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The mayor of the City of Tavares was suspended from his office by the governor of Florida on Thursday afternoon.

Mayor Robert William Wolfe was charged a day earlier with insurance fraud, a third-degree felony. He bonded out of jail Wednesday evening.

According to Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s executive order, Wolfe “is prohibited from performing any official act, duty or function of public office.”

The city’s vice mayor, Lori Pfister, has been moved to the position of mayor.

The State Attorney’s Office claims that in February, Wolfe filed a $9,000 claim with his insurance company, saying his home was damaged and he needed to rent a home. However, an investigation by the Department of Financial Services found that he never left his property.

It has been estimated that insurance fraud costs the industry more than $80 billion each year. The tricky thing about insurance fraud is that it can be difficult to prove someone guilty because of the way these types of crimes are usually committed. If you have been accused of insurance fraud, you may be an innocent party who had little to nothing to do with a crime. Our Lake County White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton will investigate your case until we get to the bottom of any alleged criminal activity, so that we can protect your interests and fight for your rights.

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A Citrus County sheriff’s deputy was arrested and charged with solicitation and engaging in prostitution, authorities said Wednesday.

The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office said the 31-year-old man was taken into custody.

Authorities said the arrest was in connection with an incident that occurred in Hernando County on July 4.

The man has been fired from his job in Citrus County, according to reports. An internal affairs investigation is being conducted.

He had been with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office since July 2015.

Prostitution is the exchange of sexual favors for a fee and is illegal in the state of Florida. Prostitution charges can result from a plethora of scenarios and carry significant consequences. The state of Florida takes an aggressive stance on prostitution and any related charges, like solicitation, are treated as serious sexual crimes.

Solicitation or prostitution is a severe criminal charge that should not be taken lightly. With that said, these charges often elicit fear, which is why you should never face these charges alone. A prostitution/solicitation offense can be detrimental to your personal life, career, reputation, and freedom.

A Citrus County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you with your sex crimes charge. We will fight to get the charges against you reduced so that you avoid harsh consequences that could devastate your life and career.

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A Largo man has been charged with possessing child pornography, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

The 69-year-old was arrested at his home on 126th Avenue Wednesday morning.

According to detectives, the investigation began in April after they received information that the man had child porn in his possession.

Investigators were allegedly able to recover six images depicting child pornography from electronic devices belonging to the man, according to reports.

He has been charged with six counts of possession of child pornography. He was transported to the Pinellas County Jail.

Whether you are facing possession of child pornography charges or the actual production of child porn, these charges are severe and require a strong criminal defense. As former prosecutors with the State, our Pinellas County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can  provide you with the thorough and aggressive legal defense you need.

We know that many of these cases involve online peer-to-peer file-sharing networks where the material is usually downloaded by mistake or embedded in with other files being downloaded that can later be traced to you. If you have been caught with child porn or have been contacted by police, it is best to invoke your rights to remain silent and contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Speaking with police without your attorney present, regardless of your innocence, can quickly backfire.

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A New Port Richey couple has been arrested on charges of organized fraud, grand theft and mortgage fraud tied to the sale of investment offerings in Clearwater.

The Florida Office of Financial Regulation announced on Friday the couple is accused of defrauding at least 13 Floridians out of about $500,000.

According to the OFR, potential investors were allegedly recruited through “free” real estate investment seminars held at various hotels throughout the Tampa Bay area. At the seminars, attendees were offered investments in an assisted living facility. The facility never came into operation, authorities claim, and instead the pair allegedly used investor funds for personal expenses, including the purchase of a home in New Port Richey.

When arrested separately on June 24 and July 13 the man and wife were believed to be recruiting investors for a new venture involving multi-level marketing and real estate projects.

The crime of fraud is defined as deceiving another person for financial gain. Organized fraud is any type of fraud committed by an organized group in order to steal from unsuspecting individuals. These charges are quite serious and carry severe penalties. Fraud charges are often investigated by federal agencies such as the FBI, IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A few types of organized fraud include:

  • Get Rich Quick Schemes
  • Phishing: obtaining sensitive personal information, like online usernames and passwords.
  • Bank Fraud
  • Investment Fraud
  • Money Laundering
  • Mail Fraud
  • Insurance Fraud
  • Counterfeiting
  • Credit Card Fraud

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A Barcelona court has found Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, guilty of three counts of tax fraud and has sentenced them to 21 months in prison.

