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A total of 10 people were arrested in an undercover operation cracking down on unlicensed contractors resulting in civil citations totaling $9,675.

The sheriff’s office, working with the Hernando County Building Department, conducted a two-day sting from July 1-2 in order to combat what has been called a growing problem.

8903345091_7511dfd86a_mThe arrests made were in several trades, including: tree removal, tile installation, electrical, roofing, plumbing, general and residential contracting.

All those arrested allegedly advertised their businesses publicly and did not hold the appropriate licenses for the work they agreed to perform, which is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Two arrests were made for people driving on suspended driver’s licenses.

All of those arrested apparently had a combined total of ten misdemeanors and four felony previous arrests in Hernando County, including grand theft and organized fraud.

For the most part, the crime of unlicensed contracting is recognized as a first-degree misdemeanor offense. This crime is punishable by up to one year in the Hernando County Jail and up to a $1,000.00 fine. However, it is important to point out that some offenders can be charged with a third-degree felony with penalties that carry up to five years in state prison and a $5,000.00 fine. These felony offenses include:

  • A second arrest for contracting without a license offense
  • Violating the unlicensed contracting laws that happen during a state of emergency
  • Any violations that involve pollutant storage systems contracting

Aside from potential fines and jail sentences, a person convicted of contracting without a license is often subject to court-ordered restitution. This is usually set in place to reimburse the alleged victims for substandard work or substandard materials that caused a loss. In many cases, restitution amounts can be tens of thousands of dollars. Failing to pay these fees or failing to pay them in timely manner can lead to the defendant being held in contempt of court.

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A former sheriff’s deputy, wanted since 1991 for capital sexual battery in Bradenton, Florida, was arrested on identity theft charges early Friday at his home in Eagle River, Alaska.

Police claim they found the man living life on the lam in Alaska after he used his late stepbrother’s name to apply for a driver’s license and unemployment benefits.

gavelThe 60-year-old man has been the subject of a federal warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution since 1993.

The man was living under the identity of his stepbrother, who died in his teens in the 1970s in Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.

The man is charged in an indictment with two counts of unlawful use of a Social Security number for allegedly using his deceased stepbrother’s name and number to apply for an Alaska driver’s license in 2009 and unemployment benefits in 2013. He has also been charged with aggravated identity theft.

The Social Security Administration notified federal authorities of the alleged identity theft, according to reports.

The former deputy faces up to 12 years for the federal charges in Alaska, and could receive the death penalty in Florida if he is extradited.

Reports indicate that the former road patrol deputy was arrested in 1990 after he was accused of raping a 6-year-old girl in the 1970s. He fled the state before he could be tried.

Every state has the ability to make its own decision on whether to demand extradition. While each state has different standards for making this decision, it is likely that the state of Florida will seek to have this man brought back and tried for the alleged rape he is accused of. For the most part, states will not demand extradition for misdemeanors or minor criminal infractions. Moreover, the U.S. Constitution only requires that states demand extradition in the case of felonies and treason. The decision to extradite a fugitive can be made by prosecutors strictly based on the facts of the case.

In 1985, Congress passed the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act to set up a process for interstate cooperation when returning fugitives back to the state that is demanding them. All 50 states, which includes Florida, have adopted many of the provisions of the UCEA.

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A Pinellas Park firefighter has been arrested for selling and possessing prescription drugs, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives began to investigate after allegedly receiving a tip that the 38-year-old Largo man was selling prescription drugs. Police arranged a purchase from the man Friday evening. The man was arrested Saturday in the parking lot of Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Detectives allege the man sold and was in possession of eight different types of prescription pills, including morphine, Xanax, hydromorphone and oxycontin.

police-378255_150The firefighter was arrested on eight counts of sale of a controlled substance and eight counts of possession of a controlled substance. He was transported to the Pinellas County Jail, where he is bail has been set at $200,000.

According to detectives, the man is a firefighter and a SWAT medic for the Pinellas Park Fire Department. He also works part time as an emergency room nurse at Northside Hospital.

This investigation is ongoing, and detectives are looking into how the man obtained the alleged drugs.

Any time someone is caught illegally selling any type of narcotic to another person, they run the risk of getting arrested and charged with the unlawful sale of a controlled substance. The state of Florida regards the sale or possession of a controlled substance as a very serious criminal offense. Similar to a distribution charge, this type of drug crime can result in years behind bars, tremendous fines and probation if convicted.

