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In a month and a half-long operation called “Summer Heat,” 42 sex offenders who violated registration laws were arrested.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released this statement: “Operation Summer Heat should send a strong message to all sex offenders that Florida law enforcement is serious about registration. We are just beginning our work. If you are a sex offender and you violate registration laws, we are looking for you.”

The operation resulted in the arrest of 4 sex offenders from Central Florida including Seminole, Orange and Volusia counties. The FDLE’s Enforcement and Investigative Support Unit coordinated the operation along with the U.S. Marshals Service and local law enforcement agencies.

The EIS was created in 2014 to assist local and federal agencies to locate sex offenders who have violated registration laws, many of whom cross jurisdictional lines. The offenders who intentionally avoid registration requirements were arrested.

The arrests were made from warrants as a result of investigations conducted by local sheriffs or police departments.

Florida sex offender registration requires you to give all of your information to the authorities regarding where you live, work or attend school. This information that is required to be given can include personal information, fingerprints, identifying physical information like tattoos and noticeable scars and birthmarks and even information about the crimes for which you were convicted. This information made public and available to everyone in the community. Anyone can get online and view this information, including employers, housing and rental agencies, schools, neighborhood associations and neighbors, as well as police.

Failing to register can result in severe criminal penalties. Our Central Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton represent those who have been charged with failure to register or falsifying their registration.

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A 44-year old Hastings woman was arrested Monday and charged with fraudulent use of personal identification information.

St. Johns County detectives apparently began investigating the woman in March of this year when an Ohio woman reported that her personal information was being used by the woman in St. Johns County.

According to reports, the 44-year-old allegedly accessed the Ohio victim’s Social Security number and, between November 2003 and February of this year, obtained credit from six different creditors to open charge accounts and loans amounting to $19,000 using the the victim’s personal information.

6280517815_e5d397bfd5_zThe was booked into the St. Johns County Jail and released a short time later after posting $10,000 bond.

If you have been charged with identity theft or fraud, you should know that there are serious consequences if convicted. In most cases, people charged with credit card fraud, identity theft and other charges relating to identity fraud have no idea about how much trouble they could be in.

Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton understand that many good people can make mistakes. One simple mistake does not warrant a state or federal conviction that will haunt you for the rest of your life.

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A retired school principal and 911 dispatcher was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Thursday after admitting he tried to meet two teen boys for sex in Palm Beach County.

The 64-year-old, who recently retired to Delray Beach from southern Indiana, was arrested in January after showing up at a Boynton Beach Mall restaurant for a sexual encounter with what he thought was a 15-year-old boy.

The man apparently did not realize the person he had contacted on the online Grindr service was an undercover city police officer posing as a minor.

After his arrest, agents from Homeland Security Investigations found evidence on his cellphone that allegedly showed he had also tried to meet a real teen, who he thought was 16, for sex in December.

The man and the boy apparently exchanged sexually explicit photographs on their cellphones and arranged to meet. Police also claim that the man wrote a message to the minor declaring there was “too much danger” and he couldn’t risk “getting caught.”

The man showed up at the boy’s Lantana home less than two hours after they started chatting on another online service, according to reports.

When the man showed up at the house, the 15-year-old teen wrote him a message telling him to leave.

The teen apparently told investigators he “chickened out” of having sex with the man.

The man moved to South Florida in August and pleaded guilty to two counts of enticing a minor to engage in sexual conduct in March.

A U.S. District Judge ruled that the man must serve 10 years of supervised release after he gets out of prison and register as a sex offender.

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A domestic disturbance led police to discover an alleged marijuana grow operation in the house next door, according to Hillsborough County deputies.

When deputies searched the house a week later, they claim they found 283 pounds of marijuana worth $700,000.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to a domestic disturbance at a home on Wilkins Road last Friday. While investigating the disturbance, a deputy claimed he noticed the smell of marijuana coming from the house next door.

4151959139_3d9b8a9b24_zThe deputy then alerted the Marijuana Grow House Task Force, and a search warrant was obtained. On Thursday, deputies searched the house and allegedly found the grow operation in a detached garage. Deputies said they seized 15 mature marijuana plants and 39 small marijuana plants.

Deputies found a 27-year-old Tampa man on the property and took him into custody. He is facing charges of cultivation of marijuana, trafficking in marijuana, owning/leasing/renting for purposes of trafficking marijuana, grand theft of electricity and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Marijuana cultivation is a serious offense in Florida. Depending on the quantity of marijuana involved, if you are convicted you could face the prospect of a very lengthy prison sentence. Whatever the specific circumstances of your case, it is important to obtain legal representation as soon as possible.

Owning and operating a marijuana grow house is a very serious offense. There is a potential for serious time behind bars as this charge often arises from marijuana cultivation, possession and distribution charges. When there is one charge, there are likely many other marijuana-related charges as well.

