February 27, 2015

Detectives look for home invasion robbery suspect

Brandon Rettich, suspect wanted for
home invasion robbery
Sheriff’s detectives are investigating a case where suspects tied up a Key Largo man in his home, pointed a gun at him and threatened to kill him. They then stole cash and guns and fled the scene. The victim was able to identify one of the men who robbed him, even though both men used hoods and masks to hide their faces.

The victim said he was sleeping on his couch at his Drury Drive apartment at 3 a.m. Thursday when the two suspects entered through an unlocked door. He said they pointed a pistol at him and one suspect tied his hands behind his back using zip ties.

The victim said they took him from the apartment to his parent’s house nearby and they all entered the home through a window. Once inside, he said the two suspects used a Taser on him and ransacked the home. He said at one point, one of the suspects told the other to “pop” him, which he took to mean “kill” him. He said he was afraid he was going to die.

The suspects found cash hidden in his parent’s house. They also found four rifles and two shotguns. They took the cash and the guns and left the house. The victim said he heard them leave in a vehicle. He said after he heard them leave, he ran to a neighbor’s house for help.

The victim was able to identify one of the suspects as a man he is acquainted with, 37 year old Brandon Rettich. An arrest warrant has been issued for Rettich for kidnapping, robbery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and battery. When the second suspect is identified, he will most likely face similar charges.

Anyone with information about this 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 www.tipsubmit.com or via a text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.

Great information from the IRS about a tax related scam:

The IRS has issued a new warning about a growing number of tax scams in communities across the country.
If you get a nasty call from someone purporting to be an employee of the IRS, hang up the phone.
The Internal Revenue Service issued a new warning Friday for an ongoing scam in which an official-sounding caller claiming to be a U.S. tax official berates threatens and frightens people into believing they owe thousands in unpaid taxes. Sometimes they say a refund is coming, and ask for personal information to transfer the funds.
Even though the filing deadline is six months away, the scammers are back at it in earnest.
One of the most recent victims is a North Carolina Baptist minister who spent nine hours on the phone with a trickster who dumped him out of $16,500.
The Rev. Al Cadenhead of Charlotte got a call this week from a woman who said his tax returns had been audited and there "serious miscalculations," the pastor told the Charlotte Observer. There was a warrant out for his arrest, she told him, and the IRS was in the process of putting a lien against his house.
Cadenhead said he panicked and feared his church would be disgraced if he was thrown in jail. He drove around for hours, taking money out of a bank account and purchasing pre-paid Green Dot Money Paks, which the fake IRS agent told him was the only form of acceptable payment.
"This scam is so sophisticated and efficient and thorough, you're in the middle of it before you realize what's happening," the 67-year-old preacher said.
In the past year, some 180,000 complaints have been received by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, with 1,800 documented victims and losses estimated at $100 million.
Former North Carolina Panther Frank Garcia lost $8,000 this summer during a similar phone call. "The way they manipulate you, you're not thinking straight," Garcia told the paper. "I had filed for an extension and thought it could easily be a mix-up."

The scam is intricate and frighteningly calculated, according to the IRS. The caller ID may flash an actual IRS phone number, the caller may have the last four digits of your Social Security number, the name of your employer and your home address.
But the Internal Revenue Service does not phone or send emails about personal information, the agency said. Notifications of IRS inquiries are delivered via snail mail.
If you have been contacted by such a caller, the IRS asks you to call the Treasury Inspector for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484, or Call the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office at:
Upper Keys 853-3211, Middle Keys 305-289-2430, and Lower Keys 305-745-3184.

Sheriff announces next Citizen’s Police Academies

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office will be holding its next Citizen’s Police Academies starting in April and we are looking for people who are interested in learning more about law enforcement and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Classes will begin April 15th and will continue through graduation the week of May 27th.  There will be three separate academies held during that time – in the Lower, Middle and Upper Keys. Attendees will be asked to commit to spending one night a week between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. They will also be asked to participate in at least one ride-along with a deputy during the academy period. All participants will be asked to attend the first and last sessions at the Sheriff’s Office hanger at the Marathon airport. Otherwise classes will be held in the following locations:

  • In the Upper Keys, classes will meet every Tuesday at the Roth Building on Plantation Key.
  • In the Middle Keys, classes will meet every Wednesday at the Sheriff’s Office Aviation Hanger in Marathon.
  • In the Lower Keys, classes will meet every Thursday at the Sheriff’s Headquarters building on Stock Island.