Police often try and catch those suspected of dealing drugs through undercover police stings. They may perform several undercover operations in order to build a sufficient amount of evidence against the suspect. In these operations, police may approach the suspected drug dealer and ask to purchase drugs. No matter what their strategy is, there are lines that police cannot cross. When police deviate from the strict guidelines that govern undercover sting operations, they could be accused of entrapment, which means any evidence obtained could be deemed inadmissible in court.

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A former correctional officer has pleaded guilty to committing tax fraud and using inmates’ identities.

According to investigators, the 26-year-old was working at the Zephyrhills Correctional Facility when he used Florida Department of Corrections databases to access the personal identifying information of inmates between January 2011 and May 2014.

The man allegedly used the information to file 182 fraudulent tax returns. Investigators claim the total amount of fraudulent funds requested in those returns is estimated to be more than $500,000.

The man has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. The man’s sentencing date has not been set.

teen arrestedTax crimes include such offenses as filing a false tax return, tax evasion, filing false documents, failure to collect employment taxes, failure to pay taxes and even failing to file a tax return. The penalties for criminal tax fraud are very serious so these charges should never be taken lightly. You could be facing significant time behind bars as well as steep fines if convicted of tax fraud. If you have been contacted by the Internal Revenue Service or believe that you are under investigation for tax fraud, it is best to retain the help of a Florida White Collar Crimes Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges.

The mere allegation of tax fraud  or any other similar wrongdoing can ruin a person’s career or wreck a business. Individuals and companies are investigated and charged with tax crimes every single day in the state of Florida and throughout the United States. Prosecutors are more aggressive than ever when it comes to tax fraud cases, and you can rest assure that they will utilize every investigative technique available in order to obtain a conviction.

At Whittel & Melton, we know that dealing with a criminal investigation or facing criminal charges is quite overwhelming. As former prosecutors, we are highly aware of the tactics used by the State when prosecuting these cases. We can put that knowledge to work for you. To learn more about how we can help you combat state or federal criminal charges, please call us today in the Tampa Bay area at 813-221-3200 or statewide and toll-free at 866-608-5529. You can even contact us online by filling out a free case evaluation form.


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A Bradenton police officer was recently arrested for soliciting a prostitute.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has been working undercover for the past few months to catch prostitutes. Deputies targeted both prostitutes and “johns” on websites. Once a price was successfully negotiated, the suspects were arrested.

Police claim that on June 4, the Bradenton cop answered an ad. He allegedly agreed to meet a female undercover deputy at a hotel off of Cortez Road on his day off.

8056788418_2c3a857754_mThe officer was arrested after police claim he agreed to pay $100 for sex.

According to reports, the officer resigned shortly after the arrest.

The suspect was a patrolman who had been with the department since 2006. However, the media was not made aware of the man’s arrest until nearly a month after it happened.

A Manatee County Sheriff’s spokesman says the media was not alerted right away “Because we had an ongoing sting going on. We don’t normally say that we’re making an arrest when we’re doing an ongoing sting. You wait until the sting is over.”

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has now wrapped up this sting.

Once the man’s criminal case is complete, the Bradenton Police Department plans to launch an internal investigation.

If you are facing a charge of prostitution, then you are dealing with a very tough situation. It is important to retain legal representation during this time as you need someone who can review your case and create a defense strategy that will deliver the best possible outcome for you. That outcome could very well be reduced or dismissed charges.

Prostitution is considered a severe offense because it is labeled as a sex crime. If arrested for prostitution, do not say anything to police or prosecutors because anything you say could be used against you in court. You do not want to incriminate yourself by saying anything that could be twisted or misinterpreted by law enforcement.

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Disney Channel star Billy Unger was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of drunk driving after he was stopped in his Nissan Altima on Pacific Coast Highway, according to authorities.

Unger is best known for his role on the Disney sitcom “Lab Rats.”  He was reportedly going 65 mph in a 45 mph zone on PCH around 12:10 a.m. Saturday when he was pulled over near Las Tunas Beach, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.