It is unlikely that either will have to serve any jail time.

In a statement, the court also said that the sentence can be appealed through the Spanish supreme court. Under Spanish law, a tax prison sentence under two years can be served under probation, meaning Messi and his father are very unlikely to go to jail.

The court has also ordered Messi to pay a fine of about €2 million ($2.2 million), while his father was dealt a €1.5m fine for the tax evasion.

The court had been hearing a case brought by prosecutors who maintain that Messi and his father used tax havens in Belize and Uruguay as well as shell companies in the U.K. and Switzerland to avoid paying taxes totalling €4.1m on earnings from image rights from 2007 to 2009.

Barcelona on Wednesday issued a statement in support of their star forward, saying that they feel Messi is not criminally responsible for the tax fraud.

“FC Barcelona gives all its support to Leo Messi and his father with relation to the sentence for tax evasion handed out by the Provincial Court in Barcelona today,” the statement read. “The Club, in agreement with the Government prosecution service, considers that the player, who has corrected his position with the Spanish Tax Office, is in no way criminally responsible with regards to the facts underlined in this case. FC Barcelona continues to be at the disposal of Leo Messi and his family to support him in whatever action he decides to take in defence of his honesty and his legal interests.”

Lionel Messi admitted in court last month that he signed many documents without reading their contents and that he visited a notary’s office to go through with setting up a company to handle his finances without understanding what was going on.

When news of the investigation first broke in the summer of 2013, the Messi’s paid over €5m in arrears and extra charges. They are also believed to have paid €10m in taxes due on the image-rights income for 2010 and 2011.

In February, Messi’s teammate Javier Mascherano was given a one-year prison sentence for not properly paying his taxes. The sentence was deferred for two years after his legal team rejected the option to pay a new €280,000 ($312,000) fine, which it considered excessive.

According to Forbes magazine, Messi earns a total of $81.4 million a year, making him No. 2 in their list of world’s highest-paid athletes for 2016.

The truth is that no one likes to pay taxes. However, all of us and the companies we work for are obligated to do so. We all know that even just for our personal tax returns, tax laws can be quite complex. Because of how complicated tax laws can be, these cases can be some of the most complicated criminal cases any lawyer will ever handle.

There are many different types of tax fraud cases. Sometimes, prosecutors will try to claim that a person attempted  to “evade” taxes. Other cases involve allegations that someone failed to file a tax return. There are also cases where the government alleges that a person did not identify the source of income, or that they allegedly structured cash deposits to avoid the filing of currency transaction reports.

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The Justice Department announced Wednesday it’s charging hundreds of individuals across the country with committing Medicare fraud worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

This is the largest takedown in history, in regards to the number of people charged and the loss amount, according to the Justice Department.

The majority of the cases being prosecuted involve separate fraudulent billings to Medicare, Medicaid or both for treatments that were never provided.

In one case, a Detroit clinic that was actually found to be a front for a narcotics diversion scheme billed Medicare for more than $36 million, the Justice Department said.

The actual numbers:

  • $900 million in false billing
  • $38 million sent from Medicare and Medicaid to one clinic to carry out medically unnecessary treatments
  • $36 million billed to Medicare by a Detroit clinic that was actually a front for a narcotics diversion scheme
  • 1,000 law enforcement personnel involved
  • 301 defendants charged across the United States
  • 61 of those charged are medical professionals
  • 36 federal judicial districts involved
  • 28 of those charged are doctors

A doctor in Texas has been charged with participating in schemes to bill Medicare for “medically unnecessary home health services that were often not provided.”

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A former civilian Defense Department officer who oversaw military contracts has pleaded guilty to bribery in connection with a wide-spanning Navy corruption case involving a Malaysian businessman, according to reports.

Prosecutors claim the Malaysian businessman swindled the military out of more than $34 million.

