealed evidence that Lluis intended to sell the GPS units to an acquaintance in Hialeah.

Warrants were issued for Lluis and this week he was further charged with two counts each of grand theft and dealing in stolen property.

Man charged with knife threats, boat burglary

A man was arrested after he broke into a houseboat on Summerland Key,  then swung a knife at friends of the victim as they tried to retrieve items he stole from the boat.

The victim returned to her boat moored on Center Street on Summerland Key, at 10:20 p.m. Wednesday and found someone had entered and taken money, two bottles of Miller Lite beer and a partial bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey. She went outside and looked down the street. She saw a man sleeping next to a bicycle. When she got closer she saw the items stolen from her boat in the basket of the bike. She called two male friends for help.

When the friends arrived, the sleeping man – later identified as 36 year old Ted Williams – woke up. Williams began to argue with them, then pulled out a knife and began to swing it at the two men. During the argument, Williams was yelling that his name was “Lucky”. The victim told him she was going to call the police, so Williams fled on his bike.

When Deputy Sean Moran arrived, he searched the area and found Williams climbing out of the water behind the Shell gas station. He fit the description of the suspect and had a tattoo on his arm that said “Lucky”. He was drinking a cold, half full bottle of Miller Lite. The Miller Lite bottle was marked with the saem lot number and expiration date as the ones that were left in the refrigerator on the victim’s boat. A knife was found and recovered from the canal in the same location he was seen climbing  out of the water.

Williams was arrested. He was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, burglary and theft. He was booked into jail. 

July 2, 2014

Middle Keys-Alcohol Coalition Checks

On June 27, 2014, The Special Investigations Division conducted an operation checking businesses that sell alcohol in the Middle Keys.  Fifteen businesses were checked including restaurants, convenience stores and bars.  Three of the businesses served alcohol to a minor during our investigations.  The three 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- 1415 Overseas Highway, Marathon.  Attendant: Lissette Martinez, 44 years of age.  Notice to appear issued (NTA).
  • Dion’s Quickmart- 6203 Overseas Highway, Marathon.  Attendant: Janet Mathieu, 70 years of age.  Notice to appear issued (NTA). 
  • Brass Monkey- 232 55th Overseas Highway, Marathon.  Attendant: Peter Varney, 72 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.

Graffiti eradication in Key West

Corrections Deputy Denise Dery took some jail inmates around the city of Key West yesterday, painting out unsightly graffiti in a number of areas including behind the currently closed Denny's Restaurant off of North Roosevelt Boulevard. They also hit an area on Seminary Street which had been brought to our attention by one of our Facebook followers. Here are some photos of the graffiti eradication effort.