The arresting officer approached the 18-year-old actor’s Altima and claims he could immediately smell the odor of alcohol.

nissan keyThe officer also alleges that Unger’s eyes were bloodshot and watery.

Unger’s blood alcohol level was reportedly 0.08, right at the legal limit for an adult, and he allegedly did not pass a sobriety test. He was immediately arrested for suspicion of drunk driving.

Unger was later issued a citation and released on his own recognizance, which is standard procedure in DUI cases.

The detective did mention that Unger was very cooperative.

Unger issued the following statement Monday on Twitter:

“As I move forward responsibly in this matter, I simply ask the public, and more importantly my fans, to reserve judgment and allow the opportunity for me to address this issue properly through the legal system.”

When a driver under the age of 21 is pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in Florida, they can be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol content is .02 percent or higher. While the legal limit for driving for those over the age of 21 is .08 percent, Florida has a strict zero tolerance policy for underage drivers that choose to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking.

If you are charged with underage drinking and driving, you face a license suspension. For any underage driver that submits to a breath test and blows a .02 or higher, their driver’s license will be suspended for six months with a 30 day hard suspension following a first time DUI arrest. This means that the driver cannot drive anywhere for any reason for those 30 days. Following the hard suspension period, the driver may be able to obtain a hardship license for “business purposes only” or for “employment purposes only.” Now, if the underage driver refuses to submit to a breath, blood or urine test then their driver’s license will be suspended for one year with a 90 day hard suspension.

Additionally, if you are arrested for underage drinking and driving and your blood alcohol content was .05 percent or higher then you must complete a DUI program.

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Florida will have 159 new laws starting Tuesday that address various issues, including college tuition, corporate tax credits, abortions and sex offenders.

One of the most prevalent laws is one that aims to protect children and others from dangerous sex offenders. The laws are intended to keep the most violent sexual offenders locked up longer and close any loopholes in a law that allows the state to send predators to a high-security treatment center once they have served their time in prison. The new laws will subject more offenders to potential civil commitment and prosecutors, detectives and victim advocates will be part of the committee that reviews their cases.

The sexually violent predator package of bills was among the first of the legislature sent to Gov. Rick Scott during the 60-day session that ended in May. The new laws are meant to create a better child welfare system in Florida. As of now, Florida is the only state in America that has a 50-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for violent sexual offenders.

gavelAnother law that seeks to protect children concerns the Department of Children and Families. The law changes how the department investigates and responds to cases; now placing a higher emphasis on shielding a child from abuse rather than focusing on keeping a family together. Moreover, the law also pays for 270 additional child protective investigators so that caseloads can be reduced and a response team can be sent out quickly to investigate child abuse deaths when the child had previous dealings with the system.

Another law will establish a statewide pilot program to pay for foster children’s driver’s education classes, license fees and car insurance so that they can be better prepared to gain employment when they turn 18 and leave the system.

The children of immigrants in the country illegally will now be able to receive in-state tuition at state universities after Scott changed his position on the issue. Another bill will give tuition breaks to honorably discharged veterans as well as waive professional licensing fees for them.

Local school boards now have the responsibility of selecting textbooks, whether or not they are on a state-adopted list, and will be required to put policies in place that allow parents to object to the books they choose.

Another new law took effect on June 20 that expands a voucher program, giving corporate tax credits to companies that provide money for low-income families to send their children to private schools.

As far as criminal laws go, there will be increased penalties for spiny lobster poachers, people leaving the scene of an accident that causes injury and people who illegally sell prescription drugs. Additionally, electronic cigarette sales to minors are now illegal in Florida. Another law forbids sending text messages soliciting products to residents on the state’s “no sales solicitation calls” list.

Florida has also changed its definition for its late-term abortion ban. Abortions will be illegal in Florida at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy if her doctor concludes that the fetus could survive outside the womb. The previous law banned abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy. An exception can be made to this law if the mother’s life is at risk.

Lastly, new laws will create a Florida Tourism Hall of Fame and the position of state poet laureate to promote poetry in Florida.

Laws across the United States are constantly changing. When you have been accused of committing a crime in Florida, only a Florida Trial Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can provide you with the legal representation that you need. While many attorneys are quick to negotiate with prosecutors to obtain a plea bargain instead of pursuing trial, our Florida Criminal Attorneys know that sometimes trial is the best option for your situation. We thoroughly evaluate every case and will always advise you of your best legal defense strategy.