The former officer entered his plea Thursday in federal court in San Diego. Prosecutors allege he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for helping a Singapore-based businessman.

The former officer is among more than a dozen charged in the scandal centered around the Malaysian businessman.

The Malaysian businessman pleaded guilty to bribery charges and is awaiting sentencing.

Prosecutors claim the former officer helped the Malaysian businessman get Navy contracts to service its ships.

Bribery charges are nothing to joke about. In fact, a bribery crime can result in a state or federal crimes conviction. The majority of bribery charges arise from illegal actions of influential government officials or business leaders, as this case demonstrates. When someone is under investigation for or is charged with a violation of federal or state bribery laws, it is important to obtain legal help right away.  A Florida White Collar Crimes Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you understand what you are up against and what the best defense strategy is for your particular situation.

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A Kissimmee man accused of sexually battering a child has been arrested, according to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

The man was arrested June 15 and charged with three counts of capital sexual battery.

Deputies began their investigation into the man in April after receiving information about alleged sexual abuse.  

The 13-year-old alleged victim told investigators that the man sexually battered and inappropriately touched her several times when she was between 9 and 12 years old.

A felony warrant was issued for the man’s arrest. He was located at a home in the 700 block of Hacienda Circle in Kissimmee.

The man was booked into the Osceola County Jail without bond.

Accusations of sexual battery can ruin your reputation even if your name is eventually cleared from any wrongdoing. Sadly, these cases usually rely on one person’s word against the other – the alleged victim vs. the accused. The prosecution will cling to any shred of evidence they have against the accused and fight aggressively to obtain a conviction. That is why you must take these charges seriously and make sure your rights are protected from the start of your case to its finish.

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A University of Florida professor has been arrested on a cyberstalking charge, according to a police report.

The 45-year-old  professor in the College of Pharmacy is accused of stalking a woman who used to work for him, according to the University of Florida Police report.

The woman told UPD’s victim’s advocate office on Tuesday that the man had been communicating with her through email and text messages after she told him to stop, the report said. She told investigators that the professor’s actions caused her to quit her job.

The man allegedly continued to try to contact her, which she claims caused her distress and resulted in her having her mother accompany her to various locations. The woman also claims the man once followed her to her car and made contact with her father, believing that the woman was in the car.

The man is accused of resisting being handcuffed at the time of his arrest, the report said.

The man, who was hired in 2014, has been placed on administrative leave and UF is in the process of having him trespassed, according to a UF spokeswoman.

The man will not be allowed on campus until the case is resolved or it is determined he is not a threat, according to the university.

The man was arrested on charges of cyberstalking and resisting arrest. He was being held Wednesday in the Alachua County jail on $5,000 bond.

Stalking through social media websites, texting, calling and leaving voice mails are all forms of stalking. There are other varieties of stalking, including:

  • Unwanted following
  • Harassing
  • Lurking around the person’s place of employment
  • Hanging out in parking lots where the victim’s car may be parked

In order to prove stalking charges, it must be demonstrated that the offender has pursued the individual and repeatedly or continuously harassed them to the point the person has a reasonable cause to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.

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The good news is that overall crime is down in Flagler County, but the bad news is that violent crime is up in many categories.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Uniform Crime Report, the rates of rape, aggravated assault, burglaries and stolen vehicles all increase in 2015. There was also one murder in the county, up from zero in 2014.

Flagler County’s sheriff says his deputies have managed to keep the crime rate low for a long time. And despite increases in key categories, the overall crime rate is still down .6 percent.

The increase has been blamed on population growth. In the last four years, the county’s population has grown by about 10 percent.

The sheriff said whenever they start to see a spike in crime in specific areas, they flood the zones with patrols.

Statewide, crime is also up in several categories, although overall crime is down 1.6 percent.

In 2015, the crime rates rose in the following categories:

  • Murder: 5.7 percent
  • Rape: 6.1 percent
  • Fondling: 2.0 percent
  • Aggravated Assault: 3.9 percent
  • Motor vehicle Theft: 12.4 percent

The report also breaks down domestic violence-related crime by category. Overall, domestic violence-related crime is up .5 percent.

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