September 29, 2015

Long Key Bridge scheduled closures

Got the following message from FDOT about scheduled closures for the Long Key Bridge this week:

Please be advised of the following as it relates to upcoming  bridge closures on Long Key Bridge.

One hour full length lane closures will be conducted to accommodate cutting operations and deliveries. Full length closures will be implemented to allow for vehicles to turn around if necessary during closures without having to attempt U-turns on the bridge. In the case of actual emergencies, operations will pause to allow emergency response vehicles to pass.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 – Bridge closures will occur for one hour between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. for jacking/cutting operations

Friday, October 2, 2015 – Bridge closures will occur for one hour between 1 a.m. and 2  a.m. for deliveries.

Please do not hesitate to contact Jordan Salinger at 954-658-9259 or 813-520-4391 should you have any questions or concerns regarding this information.

Fire burns Plantation Key trailer

Sadly, shortly after noon this trailer in Seabreeze Trailer Park on Plantation Key caught fire and was destroyed. Islamorada firefighters responded and deputies were on scene to ensure no one was inside and that neighboring properties were evacuated just in case. Fortunately, there were no injuries as a result of the fire.

September 28, 2015

Cudjoe Key woman charged with burglary

A Cudjoe Key woman was arrested for burglarizing property she used to own.

On Sunday at 5:20 p.m., Deputy David Lariz responded to a home on Guadeloupe Lane, Ramrod Key to a possible burglary. The current tenant of the house was leaving for work and encountered 44 year old Nedda Bentley, who had driven onto the gated property in her red pickup truck. Bentley was the previous owner of the property, which had been foreclosed on by the bank. The current tenant said she told Bentley she needed to leave the property, but Bentley did not leave and was still there when officers arrived on the scene.

Investigation revealed Bentley had removed a number of items which belonged to the current tenant from a downstairs enclosure at the house. The items were found inside her truck.

Bentley was arrested. She was charged with burglary, trespassing and theft and she was booked into jail.

Traffic stop leads to drug arrest

A traffic stop in Key Largo led to the arrest of a woman on drug charges.

Deputy Cody Kerns was on patrol at 2 a.m. this morning when he spotted vehicle at the 102 mile marker with a tag light that was not working. He pulled the car over to inform the driver of the issue. When he approached the driver’s open door, he could smell the distinct odor of burning marijuana. The driver admitted he and his female passenger had smoked marijuana earlier. He said it was her birthday and they wanted to celebrate by watching the blood moon.

Both driver and passenger were asked to exit the vehicle. The passenger, 22 year old Amanda Otano of Miami, had a purse in the vehicle. Inside the purse, Deputy Kerns located a plastic first aid kit. In the first aid kit he found a small amount of marijuana, a plastic container with over six grams of cocaine inside, 10 small plastic bags with more cocaine inside and several items of drug paraphernalia.

Otano was arrested. She was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Man arrested for high speeds, no license, cocaine

A Summerland Key man was arrested Sunday in the early morning hours after he was stopped for speeding on his motorcycle.

Deputy David Lariz was on Rockland Key just before midnight Saturday when he spotted the motorcycle with two people on it, southbound. He saw the driver tailgating and turned around to stop the vehicle. The motorcycle driver sped up, passing a number of other vehicles. Deputy Lariz  attempted to catch up, but the motorcycle was traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour at that point.

Deputy Lariz radioed ahead to Deputy Boyd Williams, who was on Stock Island. Deputy Williams took up a position at U.S. One and Cross Street to wait for the motorcycle. Deputy Lariz caught up with the motorcycle at U.S. One and MacDonald Avenue. It had been stopped by traffic. He told the driver to pull over.

The driver of the motorcycle was identified as 32 year old Sean Kenny of Summerland Key. Deputy Williams, who arrived to back up Deputy Lariz, recognized Kenny as someone he stopped the week before. At the time of that stop, Kenny had no valid driver’s license and was cited for it.

On Sunday night, he still had no valid license. In fact he had an expired license from Pennsylvania. He assured the officers he would be getting one in a few days. When Deputy Lariz asked why he was speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour, Kenny replied it was because there was no one in front of him.

Kenny was issued a number of citations, for speeding and no valid license. He was told to park his motorcycle and not to drive anymore. As Kenny was walking away from Deputy Lariz, putting the citations in his pocket, a plastic bag dropped out of his pants pocket. Inside the bag where nine smaller bags with white powder inside. The powder tested positive as cocaine.

