Published on:

A grow house was busted in Seminole County Tuesday and resulted in the arrests of five suspects from Miami.

The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office City-County Investigative Bureau reported that a deputy patrolling the 800 block of Winona Drive in Geneva smelled a very strong odor of marijuana coming from a home.

The CCIB obtained a search warrant and deputies allegedly found a large-scale marijuana grow operation with 49 mature plants and a large amount of harvested marijuana.

Investigators claim the majority of the plants averaged four feet in height and were located in the garage of the house and smaller plants were found in a bedroom.

Agents estimate the grow house had the potential to generate over $880,000 worth of marijuana annually, according to reports.

Five suspects from Miami were arrested and charged with trafficking over 25 pounds of marijuana.

All five suspects are being held without bond at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility.

Grow house cases usually involve large-scale operations, multiple suspects and can span across county and even state lines. If you are facing drug manufacturing or cultivation charges, you undoubtedly need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Our Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are strong advocates for those accused of both state and federal drug crimes. As former prosecutors, we know how to identify weaknesses in the state’s case and explain why those weaknesses require a dismissal or at least a reduction in the charges.

Continue reading

Published on:

A registered sex offender was arrested for allegedly impersonating a law enforcement officer.

Officials believe this is not the first time the man has done this – they claim it’s the 14th time.

The 48-year-old Frostproof man was arrested Thursday after deputies claim he pulled up to a traffic crash involving a vehicle and some livestock.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office claim that they were investigating the scene in the area of Collany Lane and U.S. 27 when the man pulled up in a Ford Crown Victoria, activated a set of emergency lights, got out of the car and offered to help deputies.

The deputies apparently declined the offer, and the man got back into his car and drove north on U.S. 27 with the lights still activated.

Another vehicle then drove up and the people inside identified themselves as deputies with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office. They said the man was wanted for impersonating a law enforcement officer in their county, and they had been following him when he stopped at the crash site.

The man returned to the crash scene, emergency lights still flashing, as additional deputies arrived to assist. The man allegedly stopped near one of the patrol cars and spoke to a deputy, and then he pulled out a wallet that had a gold Private Investigator badge inside with “Chief” engraved on it.

Deputies allege the man presented the badge and identified himself as a Fugitive Recovery Agent. The wallet apparently contained several other cards identifying him as a private investigator, a “law enforcement detective,” a member of veteran’s groups and a member of the clergy. Another card identified him as a retired Major in the Marine Corps.

Deputies claim the man’s vehicle was equipped with a front push bar, emergency lights in the front and rear windows, a prisoner cage, caging over the rear windows, a spotlight and a scanner.

When deputies asked about his identification cards, the man allegedly first said he was a licensed private investigator in South Carolina, then later said he never claimed to be any of the things indicated on the cards. He also said he had never been a major in the military.

The man was arrested on charges of committing criminal actions under color of law to hinder a public officer’s duties, impersonation of a bail bondsman and driving with a suspended or revoked license.

He is also facing charges of impersonating a law enforcement officer and illegal use of police insignia out of Highlands County.

Deputies believe the man has been charged 13 times for impersonating a law enforcement officer in several states in the Southeast, including a 2010 incident where he was arrested at a Dunedin Publix after shoplifting candy and sticker books.

Police also claim the man is a registered sexual offender, and was convicted of a sex offense in South Carolina in 1992.

According to Florida law, falsely impersonating a police officer occurs when a person:

  1. Falsely assumes or pretends to be a law enforcement officer; AND
  2. Takes it upon himself or herself to act as a law enforcement officer

This crime is classified as a third-degree felony. If convicted of this offense, the following penalties can be imposed:

  • Up to five years in prison.
  • Up to five years of probation.
  • Up to $5,000 in fines.

Continue reading

Published on:

A man listed as a cafe owner in Gainesville was arrested Friday night after he allegedly tried to film a girl taking a shower, according to Gainesville police.

The 52-year-old man was charged with attempted voyeurism of a child younger than 16.

The incident allegedly happened about 10 p.m.

The girl told police she saw a hand holding a camera outside the bathroom window. She ran out of the bathroom and told a person in the house, police said.

As that was happening, the man apparently came into the house, police said. The man allegedly told police he was sorry and that he has a problem, according to the police report.

If you were arrested for voyeurism or any other sex offense, it is absolutely vital for you to understand the legal charges against you as well as the possible consequences. Florida’s laws are extremely complicated and when this crime involves a minor, you could be facing felony charges and multiple years in prison.

Continue reading

Published on:

A federal jury found a 40-year-old Windermere man guilty of 11 counts of wire fraud and 4 counts of filing a false tax-related document.

He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count and up to 3 years’ imprisonment for each false document charge.

The man’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 19, 2015. He was indicted on April 9, 2015.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from 2006 through 2012, the accused was employed as the personal assistant to an NBA basketball player, who has since retired from professional basketball. During calendar years 2008 through 2011, the man apparently stole approximately $2,188,170 from the ball player by making unauthorized online banking money transfers from one of his bank accounts into three different bank accounts that the man controlled. The man spent these funds on his own personal expenses, including mortgage payments for his home in Windermere, and the purchase of a Ferrari and a Range Rover.