“If you have always wanted to know more about law enforcement this is a terrific opportunity,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “We’ve held academies like this for the past three years and everyone who has attended them really enjoyed themselves. We don’t just stand in a classroom and lecture; you will have the opportunity to have a hands-on law enforcement experience if you attend one of these academies,” he said.

Classes will include:
  • An orientation and introduction to patrol procedures
  • A tour of one of the jail facilities
  • Introduction to weapons: simunitions and Taser
  • Traffic / Felony stops
  • Crime Scene Investigations, including a hands on mock crime scene
  • Building searches
  • Introduction to specialty units: SWAT, Bomb, Dive, Major Crimes and Special Investigations

Space is limited, so anyone who is interested should contact the captain in the area where they wish to attend.

Sheriff helps fellow law enforcers with new equipment

Sheriff Ramsay and Chief Donie Lee look 
at body camera equipment.
 Sheriff Rick Ramsay met with command staff from other local law enforcement agencies today to give out equipment purchased for those agencies by the Sheriff’s Office. The purpose of the equipment purchases: to help with the collective mission of keeping the residents of and visitors to Monroe County safe.

Sheriff Ramsay and Key Colony Beach Chief Kris 
DiGiovanni talk about equipment purchased for KCB Police.
“All of our agencies work together on a regular and frequent basis and we want to make sure we all have up to date and state of the art equipment to help us do our jobs,” said Sheriff Ramsay. “I was happy to be able to help with that by purchasing this equipment.”

The equipment included 100 body cameras for Key West Police, GPS/Chart Plotters, game cameras and Nite Optics binoculars for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, AED Lifepaks and Arbitrator video recorders for Key Colony Beach Police and laptop computers, Lidar Lasers and Radar units for the Florida Highway Patrol.

The money for the equipment came from fees the Sheriff’s Office collects for grant administration. The Sheriff’s Office administers a number of large grants including the South Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area grant.

Burglary in Islamorada results in two arrests

A burglary in Islamorada Thursday afternoon resulted in the arrest of two people and the recovery of jewelry stolen from the home.

The victim came home to his Preston Street residence about 12:35 p.m. and found his front door locked. He said he knew something was wrong because he never locks his doors. He walked around and entered through the back door, and saw a man inside his house. When he yelled at him, the man fled from the house.

The victim said he saw the suspect – later identified as 28 year old Keith Knespler – ride a “long board” style skateboard to the nearby Dion’s convenience store. The victim followed on a bicycle. An employee in the store told him Knespler met up with a woman wearing a red shirt. Another witness said she had seen the two flee in a silver colored PT Cruiser.

A notice to be on the lookout for the vehicle was issued over police radios. Deputies Dave Campbell and Cody Kerns spotted the car northbound on the highway, but were unable to catch up to it due to traffic. They lost sight of it, but found the car a short time later parked in Harry Davis Circle. It appeared to be unoccupied, but when the deputies checked inside, the two suspects had reclined the front seats and were hiding.

Knespler and 26 year old Stacey Legate, both from Jupiter, Florida were identified by the victim and by one of the witnesses. They were arrested. The jewelry they stole – including four Rolex watches – was recovered and returned to the owner. Knespler was charged with burglary and grand theft; Legate was charged with being a principle to the crime of burglary and with grand theft. They were both booked into jail.

February 26, 2015

Looking for a job with a great employer?

Need a job with a great employer? Here is your chance, if you are qualified:
Finance Assistant – Accounts Payable
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is looking for an eager individual to fill an accounts payable/payroll position within our Finance Division. High school diploma or its equivalent; candidate should have college education in the area of finance, accounting, or general business with some experience in automated payroll.
Must be detail oriented, organized and exhibit a high degree of accuracy. Work includes coding of invoices, obtaining required approvals, match invoices with PO’s and other required documentation. Verifies supporting details for each transactions appropriate for audit trail, data entry, processing check runs, contacting vendors, and other duties.
This job requires a thorough understanding of payroll processing practices and must be performed accurately and with attention to dealing with calculations and numbers. Ability to use microcomputer applications to complete the functions.
Applicants must fill out the MCSO online pre-application at www.keysso.net Please email resumes to cslebodnick@keysso.net EOE/AAP. The starting salary for this position is $ 34,675.00.