Kenny was arrested. He was charged with failing to register his motorcycle in Florida, driving with an expired license, not obtaining a Florida driver’s license within 30 days of employment and possession of cocaine.

September 24, 2015

Cleaning up the Keys

Members of the Sheriff's Office took part in cleanups county-wide this past weekend in the Florida Keys.

Cadets visit the Coast Guard

 Upper Keys cadets Jayden Gattorno and Michael Anchetta toured the Islamorada Coast Guard base this week with SRO Cadet Advisors Dave Stark and Larry O’Neill. They got to tour vessels, see equipment and learn about the mission of the Coast Guard from Officer Abby Gantt.

September 23, 2015

Man shot to death in violent confrontation

A Little Torch Key man is dead today, shot to death after he tried to force his way into another man’s house to confront him about having an affair with his wife.

Sheriff’s dispatchers received a call about a burglary in progress at a home on Oleander Boulevard on Big Pine Key. The caller – later identified as 31 year old Patrick Wunsch – said a man had attempted to forcibly enter his house and he had shot him.

When Deputies Dyllon Hansen, Josh Gordon and John Gabay arrived shortly after 11 p.m., they found both Wunsch and the man he’d shot on the front porch of the residence. Wunsch was cooperative, as was his wife and her parents, all of whom were at the home when the incident took place. The man he’d shot had no pulse. Deputies attempted to revive 29 year old Andrew Grzych of Little Torch Key with CPR and an AED device. When paramedics arrived they also attempted to revive Grzych, but they pronounced him dead on the scene.

Investigators from the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit responded and are investigating the circumstances of the shooting. Initial investigations indicate the two men were acquainted and that Grzych believed Wunsch was having sexual relations with his wife. Grzych went to the house on Oleander Boulevard to confront Wunsch about the affair. That is when the shooting took place.

The gun used – a semi-automatic Glock handgun – was recovered at the scene.

After the investigations, along with interviews with all parties involved and consultation with the State Attorney’s Office, Wunsch was not arrested in connection with the shooting. The investigation will be continuing and an autopsy will be done on Grzych to document the cause of his death.

September 22, 2015

Owner of construction company arrested for stealing boat, trailer

The owner of a construction company doing business in Duck Key stole a boat and trailer from a home there. He was arrested Monday, charged with two counts of grand theft.

On August 17th, the owner of the 17 foot Action Craft called the Sheriff’s Office. He lives elsewhere, but his caretaker called him to tell him his boat and trailer were missing from his Duck Key home. A neighbor told Deputy Rosary Ponce she’d seen it the day before around 3 p.m. Detective Michael Sielicki worked with Duck Key security to obtain video of vehicles entering and leaving the area. On the video, they saw a black GMC Yukon leaving Duck Key towing the boat and trailer. The license plate had been removed from the Yukon.

Investigation by Detectives Sielicki and Scott Ward revealed the Yukon belongs to 30 year old Carlos Davalos, the owner of CBD Construction, Inc. Davalos lives in Homestead, but his company frequently works on Duck Key.

On September 11th, the Yukon was stopped by Homestead Police at the request of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Davalos and his wife were in the car. She told investigators she was in Texas visiting family at the time of the boat theft. She told them only she and her husband have keys and they are the only ones who ever drive the vehicle. She said he mostly works at Duck Key, and drives the Yukon which he uses to transport his employees to work.

When questioned, Davalos denied stealing the boat but could give no explanation as to why his Yukon was caught on video leaving Duck Key towing the boat and trailer. He said he’d returned from Texas the day before and had been at work on Duck Key the day the boat and trailer were stolen. He admitted that no one else ever drove his vehicle except he and his wife.

A warrant was obtained for the arrest of Davalos. He was charged with the warrant Monday afternoon and was booked into jail. As of his arrest yesterday, Davalos company was still doing work in the area of Duck Key and on Stirrup Key as subcontractors.

September 21, 2015

Sheriff announces break in marine theft investigation

Suspect Diaz, when he was arrested
in Florida City.
Sheriff Rick Ramsay announced today a major break in the marine theft investigations which have taken place in Monroe County over past months. A Hialeah man and an accomplice from Miami were apprehended Thursday night, caught in the act of stealing marine electronics in the Upper Keys.