The man also filed false joint income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service for each of these years. In these tax returns, he and his wife never reported more than $60,000 in gross income, when in fact their joint income was significantly greater due to the money the man stole from the former basketball player.

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the United States Secret Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew C. Searle.

Wire fraud can range in criminal acts, including fraudulent schemes for phishing emails, sending electronic checks or money to banks, or communications over the Internet or telephone.

The essential elements of wire fraud include the following:

  • The defendant intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money
  • The defendant did so with the intent to defraud
  • It was foreseeable that interstate wire communication would be used
  • That interstate wire communication was used

The term “interstate wire communications” is broad, and refers to any type of transmission by wire, radio, or television communication, including, but not limited to, writings, signs, pictures, faxes, or sounds used in interstate or foreign commerce.

Continue reading

Published on:

Two men pleaded guilty Thursday to importing more than 24 pounds of the main ingredient in the street drug flakka from China to Broward County.

Federal authorities arrested a 25-year-old Orlando man and a 21-year-old Clermont man in June after they allegedly attempted to pick up packages from a shipping and mailbox store in Hollywood.

Homeland Security Investigations agents claim the packages contained the key ingredient for making the synthetic stimulant, which often causes hallucinations and psychosis.

The packages were apparently addressed to fake names and were intercepted while being shipped to commercial mailboxes in Weston and Hollywood, according to authorities.

The men apparently ordered large amounts of the drug to be shipped from labs in China and the conspiracy occurred from January to early June, according to the plea agreement.

According to reports, the men paid cash for mailbox services and used fake identities when they picked up the shipments.

At a federal court hearing in West Palm Beach, both men pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to import the drug ingredient.

The charge carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine.

The drug has been linked to several deaths in South Florida as well as many incidents of bizarre behavior.

Federal law makes it a crime to traffic drugs. Drug trafficking charges involves bringing an illegal substance from another place within the United States to another. Special consequences apply to the importation of drugs-bringing drugs from outside the United States into the country.

The penalties for violating federal drug importation laws depends on several factors- the drug involved, the quantities seized, whether use of the drug caused serious bodily injury or death and whether the person convicted has any previous drug-related convictions. Regardless of the circumstances, all the penalties are quite severe. A first conviction for a just a small quantity of a controlled substance, where no injury or death results, carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a hefty fine.

Continue reading

Published on:

A registered sex offender in Gainesville has been charged with possession of child pornography after police allege he had many illegal images on his cellphone. According to an arrest report, an investigation is also underway into whether he had sex with a child.

The 23-year-old man was charged with possessing photographs of sexual performances by children, a Gainesville Police Department report states.

The photographs allegedly show a child who appears to be prepubescent having sex with a man. Other alleged photos of a sexual nature involving children were also found.

The arrest report claims that the man admitted to downloading and viewing the other images of a sexual nature.

Police were apparently alerted to the man through calls to authorities regarding his downloading images and having urges for sex with a boy, according to a dispatch log.

During a police interview, the man allegedly confessed that he had sex with an unidentified 9-year-old, the report states. That case is currently under investigation.

Records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show the man was convicted in 2010 of lewd and lascivious battery on a victim under the age of 16 and lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim under the age of 12. The cases were in Levy County.

Either state or federal authorities can prosecute child pornography cases, however, in recent years, the majority of cases involving child porn have been brought in federal courts. Federal sentencing guidelines are much more severe than similar prosecutions in state courts. The prosecution of federal child pornography and other types of sex crime cases has significantly increased in the past decade, with 86 cases in 1995 to 1,769 cases in 2013.

Prosecutors in federal child pornography cases are quite aggressive, seeking years in prison for even the mere possession of illegal pictures. State cases tend to end in probation or shorter jail terms, but federal child porn offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences. In order to avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction, it is essential to not speak to police or prosecutors about your case without first seeking the advice of a criminal defense lawyer who has experience handling child pornography cases. Even if you are under investigation for child porn charges, you are still presumed innocent until proven guilty, but your case must be handled very carefully in order to achieve a favorable outcome.

Continue reading

Published on:

Clay County investigators arrested a 32-year-old Jacksonville man Friday that they claim made fake online profiles posing as a boy to lure preteen girls into having sex.

The man is charged with using a computer to solicit a child for sex, transmission of material harmful to a minor and making harassing telephone calls.

Deputies have accused him of contacting two female preteen victims and trying to persuade them into having sex.

Investigators claim the man admitted to making several fake online profiles, pretending to be a boy, then used those profiles to solicit young girls for sex — both online and on the phone.

According to the warrant against the man, one victim told investigators the man asked her for sex and for nude pictures of her via Facebook. She also alleges that he made a lewd phone call to her, according to the warrant. Investigators reported that they have another witness who claims to have received a similar obscene phone call from Meadows.

The man was booked into the Clay County Jail on $150,012 bond.

Sex crimes accusations are quite serious and the penalties attached to a conviction can be life changing. Certain sex crime convictions require the individual to register as a sexual offender. These include convictions involving minors, like this case, as well as sexual battery and rape, and sexual misconduct.

