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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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Loretta E. Lynch was announced as the new U.S. attorney general Thursday, with the Senate voting 56 to 43 to confirm the veteran New York prosecutor five months after President Obama submitted her nomination to Congress.

According to the Justice Department, Lynch is expected to be sworn in as the nation’s 83rd attorney general Monday.

Obama released a statement saying that “America will be better off” with Lynch in charge of the Justice Department. “She will bring to bear her experience as a tough, independent, and well-respected prosecutor on key, bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform,” he said.

14721716270_a99439f1b9_zLynch is the first African American woman to be nominated for the post, which has taken on a much higher profile than in the past due to the leading role the Justice Department has recently played in the debate over race and policing across the country.

The time Lynch had to wait between nomination and confirmation was the longest for an attorney general nominee in 31 years. With it all said and done, the confirmation vote margin was wider than expected: Ten Republicans joined the Senate’s 44 Democrats and two independents in supporting Lynch. Forty-three senators, all Republicans, were opposed.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., stepping down after more than six years, said Lynch would be “an outstanding attorney general, a dedicated guardian of the Constitution, and a devoted champion of all those whom the law protects and empowers.”

Obama called the slow and final vote to confirm Lynch as “embarrassing” last week.

Obama nominated Lynch, 55, in November to replace Holder. The Senate, then under Democratic control, did not act on the nomination. Rather, they chose to spend time in the lame-duck session on judicial appointments that party leaders believed would stall in a Republican-controlled Senate.

The thinking was that a Republican Senate would not take its time in confirming a replacement for Holder, a frequent target of Republican enmity. However, that was not the case, especially after Lynch became involved in a deep partisan rift over Obama’s immigration policy.

During questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee in late January, Lynch said she believed Obama’s executive actions on immigration last year passed legal and constitutional muster, angering Republicans who considered them an overreach.

Republicans reactions to this was that Lynch was publicly committed to denigrating Congress, and that they could expect to see a great abuse of power by her.

After the January hearing, it took nearly a month for the panel to advance Lynch’s nomination, and then the nomination became caught up in an unrelated political dispute over a bill to combat sex trafficking.

Last week President Obama released this statement: “It’s gone too far. Enough. Enough. Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job.”

On Thursday, senators voted on final confirmation around 2 p.m.

The Senate voted 56–43 in favor of Lynch, approving her with help of 10 Republican senators, including Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

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Federal prosecutors charged 27 South Florida suspects Tuesday with marriage fraud, including organizers, recruiters and unlawful immigrants, according to reports.

4107766083_66d44a53c4_zThe main defendants — two Hialeah men ages 50 and 57 and a 50-year-old Hialeah and a 33-year-old Marathon man— are accused of charging a fee to arrange fraudulent marriages between U.S. citizens and undocumented aliens.

The trio allegedly notarized phony marriage licenses, completed necessary immigration paperwork and prepared the participants for their interviews with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to police.

They are accused of arranging the fraudulent marriages between 2011 and 2014, and during that time two of the men also allegedly attempted to obtain naturalization illegally, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Former University of Florida Gator and New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd.

Hernandez, 25, who once had a $40 million contract and a standout career ahead of him, will now be serving a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

The former football pro was also found guilty on weapons charges. The jury deliberated for 36 hours over seven days before rendering its verdict.

6566853359_6d069f2b0b_zLloyd was shot six times in the middle of the night on June 17, 2013, in a deserted industrial park near Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough.

Police almost immediately began investigating Hernandez because they found a key to a car that the NFL player had rented in Lloyd’s pocket. Hours after he was arrested, the Patriots cut the former Pro Bowl athlete, who was considered one of the top tight ends in the NFL.

Prosecutors presented a great amount of evidence during trial that Hernandez was with Lloyd at the time he was killed, including home security video from Hernandez’s mansion, witness testimony and cellphone records that tracked Lloyd’s movements.

Hernandez’s lawyer also acknowledged for the first time during closing arguments that Hernandez was there when Lloyd was killed.

But, Hernandez’s attorney told the court that two of Hernandez’s friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, killed Lloyd. Wallace and Ortiz will stand trial later.

The prosecution never offered a motive other than Hernandez appeared angry with Lloyd at a nightclub two nights before the killing.

Hernandez still awaits trial on other murder charges. He is accused of gunning down two men over a spilled drink at a nightclub.

In the Lloyd killing, the defense argued that investigators pinned the murder on Hernandez because of his celebrity status.

Prosecutors believe that Hernandez organized the killing, made his two friends help carry it out and drove Lloyd and the others to the secluded spot in the industrial park. During closing arguments, prosecutors also allege that Hernandez shot the man, though under the law it is not necessary to prove who fired the shots to achieve a conviction.

Security video from inside Hernandez’s home showed him holding what appeared to be a gun less than 10 minutes after Lloyd was killed. The surveillance system also showed Hernandez, Wallace and Ortiz hanging out at his home hours after Lloyd was shot.

Hernandez was an All-American out of the University of Florida who was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round in 2010.

This case does not end with this guilty verdict. There will undoubtedly be an appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. There are many issues in this case that could be a strong grounds for appeal, including the fact that the judge allowed certain parts of the expert’s testimony on the Glock being the murder weapon, but excluded other parts. It could be asserted that the expert’s entire testimony was improper. The defense reminded the jury during closing argument that the expert’s testimony had been struck from evidence and should be disregarded. Because of the defense’s reference to this testimony during closing, it could be argued that asking the jury to ignore such incriminating evidence was unfairly prejudicial, which in turn would warrant a new trial.