Move Over Law

In the photo: today, in Marathon, Sheriff’s deputies conducted an “educational campaign” on the Move-over law. They pulled people over who were in violation and reminded them about the requirement to either move over or slow down when they see an emergency vehicle beside the road with lights actively flashing.

The Move-Over law, Florida Statute 316.126, requires drivers to move over or slow down when passing a law enforcement officer or other emergency services worker who is parked alongside the road with emergency lights flashing.

"Many law enforcement officers in the United States are killed each year while conducting traffic stops because driver's fail to move over, and they hit the officers as they stand roadside," said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. "This Florida law, which has been adopted in almost every state in the country, is an important one and it is one we here in Monroe County take very seriously."

If you are driving and see a police vehicle, ambulance, fire truck, utility vehicle or tow truck with its flashing lights on beside the road, give the emergency responder room to work and make sure they remain safe as they operate. Move over or slow down. It's the law, and the penalty is steep: three points on your license and a significant fine.

Scam report

We have gotten some reports today of yet another scam involving green dot cards. This time, the person who is calling is reportedly identifying himself as an employee of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

This person first identified himself as Lt. Mike Edwards, but might use other names. He asks people to go get green dot cards, scratch off the back and give him the number so he can cash them. The reports we have so far are sketchy because the people he has called have immediately challenged him on his claims and when challenged, he hangs up immediately.

This is a common scam that takes many forms. If you ever receive a phone call from someone asking for immediate payment in the form of green dot cards, you should assume it is a scam and DO NOT comply with the instructions. There is no legitimate business that will insist on this kind of immediate payment.

February 24, 2015

Motorcyclist charged with drugs, fleeing officers

A Key Largo man was arrested early today after he fled from pursuing officers on his motorcycle and was found to be in possession of cocaine.

Sgt. Jason Madnick was southbound at the 100 mile marker at 1:30 a.m. when he saw a motorcycle pull onto the highway from Kay Drive, running a stop sign. The motorcyclist accelerated northbound and passed the sergeant at a high rate of speed.

Sgt. Madnick turned around to pull the motorcycle over. He also radioed to other deputies to watch for the motorcycle. Deputy Derick Velez was in the area and spotted the motorcycle. He got behind it in an attempt to pull it over. The motorcycle finally turned off the highway into the parking lot of the Waffle House. The driver traveled through the lot and onto the property of Centennial Bank. Sgt. Madnick and Deputy Velez pulled up to him as he was trying to restart his motorcycle. He was taken into custody.

24 year old Ilias Agelis appeared to be impaired and admitted drinking alcohol. When he arrived at the detention center, six plastic bags containing cocaine were found in his wallet. He was charged with fleeing and eluding police, possession of cocaine, introduction of contraband to a corrections facility, driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving, having no brake lights, no proof of insurance, no registration, no approved eyewear, running a stop sign, and improper passing.

Woman arrested for drugs

A Key Largo woman was arrested on Sugarloaf Key on drug charges after she passed out behind the wheel of a running vehicle Monday.

Sgt. Ken Fricke spotted the Pontiac Vibe on the side of the road at Lower Sugarloaf Channel at 10:30 a.m. Monday. 23 year old Kayla Gregg was behind the wheel, passed out. She was partially dressed, with a breast exposed and her skirt pulled up around her waist. He was concerned about her so he knocked on the window.

When she woke up, he asked for her identification. As she reached into her purse, he saw a plastic bag with what appeared to be marijuana in it. He asked her what the substance was in the plastic bag. At that point, she pulled a plastic bag out of her purse, but not the one with marijuana in it. The one she pulled out had a white powder inside which tested positive as cocaine. She was placed under arrest.

In her purse, Sgt. Fricke found Oxycodone, Morphine, Vyanse and Tramadol. She also had a smoking pipe. When he asked her why she had all the drugs she said it was because her back hurts from being an adult dancer. She was charged with possession of marijuana, cocaine drug paraphernalia and four counts possession of controlled substances.

February 20, 2015

Deputies honored for life saving

Sgt. Spenser Bryan and Deputy Rosary Ponce received the Sheriff’s Medal for lifesaving Thursday, at a ceremony held in Marathon.