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Deputies have arrested a man they claim arranged to meet a 12-year-old girl online and was caught in her home.

The 24-year-old man is accused of traveling to the girl’s home on the 3100 block of 9th Street E at about 2 a.m., according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives allege the man and the girl met on Facebook two weeks ago, and that they were texting each other back and forth. Detectives believe that on Wednesday, the girl texted him and asked him to come over.

Police claim the man knew the girl was 12, but still went to her home and was in her bedroom for about an hour when the girl’s grandmother walked in.

According to police, the grandmother called 911 and, then alerted other family members who started hitting the man. Reports indicate that once police arrived, the man ran out of the house, saying, “I’m getting killed.”

Detectives said both the girl and the suspect said nothing sexual happened while they were in the house together, and they were only talking.

The man was charged with traveling to meet a minor for unlawful sexual activity.

The investigation is ongoing.

While it is a crime to solicit a minor, it is a much more serious matter to be accused of traveling to meet a minor. After a solicitation is made online, in person or via text, and the adult travels any distance to meet the minor in person, he or she is in danger of very severe consequences. These harsh penalties may include a very long prison sentence and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

If you have been contacted by police, the best thing you can do is to not answer any questions or respond to statements. Police can be tricky and may even promise to give you reduced charges or dismiss them altogether if you talk to them. Just remember that even making a simple statement that you do not consider to be a confession can be extremely damaging to your defense.

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An undercover cyber crime prostitution and child-sex sting conducted jointly by the Lake and Polk county sheriff’s offices netted 101 arrests Tuesday.

Of those arrested was an Orlando community activist who drove to a Clermont-area house intending to meet what he believed was a 12-year-old girl he had been chatting with online for sex, according to authorities. The man apparently drove to the house in a vehicle with a specialty “Invest in Children” license plate and was arrested after knocking on the door of the decoy house.

The two-week sting, which started on May 18, resulted in 79 people being arrested in the prostitution operation and 22 in the child-sex sting, according to officials.

The operation, dubbed “L & P” for “Lake” and “Polk,” used chat rooms and online forums to identify people seeking illicit sex. The first phase of the operation targeted people looking to have sex with minors from 10 to 14. The second phase of the operation targeted prostitution, and most suspects were arrested for attempting to engage in a sex act for cash. A few were busted for drug possession and one driver faces charges for taking a person to the house knowing prostitution was involved, according to reports.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is notorious for conducting sex sting operations around the county that are intended to target adults seeking underage individuals online to engage in sexual activities. Undercover officers usually claim that those arrested in these sting operations responded to ads that implied a minor was available for sex.

Regardless of the fact that many sex sting cases wind up getting dismissed, and many convictions are overturned due to entrapment, once arrested, the damage is already done. The media coverage sought by law enforcement in regards to these sting operations are ruthless to the point that the accused may find a TV news camera aimed at his face while being guided into the back seat of a patrol car. These accusations alone can negatively impact a person’s employment status, reputation, family and personal life.

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On Tuesday the FBI arrested Miami Springs Police Sgt. Andres Quintanilla, a 16-year veteran of the force, on a federal corruption charge.

The 33-year-old was charged with “attempting to affect commerce by extortion under color of official right,’’ according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

According to the federal complaint, a confidential FBI source claims he told Quintanilla in September 2014 that he was a drug trafficker. The complaint goes on to allege that instead of arresting the source, Quintanilla “offered to help the [informant’s] drug trafficking business.’’

Quintanilla allegedly provided the location of an undercover police narcotics office, gave the source the names of three Miami-Dade police officers and ran the name of a purported drug dealer in a law enforcement database when asked to do so by the source, according to the complaint.

3413984703_683eb24000_z (1)The complaint states that by December 2014, Quintanilla had agreed to act as an escort during a purported 10 kilogram cocaine deal. Quintanilla is also accused of choosing a safe location in Miami Springs where the source could exchange 10 kilograms of cocaine for $250,000.

After the alleged deal took place, Quintanilla then apparently followed the source while wearing his uniform and driving his MSPD marked vehicle to an express package service center, where Quintanilla was under the impression that the source would ship the $250,000 of drug proceeds to New York, according to the complaint.

In exchange for his assistance, Quintanilla allegedly accepted $3,500 in bribe payments from the source.

In a press release issued Tuesday night, the Miami Springs Police Chief stated, “As a result of the charges filed against Quintanilla, he has now been relieved of duty without pay pending the results of the criminal case in the U.S. federal court.”

If convicted, Quintanilla, who started with the Springs police department as a public service aide in 1999 when he was 17, faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Federal corruption charges usually refer to any illegal activity conducted by public officials. Public officials, politicians, as well as the business executives who regularly deal with them are all at risk of being investigated for or charged with violations of federal corruption. Taking bribes, facilitating a crime by another and threatening punishment if certain services are not provided are all examples of actions that could result in a charge of corruption. Extortion and bribery are common charges that fall under the category of federal corruption.