It will most definitely be interesting to see how an appeal plays out for Hernandez.

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Police believe a 65-year-old man used rented trucks to steal nearly 450 pallets of brick paver stones, worth an estimated $200,000, from Flagstone Pavers.

Brooksville investigators arrested the man on a felony grand theft charge resulting from a six week investigation into the missing pavers.

The company claims they never knew the pavers were missing until early February when an operator received an anonymous call from a woman who said that ’54 pallets of their pavers had been stolen and brought to a warehouse’ in Pasco County, according to reports.

A detective was able to get to the scene before the pavers were dispersed.

Police claim that what they thought were just 54 pallets of product turned out to be 450 stolen pallets.

4745160167_db76dca48d_zThe detective claims to have questioned the man who allegedly told him that he buys products from various locations. The detective said he asked the man for receipts, and the man apparently requested to speak with his lawyer.

Police claim the man had rented Penske trucks nine times for a total of 25 trucks to make multiple trips from Brooksville to Port Richey.

Police allege that from November to February, the man and a crew would load pallets into those trucks overnight and then drive them back and unload them at the warehouse, which is owned by the man’s son.

Police reported that they do not plan to arrest any of the crew members because they did not know what they were doing was illegal.

Police are investigating if an employee inside the plant was helping to facilitate the heist.

In the state of Florida, theft offenses are classified as both misdemeanors and felonies. In general, the determining factor of whether charges are a misdemeanor or felony revolve around the amount of money taken or the value of the item or items. In most cases, a theft involving $300 or more is classified as a felony. However, there are instances when a theft offense of a lower amount can become a felony due to a person’s prior record of theft-related offenses.

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A 56-year-old homeless man has been arrested and charged with molesting a child, according to reports.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office claims the man molested a 9-year-old girl multiple times Tuesday and Wednesday at a Largo home.

Officials allege that the man somehow knew the child.

3909882250_0954f81339_m (1)According to police, a witness contacted authorities, who then began investigating the accusations. Police said that the alleged victim confirmed the allegations during interviews.

The man was then arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious molestation on a child under 12 and was transported to the Pinellas County Jail.

While molestation charges are nothing to mess around with, it is important to understand that there are circumstances where an adult is wrongfully accused of lewd and lascivious molestation. Authorities will not usually question allegations made by a child who may be lying in order to achieve some real or imagined gain. If you are charged with molestation or another sex crimes offense, contact a Pinellas County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible so that we can assess your unique situation, ask the necessary questions and determine the best legal strategy for your defense.

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A former University of Florida track and field athlete was arrested Sunday morning after police allege he struck a bouncer multiple times after being denied entrance to a downtown nightclub.

According to a GPD report, the 23-year-old man was apparently trying to get into Simons Nightclub at about 1 a.m. when police claim he created a disturbance and was denied entry by one of the club’s bouncers.

Police allege that the argument escalated with the bouncer and the man then punched the bouncer in the face repeatedly, leaving a large cut on the bouncer’s forehead that required stitches.

Police claim they were forced to detain the man and physically remove him from the scene.

24523450_67d2e924e7_zThe man was arrested and charged with one felony count of battery and one misdemeanor count of resisting an officer without violence. He was taken to the Alachua County jail where he remained on Sunday with bail set at $17,500.

According to reports, the man competed for the Gators’ track and field team from 2010 to 2013.

The man won the triple jump and finished second in the long jump at the annual Florida Relays at Percy Beard Track that concluded Saturday on the UF campus.

Facing battery charges in Florida can be a life altering experience. You could be facing hefty fines as well as time behind bars, depending on the facts surrounding your case. Obviously, these charges can be nothing short of frightening.

You may have found yourself facing a battery charge that erupted from an act of self defense. Many battery charges arise from a fight, and it is possible that you were not even the aggressor in the attack. Police often charge the person who is hurt the least, or even the person who files charges first.

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A former Key West police officer who was recently accused of sexually abusing a minor will not be prosecuted on two charges of child molestation and one of lewd exhibition.

Assistant State Attorney Val Winter, who had been prosecuting the case against the 42-year-old man, said that the charges were dropped because the girl’s parents believe discontinuing the case “is in the child’s best interests.”

The abuse allegedly started when the girl was 10 and continued until she was 13.

The man, who was a resource officer at Key West High School, turned himself in to the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island a year ago. He was released that same day after posting 10 percent of his bond, which was initially set at $100,000, and turning in his passport.

According to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrest affidavit, the man allegedly intentionally forced the girl to touch his genitals in her bed at night. He was also accused of touching her breasts and “attempting to touch her vagina.”

The man apparently had a relationship with the girl’s mother at the time of the alleged sexual abuse, and they were living together with both of her children, according to the arrest affidavit.

The man resigned from the Police Department in February 2014 after being put on paid leave on Dec. 17, 2013.

The man was recognized by the FBI for exceptional service in 2000 and was named officer of the quarter in 2006.

If you are being investigated for or have already been arrested and charged with a sex crime, this does not mean your life is over. It is possible to beat a sex crime charge, avoid prison time and avoid having to register as a sex offender. But, you need help to do this. A Monroe County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help explore all possibilities with the hopes of getting the charges against you dropped.

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