“These guys were possible suspects on a  list of suspects our marine task force had compiled based on intelligence information gathered during their investigations,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “We’ve been working non-stop, nights and weekends on these cases putting together information and hoping for something to break and it happened late last week.” Sheriff Ramsay put together a multi-agency task force to investigate these crimes. That task force has been working together tirelessly  to identify possible suspects; to identify the possible ways these suspects have been operating, where they are taking the stolen property and any other angles which might help to stop them from committing these crimes.

Suspect Marquez, from Miami.
The break came on Thursday night when Deputy Christopher Kilmurray spotted a suspicious vehicle. Road patrol had been told to be on the lookout for anything suspicious in the vicinity of marine related businesses in the county. He saw a Ford Escape in the parking lot of the Burton Memorial Church in Tavernier at 11 p.m., backed into a parking spot in the far corner of the lot. The church is across from Unique Marine, a large boat sales and service business. The driver was sitting inside the vehicle, hunched down in the seat as if trying to hide. When Deputy Kilmurray ran his name – 23 year old Yosvany Izquierdo Marquez of Miami – he found the man had a history of arrests in other jurisdictions for burglaries and thefts. Deputy Kilmurray’s sergeant – Jason Madnick – sent Deputy Cody Kerns to make sure the property of Unique Marine was secure. His thinking: the guy sitting in the car in the deserted parking lot might be a lookout for someone committing crimes nearby.

A tool bag, left behind by Diaz and some of the electronics taken
from boats at Unique Marine.
Deputy Kerns jumped the fence at Unique Marine to check the boats stored inside. As he was checking the business, he came face to face with a Hispanic man who later turned to be Roberto Morales Diaz, 38 years old from Hialeah. Diaz was wearing dark clothing, a dark baseball cap and gloves. When the deputy confronted him, Diaz turned and ran. Kerns gave chase, but did not catch him. He did, however, find a large hole cut in a chain link fence at the back of the property. A tool kit was laying on the ground next to the hole in the fence, and a pile of GPS and radar units which had been removed from boats in the lot. A hat like the one Diaz was wearing was also found near the gate to the property. A perimeter was set up around the area and officers searched for Diaz, but did not find him.

Marquez was arrested and charged with loitering and prowling. He was later charged with being a principle to the crime of burglary after he told detectives he had given Diaz a ride to the Keys. He said Diaz offered him $2,400 to drive him to the keys, to “leave him at the church so he can steal boat parts”. Deputy Kerns looked at a photo of Diaz and identified him as the man he confronted, face to face, at Unique Marine. Diaz already had a warrant out for his arrest. He’d been connected with one boat burglary which took place on May 29th at Shelter Bay Marina in Marathon. He’d left DNA in the form of a half empty water bottle on the boat he burglarized.

Previous intelligence gathered by the task force indicated Diaz might be connected with a white Nissan Altima so officers began to look out for the car thinking Diaz might be trying to flee the county in it. Lt. Al Ramirez was on the 18 mile stretch in the early morning hours, after having been at the scene of the Unique Marine burglaries. He spotted the Altima and followed it into Florida City where he asked for the assistance of Florida City Police in stopping it. The vehicle was stopped at the intersection of U.S. One and Palm Drive. Diaz was inside the vehicle. He was arrested with the assistance of Florida City and Homestead Police and charged with the warrant that was outstanding for the burglary at Shelter Bay Marina.
One of the boats with electronics removed by Diaz.

In the meantime, detectives processed the scene at Unique Marine in Tavernier. They found a total of eight boats were burglarized, with electronics taken from all of them. They obtained warrants and on Friday, Diaz was returned to Monroe County where he was further charged with eight counts of burglary, eight counts of theft, possession of burglary tools, criminal mischief and resisting arrest in connection with the crimes committed at Unique Marine.

“As you can see from this case, it was a combination of intelligence gathered by the task force working these cases, and alert deputies who had been told what to look out for that led to these arrests,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “We believe these suspects have been instrumental in a significant number of the electronics thefts that have taken place in the county. We will continue to work on these investigations and hope to bring more charges and make more arrests. In the meantime, we would caution people to continue to be vigilant – don’t leave valuable equipment on your boat. Keep an eye out for suspicious behavior and call us immediately if you see anyone who might be casing your neighborhood or checking out people’s boats.”

The marine theft task force, which has committed over a thousand hours and has been working together on these cases for months, is comprised of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Highway Patrol, Homeland Security, the State Attorney's Office and Customs and Border Protection. Key West Police lent resources to the task force on several occasions.