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In the last few months, an increasingly popular synthetic designer drug called flakka has been the culprit of many strange and bizarre crimes.

One man ran nude through a Florida neighborhood, tried to have sex with a tree and told police he was the mythical god Thor. Another ran naked down a busy city street in broad daylight because he believed a pack of German shepherds was pursuing him.

Two others tried separately to break into the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. They said they thought people were chasing them. One even ended up impaled on a fence.

5548568082_1d2577641e_zAlso known as gravel, flakka is readily available for $5 or less a vial, and is a growing problem for police after bursting on the scene in 2013.

It is the latest in a series of synthetic drugs that include Ecstasy and bath salts, but police say flakka is even easier to obtain in small quantities through the mail. Flakka’s active ingredient is a chemical compound called alpha-PVP, which is on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of the controlled substances most likely to be abused. It is usually made overseas in countries such as China and Pakistan.

Flakka, a derivative of the Spanish word for a thin, pretty woman, is typically sold in a crystal form and is often smoked using electronic cigarettes, which are popular amongst young people and give off no odor. Flakka can also be snorted, injected or swallowed.

Judging from the evidence being seized by police around Florida, flakka is being used quite frequently. Submissions for testing to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s crime labs have grown from 38 in 2013 to 228 in 2014. At the Broward Sheriff’s Office laboratory, flakka submissions grew from fewer than 200 in 2014 to 275 already, in just the first three months of this year.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reports of flakka have also surfaced in Ohio, Texas and Tennessee, but Florida appears to be the leading the nation.

The FDLE is training police to better recognize flakka and the symptoms it can cause.

The biggest challenge is that flakka manufacturers make subtle changes to its chemical makeup, foiling efforts to test for the drug, and it is frequently mixed with other substances, such as crack cocaine or heroin, with unknown effects.

With use for as little as three days, behavioral changes can be severe.

Police say that flakka is a dangerous drug that with prolonged use, can start to rewire the brain chemistry.

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A Hernando County detention deputy has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of an investigation after he was arrested, along with his girlfriend, in an alleged illegal narcotics transaction.

The man, 41, has been charged with possession of a controlled substance. His girlfriend, 23, was also charged with possession of a controlled substance as well as possession of paraphernalia.

According to the sheriff’s office, the investigation started after they received a tip that a Hernando County detention corporal may be involved in illegal drug activity.

8646499313_a0aa4b825d_mPolice claim they conducted a thorough investigation by arranging  a controlled narcotic transaction, using a confidential informant. Deputies said the informant was solicited by the man’s girlfriend to sell 10 Oxycodone (30 mg.) tablets to her.

At the arranged time, deputies allege the woman arrived at the arranged location in a Nissan Frontier pickup truck driven by the man.

Detectives said the informant made contact with the woman and sold her 10 Oxycodone (30 mg.) tablets in exchange for $250. Deputies said the informant then spoke with the man, asking if he needed any pills. According to detectives, the man told the informant that he did not have any money left in his account because he just bought the brand new truck he was driving, earlier in the day.

Detectives then arrested the couple.

Post Miranda, deputies claim the man admitted to detectives that he took the money from his bank account and gave it to his girlfriend to purchase the pills. He also allegedly admitted to driving her to the location to make the purchase.

The man began his employment with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on August 8, 2010.

Drug offenses in Florida, including possession of a controlled substance, can result in very serious punishments, including prison time, large fines and suspensions of driving privileges.

Possession of a controlled substance in Florida can be charged as a state offense, federal offense, or possibly both. A controlled substance can be any drug that has the potential to be abused, can be addictive or that results in physical or mental harm. This includes certain medications with a prescription, medications without a prescription, street drugs and natural or man-made substances.

If you have been charged with a drug crime in Spring Hill, Brooksville or the surrounding area, a Hernando County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can examine the details of your case and help determine the best possible defense strategy to reduce or dismiss the charges against you. Call us today at 352-666-2121 or contact us online for a free consultation about your alleged drug offense in Hernando County.

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The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 31-year-old Lakeland man and charged him with raping two children.

The man is currently being held in the Polk County Jail.

Authorities allege the man sexually assaulted two children, aged 10 and 12, on several occasions. Police claim the assaults took place at several locations, including the man’s workplace and his truck.

Deputies also allege that the man threatened the children if they spoke about the incidents. Authorities claim the man told the children that if they talked, he would cause them physical harm.

The man is facing 15 counts of sexual battery on each child.

Sex crimes usually carry long jail sentences and require registration as a sex offender for life. The stakes are extremely high! In sex crimes cases, early intervention by an experienced criminal defense attorney can make a tremendous difference in a case, especially when allegations of child sex abuse are involved. If you have been contacted by the Florida Department of Children and Families or by the police, or if you believe that you may be under investigation by the police, it is important to get immediate legal help and advice.

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