Sexual offenders and predators must report to the local sheriff’s office and provide personal information, including a home address, employment information, school information, email addresses and IP addresses, as well as other criminal information. Sexual offenders are required to re-register two or four times a year, depending on the conviction. Per Florida federal law, even registered sex offenders who are only visiting, attending school or working in Florida on a temporary basis, and reside outside the state, must register as sexual offenders in Florida.

Continue reading

Published on:

A Central Florida synthetic drug ring that was allegedly operating out of a chain of smoke shops called Pipe Dreams was busted following a year long investigation.

Five people were charged, including the two primary dealers, a 74-year-old co-owner of the shop and his 39-year-old wife and other co-owner.  

The man was arrested Thursday. His wife has not yet been arrested.

8042456462_8b3ce03115_zHe was charged with racketeering, sale/delivery of a controlled substance, manufacture/delivery of drug paraphernalia, conspiracy to sell/deliver controlled substance, and conspiracy to manufacture/deliver drug paraphernalia.

She will face the same charges once she is arrested, according to officials.

The investigation into the smoke shops in Seminole, Lake, Orange and Volusia counties began last August after officials received complaints that they sold synthetic narcotics.

Agents conducted a series of undercover operations and made controlled purchases in order to identify the persons involved with the drug deals, according to law enforcement.

The City County Investigative Bureau and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement searched five Pipe Dreams locations in December and allegedly seized liquid tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC and several million dollars worth of drug paraphernalia.

In raids like this, it is important to identify whether the search was done in a constitutional manner. If not, any evidence obtained in the search may be suppressed in court. Likewise, it should be determined what seized products are actually illegal. If arrested for possession or sale of synthetic drugs, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense and drug crimes lawyer on your side to make sure your rights are protected. At Whittel & Melton, our Seminole County Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers work around the clock to make sure your rights and freedom are protected.

Continue reading

Published on:

An affordable housing contractor accused of stealing millions of dollars in kickbacks to four Miami-based developers pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing federal government subsidies intended to help the poor.

The 57-year-old owner of a South Florida based construction company, faces between two and three years in prison at his sentencing this fall after reaching a plea deal on a theft conspiracy charge with the U.S. attorney’s office.

The man was charged with paying about $6.2 million in kickbacks to various founders and CEOs of different housing groups.

297924038_e957335351_zAccording to records filed in Miami federal court, they all allegedly cut a “side agreement” to inflate the construction costs of low-income apartment projects in Miami-Dade County to qualify for bigger government subsidies and then pocketed the “excess” profits.

The man accused allegedly made $1.3 million off the illicit scheme, according to prosecutors.

This man is the second builder to plead guilty in the alleged fraud conspiracy.

Last month, a 63-year-old founder of another construction company pleaded guilty to the same theft conspiracy charge, stemming from paying more than $1 million in kickbacks to other groups, according to records.

Federal conspiracy charges are nothing to joke about. When the federal government has invested the time, money and resources into indicting you on a federal charge, it is guaranteed that they will pursue your case in court quite aggressively. A charge like conspiracy carries significant sentencing and long-term consequences, so it is important that you seek the best legal representation so that your case can be handled accordingly.

Continue reading

Published on:

A Pasco County law enforcement officer was arrested Tuesday night after authorities claim he showed up to meet a 15-year-old boy for sex in Davie.

The 22-year-old Pasco County Sheriff’s deputy is facing a federal charge of luring or enticing a minor into sexual activity.

In early June, deputies believe the man and the teen started exchanging very graphic messages through an online service.

A deputy apparently took control of the teen’s phone in mid-July and began communicating with the man. The deputy pretended he was the boy.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco immediately fired the man, who was still a probationary employee because he had worked there for only about nine months.

According to investigators, the man had extremely explicit online conversations about sex with the teen.

In the next few days, the undercover deputy wrote that he replied to the man’s messages and told him he was a 15-year-old virgin.

The man allegedly asked the “teen” to meet him for sex and asked if the minor would be able to stay overnight at a hotel, according to court records.

The man arranged to meet the 15-year-old at 8 p.m. Tuesday night at Pine Ridge Plaza on State Road 84, according to authorities.

8598246170_a96656631a_z (2)Davie police arrested the man when he showed up at the plaza in a black Ford F-150 truck and sent a message that he had arrived. Police searched the vehicle and apparently found an iPhone with some of the messages the two had exchanged.

The man allegedly told police that he messed up and knew he the boy was 15.

He is scheduled to be in court Friday for a bond hearing.

The investigation was conducted by Davie police detectives who work with the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force.

Local and federal law enforcement agencies routinely conduct undercover sting operations in which they have an officer pose as a minor in online chat rooms, social networking sites, and as this case shows, even on the other end of a text message conversation. When an adult arranges to meet with the undercover officer who they think is a minor, law enforcement agents will immediately arrest them.

Whatever your particular case may entail, the most important thing to know is that the charges you face are very serious. You are facing life-changing penalties if convicted, including significant fines, prison time for any attempt to actually meet a minor, registration as a sex offender and life-long challenges on your personal and financial well-being.

Continue reading

Contact Information