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A group of eight individuals are suspected of using modified tractor trailers to transport cocaine between Texas and Palm Beach County.

The eight suspects from South Florida and the McAllen, Texas area are facing drug charges in a case before the federal courts. All of them are in custody, as they were arrested on Monday and Tuesday in both states.

According to a criminal complaint filed in West Palm Beach federal court, the group was moving 200 kilograms of cocaine a month into Palm Beach County.

cocaine betchThe investigation into the group began in May 2013 and involved the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, court records show.

Several of the group members are facing charges of being the principal administrators of a continuing criminal enterprise. All of them face one count each of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.

A person charged with drug trafficking faces one of the most serious criminal drug-related offenses under Florida law. This is not only a felony level offense, but all drug trafficking charges in the state of Florida carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. What this means is that if convicted, you will be required to serve time behind bars.

Due to the serious penalties associated with a drug trafficking offense and the impact they could have on you and your loved ones lives, it is absolutely necessary that you consult with an experienced drug crimes defense lawyer as soon as possible. If you have been arrested for a drug-related offense in South Florida or anywhere across Florida, call a Palm Beach County Drug Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton today at 866-608-5529 for a free consultation. Let us put our experience to work for you. Contact us 24/7 online.

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The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested nine people and seized almost 100 pounds of marijuana in a large-scale marijuana operation, according to reports.

Two different marijuana grow houses were broken up, including one operated by a 40-year-old Lake Wales man.

The man is allegedly responsible for six grow houses in the Lake Wales and Frostproof areas. The operation took in millions of dollars a year, officials said.

marijuana grow houseOn Tuesday, the sheriff’s office revealed some evidence they had collected, including a gun, bulletproof vest and a large bag of marijuana. The operation resulted in the seizure of 96 pounds of marijuana and 70 marijuana plants, marijuana cultivation equipment, cash and vehicles.

Officials believe that most of the pot grown in the operation was shipped to the Northeast.

Polk deputies also busted a grow house in Poinciana on Monday, but officials have not yet reported whether the two busts are connected.

In Florida, manufacturing marijuana or cannabis is classified as a felony. Additionally, under the Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act, it is illegal to own or rent a home for the sole purpose of growing marijuana or housing marijuana plants. Depending on the size of the grow house operation and whether or not children are living in the home, convictions for this offense can range anywhere from 5 to 30 years in prison.

A Polk County Drug Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can help you if you have been accused of or charged with operating a grow house. We work tirelessly to defend those accused of running or participating in marijuana grow house operations.

We are more than familiar with the tactics police use to bust alleged grow house operations. That is why we never base a defense off of a police report. Instead, we perform our own investigation in order to gather the most accurate facts. If it is found that law enforcement used unlawful means to identify a marijuana operation, did not have probable cause for a search warrant or illegally questioned you, we will aggressively seek to have any evidence suppressed and push for the charges to be reduced or dismissed.

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Two juveniles linked to a string of house burglaries in Maitland were arrested on Wednesday, according to police reports.

Maitland police claim the two are also connected to numerous other break-ins in Orange and Seminole counties.

Some stolen items, which included electronics, purses and televisions, were recovered at the suspects’ homes, according to police.

The burglaries allegedly started in Maitland on June 6.

home burglaryThe suspects have been taken into custody and were transported to the Maitland Police Department for further questioning.

No further information has been disclosed regarding the alleged burglaries.

Juvenile criminal cases are handled differently than those of adults. The criminal courts recognize that those under the age of 18 are often unable to comprehend their behaviors and actions or understand the consequences in the same way as an adult’s brain does. Because of this, the court system puts an emphasis on rehabilitation when it comes to handling these cases.

Just like adults, a minor can invoke their right to remain silent and their right to a juvenile defense attorney. This is very important because an attorney should be contacted before a minor has any interactions with police. Understand that police are not required to tell the truth when questioning minors, so they often try to employ tactics that trick juveniles into giving incriminating statements.

An Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you if your child has been accused of or charged with a criminal offense. When it comes to your child’s defense, our main goal is to preserve your child’s record so he or she can walk away from this experience without suffering long-term effects. We know that keeping children out of the criminal justice system is central for protecting their future.

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