“We want to thank our law enforcement partners. Everyone committed hours and resources to this effort and worked tirelessly toward the goal of stopping these crimes,” said Sheriff Ramsay. “The citizens of the county should feel good about the fact that they have such professional, committed law enforcement agencies working to keep them safe.”

North Dakota man dies while snorkeling

A man visiting the Florida Keys from North Dakota died while snorkeling offshore of the Lower Keys Sunday afternoon.

72 year old George Hsu on board a boat with his wife, and his brother and sister in law at 2 p.m. He was snorkeling near Looe Key Reef when he called for help. His wife, who was on the boat, saw he was in distress. She, along with the others on board, pulled him into the boat.

They began performing CPR on Hsu; a Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat was in the vicinity and responded, escorting the vessel to shore at the Dolphin Marina Resort. Paramedics and deputies met the boat at the marina. Hsu was transported to Lower Keys Medical Center where Hsu was pronounced dead.

An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of his death.

September 20, 2015

Stock Island man arrested for child sex abuse

A 33 year old Stock Island man was arrested Friday, charged with sexually abusing a young girl.

Major Crimes Detective Lissette Zuelch arrested Roberto Carlos Aquino Arevalo after a young girl told her school counselor she’d been sexually molested by him. Subsequent investigations into the allegations led to a charge of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child between the ages of 12 and 16. The victim is 13 years old.

In her report, Detective Zuelch indicates her investigation is still ongoing and more charges may be pending against Aquino Arevalo. He remains in jail. His bond is set at $150,000.

September 18, 2015

Stolen boat recovered, suspect arrested

The black and white aerial photos were taken by FWC Aircraft Pilot Dan Willlman; photo of suspect being handcuffed is courtesy of Customs and Border Protection.

A multi-agency effort to recover a stolen boat resulted in the arrest of a New York man offshore of the Lower Keys Thursday.

The owner of the stolen vessel called the Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning. He said he was taking his son to school and, as he drove past the Hurricane Hole Marina where he keeps the 31 foot Yellowfin, he noticed it wasn’t in its slip. He called the marina and they did not know why it was missing. The marina manager reviewed video and saw someone take the boat from the marina at 5:30 a.m. The victim called the Sheriff’s Office to report the theft.

The victim had a report from a friend who lives on 12th Avenue on Stock Island who said he saw the boat idling south in Cow Key Channel at 6:30 a.m. He said he thought at the time that  it was early for the victim to be out on the water.

At 3:30 p.m. employees of the Key West Harbor Yacht Club called the Sheriff’s Office to report the stolen boat was currently fueling up at their marina. They had heard the boat was stolen and recognized it when it came in. Deputy Spencer Curry was working in the area and responded to the marina. He arrived just as the stolen boat was leaving. He yelled at the boat operator – later identified as 40 year old Stephen Leonard – to stop. Instead, Leonard fled the marina at high speed. The employees that reported the vessel’s presence told Deputy Curry Leonard was asking how much gas he would need to go to Cuba.

Detective David Cruz was working the case and went to the area of South Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West where he saw the boat going south. Sheriff’s dispatchers notified the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection of the boat’s location.

Those agencies responded – despite stormy weather in the area – with air assets as well as boats on the water. A FWC aircraft spotted the boat and directed the pursuing boats to the stolen vessel’s location. Leonard was apprehended and the boat was recovered unharmed. He was brought in to the U.S. Coast Guard station in Key West where he was taken into custody by Detective Cruz and Deputy Curry. Leonard was charged with grand theft and resisting arrest.

Others who had been in contact with Leonard were interviewed and said he’d been acting strangely and had been talking about going to Cuba.

“I want to thank our law enforcement partners for their assistance in the recovery of this vessel and the apprehension of the suspect who stole it,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “When we called them they responded quickly despite the rain and stormy weather. They were instrumental in this case and we truly appreciate the good working relationship we all have in protecting the citizens of Monroe County and those who visit here,” he said.

“The employees at the Key West Harbor Yacht Club are also to be commended for their quick action in calling us and giving us the location of the suspect and the stolen boat,” said the Sheriff. “The teamwork shown in this case – between multiple law enforcement agencies and community members – was truly impressive.”

September 15, 2015

Marathon man wanted for harassing, grabbing 12 year old

A Marathon is wanted for harassing and grabbing a 12 year old girl repeatedly in a Marathon restaurant. The Sheriff’s Office is trying to locate him to charge him with an outstanding warrant in the case.