In early February, Deputy Ponce and Sgt. Bryan responded to a medical call in Marathon. When they arrived, they found a small child not breathing. Because of their quick actions in performing CPR on the child, by the time paramedics arrived the child was breathing and had opened his eyes, and was responsive. Once at the hospital, he regained full consciousness and was breathing normally.

“These two handled an extremely stressful and difficult situation extremely well, putting to work their training and experience to save this child’s life. They deserve this medal for their exemplary service,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay.

Sheriff honors employees of the year

In the photo, left to right: Deputy David Lariz, Explorer Captain Caileigh Lutz, Sheriff’s Aide Donatella Kelly, Corrections Deputy Charles Miles, Reserve Deputy Bradley Humelsine and Sheriff Rick Ramsay.

The Sheriff’s Office honored its employees of the year at a ceremony held Thursday at the Marathon Government Center. The five employees honored at the ceremony are each from one of the Sheriff’s Office major components – law enforcement, corrections, support, reserves and explorers. They are chosen from among the Sheriff’s Office quarterly award winners honored for their service throughout the year.

While there are many employees who perform acts that deserve recognition, the five chosen for this award are an example of the exemplary service we hope all employees strive for. Each award recipient receives a plaque and a monetary award from the Sheriff’s Office. The monetary award is matched by community partner Centennial Bank, a long time sponsor of the yearly award ceremony.

Deputy David Lariz, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year: Deputy Lariz was recognized for his work apprehending a vehicle burglar who had committed at least 20 such crimes in the areas of Key Haven and Sugarloaf Key in October. Detectives had a surveillance video depicting the suspect and vehicle. Deputy Lariz viewed the video and was on the lookout for similar vehicles while at work on a special detail assignment for Fantasy Fest in the city of Key West. He spotted the vehicle as it drove past him on Simonton Street. The car was stopped and stolen items were found inside. The driver was determined to be the suspect in multiple felony crimes. A large amount of stolen property was recovered, along with a large amount of illegal narcotics.

Deputy Charles Miles, Detention Deputy of the Year: Deputy Miles works in the Transportation Unit at the Stock Island Detention Center. His main duty is transporting inmates to and from court. In November, a BOLO was issued for a suspect wanted for violent offenses. Deputy Miles knew the suspect and knew a few areas he has been known to frequent. While returning from court, he altered his course of travel to check out a few of those areas to see if he could spot the suspect. He saw the wanted man at Higgs Beach and called for assistance. The suspect was apprehended due to Deputy Miles efforts. In addition to this effort, Deputy Miles is also extremely active in the community, participating in many fundraising and cleanup activities on a regular basis.

Donatella Kelly, Support employee of the Year: Kelly is the Sheriff’s Assistant. In the summer of 2014, the Florida Sheriff’s Association and Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch expressed a wish to hold a summer camp in the Lower Keys for Monroe County school children. Kelly volunteered to organize the camp for the Youth Ranch. In addition to her normal duties, she found a location for the camp to take place, recruited kids to attend the camp and put together curriculum to keep the kids busy for the entire week, including recruiting law enforcement officers to teach them and making sure they had lunch and snacks. It was a huge undertaking and went off without a hitch. About 50 kids spent the week learning about various aspects of law enforcement in a fun, safe and instructive environment.

Brad Humelsine, Reserve Deputy of the Year: Res. Deputy Humelsine acts as a volunteer pilot for the Sheriff’s Office. During Fantasy Fest, a Deputy from Orlando, Florida was in the Keys working the festival. He was with Orlando’s mounted division, working the crowds with his horse on Duval Street when the horse slipped, falling and landing on the deputy’s leg and breaking it. It was a severe break and he needed to be airlifted to a trauma hospital for treatment. There were no other pilots available at that time so Humelsine, who was about to go on vacation, canceled his vacation plans in order to fly the deputy out.

Explorer Captain Caileigh Lutz, Explorer of the Year: Captain Lutz is 16 years old and has been with the Explorer and Cadet program since the age of 10. She takes her training in the program very seriously, always attending meetings, training events and competitions. She has a great attitude and her leadership skills help others in her explorer post and have been instrumental in the excellent performance her team shows at state-wide explorer competitions. She is also on her school’s AP Honor Roll, holding a straight A average. She participates in many school activities and community activities, including the National Honor Society, Teen Court, the Sheriff’s Honor Guard, just to name a few. She sets an excellent example for younger members of the program as she grows and matures in her leadership position.