On August 5th at 9:30 p.m., the 12 year old victim and her  mother were dining at the Sunset Grill in Marathon. The young girl got up from their table to go to the restroom. As she was walking across the restaurant, 38 year old David Garcia grabbed her, wrapping his arms around her. She broke away, but when she exited the restroom, he again attempted to grab her, saying something in Spanish she didn’t understand. When she got back to the table with her mother, she told her mother what he did. Her mother asked her to once again walk by the man so she could witness what happened. As the mother watched, her daughter walked by him again and he again tried to grab her.

Her mother confronted Garcia, and he walked out of the restaurant. The manager working that night told the mother that Garcia was a former employee. Video footage from the restaurant showed all three confrontations between Garcia and the little girl.

A warrant was obtained for the arrest of Garcia for stalking and battery. Anyone who knows where he is should contact the Sheriff’s Office at 305-289-2351.

Detectives seek help identifying fraud suspect

Sheriff’s detectives say they need help identifying the suspect in a credit card fraud case.

The victim, who lives in the Upper Keys, called the Sheriff’s Office August 24th. She said someone used her credit card number to make a purchase at the Walgreen’s on Big Pine Key. The manager of Capital Bank, which is the issuer of the credit card, told Deputy Jacques Rozek the card number was used to purchase two bottles of Johnnie Walker Black from the Walgreen’s liquor store for $128.58 on Saturday, August 22nd at 2 p.m.

Detectives responded to Walgreen’s and were able, with the help of store management, to get a clear picture of the man who illegally used the card number to make the purchase.

He is a white male with short dark hair, perhaps in his mid 20s wearing a white T-shirt that says “WITNESS” across the front of it in black letters and has a Nike logo.

Anyone who recognizes this man or who has information about this crime should contact the Sheriff’s Office at 305-481-8060. Callers may also contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Tipsters can remain anonymous and, if a tip leads to an arrest in the case, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line at or via a text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.

September 14, 2015

Detectives say two ATM machines discovered with skimming devices

The  photo shows one of the ATM machines with the skimming device attached.

Sheriff’s detectives are investigating two cases in the Upper Keys were skimming devices were placed on ATM machines.

Both ATM machines were at Bank of Americas, one at the 99 mile marker and one at the 92.2 mile marker. The skimmer devices were placed over top of the card slots on the machines. One device was discovered by a customer Sunday morning at the 99 mile marker who put her card into the slot and it was not returned. The ATM machine’s screen gave a warning about the cards protection. The customer subsequently discovered the skimmer device on top of the card slot – according to the report he said it appeared “flimsy” and he was able to just peel it off.

Deputies checked other ATM machines in the area and discovered the illegal device installed on the machine at the 92.2 mile marker.

Bank of America security personnel were notified and will be working with Sheriff’s detectives to discover who might have placed the devices on the machines. They will also be reviewing their surveillance tapes to see if any customers’ cards may have been compromised. The bank reportedly checks their machines regularly to ensure they are not compromised and last checked these machines Friday.

These skimmer devices can be very hard to detect and can look very similar to the card slots on the machines themselves. It is important to be alert to anything out of the ordinary when using your card. Skimmers have been found on ATM machines as well as inside gas pumps at various convenience stores in the Keys and elsewhere.

It is also very important to check the activity on your credit and debit cards frequently to catch any unusual or illegal activity that might be taking place as early as possible.

September 12, 2015

Tavernier man charged with fleeing at high speeds

A Tavernier man is in jail after he fled from deputies at speeds up to 60 miles an hour over the speed limit.

At 2:15 a.m. today, Sgt. Jason Madnick was at the 105 mile marker when a dark colored truck passed him northbound at a very high speed. Sgt. Madnick’s radar showed the truck was traveling at 106 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone. He turned on his lights and siren in an attempt to stop the truck.

The truck turned onto State Road 905, heading toward Card Sound Road. Sgt. Madnick called for backup officers to head in his direction because the truck was not stopping and was, in fact, speeding up.

The truck turned into the Gulfstream Shores subdivision, on Palm Drive. As the backup officers arrived on scene, the 2007 Toyota truck was found parked at the end of Gulfstream Drive, engine off, windows rolled down and keys in the ignition.

A search of the area turned up the driver, hiding in bushes nearby. 23 year old Phillip Bryan of Tavernier was charged with fleeing and eluding police and received a speeding citation for 61 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.