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Two people have been arrested in Hernando County and are facing multiple fraud and drug charges in connection with an alleged credit card fraud scheme.

The pair have been booked into the Hernando County Jail.

A detective with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office said this is one of the largest credit card schemes she’s seen here in the county in the 18 years she’s been with the department.

This all started with an investigation into a fraudulent return refund case, but detectives said they soon learned much more.

On Sunday, detectives arrested the two for fraudulent credit card charges at a Bed Bath and Beyond retail location. When detectives arrived at their Spring Hill home, they discovered the two were allegedly growing marijuana at the location.

On Monday, they came back with a search warrant for the drugs. During their search they claim they found dozens of items used to make fake credit cards, as well as skimmer devices used to capture people’s credit card information.

Credit card fraud is taken very seriously by law enforcement in Florida. Those convicted of credit card fraud are often subjected to stiff penalties, so it is crucial to the outcome of your case to understand your legal options.

In the state of Florida, if a credit or debit card was used to obtain more than $100 worth of goods or property more than twice in six months, the crime is considered a third-degree felony. If the card was used to acquire less than $100, it is considered a first-degree misdemeanor.

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About 20 unlicensed contractors accused of scamming Pinellas County residents were taken into custody Tuesday.

According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, deputies began rounding up the contractors at 5 a.m. during “Operation Nailed.”

The men, roofers, painters and construction workers are accused of scamming residents out of thousands of dollars in the past few months.

The roundup was a collaborative operation between the Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Financial Services, Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, Pinellas County Consumer Protection and the State Attorney’s Office, targeting unlicensed contractors in Pinellas County.

Until two months ago, unlicensed contractors normally received simple fines. But in an effort to crack down on members of the public being taken advantage of, arrest warrants are now being issued.

In Florida, doing contractor work without a license is a misdemeanor for the first offense. After that, it is a felony. According to the PCSO, the pilot program targeting unlicensed contractors still has four months to go. So far, detectives are working as many as 220 cases.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that performing work for others, without a license, is “no big deal.” However, if you are convicted of contracting without a license, there will be additional consequences on top of potential jail time and fines. You will also have a permanent criminal record, which can make it more difficult to apply for jobs, to apply for other professional licenses, to obtain housing, or to pass a background check.

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A Mandarin High School student and an 18-year-old Northside charter school student were allegedly caught Friday with guns on their respective campuses, according to police.

The 18-year-old was arrested Friday with a loaded gun in his book bag at Biscayne High Charter School on the Northside, police said. The gun had 14 rounds in it, according to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrest report.

He is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 30.

Across town, a 17-year-old apparently had a loaded .380 handgun at Mandarin High and was also charged with possession of marijuana, according to reports.

There were five rounds in the gun.

No students or staff were hurt.

There have been three gun-in-school arrests in Duval County this school year. During the 2016-17 school year, there were 17 arrests in incidents that resulted in 11 guns, a Taser and a starter pistol being confiscated.

Gun violence is certainly an ongoing issue, and something high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools have to deal with on a regular basis. Because of this, Florida laws have cracked down on individuals, including juveniles, who bring weapons onto school property.

Below are a list of weapons that are banned from being brought on school property:

  • Firearms
  • Shotguns
  • Rifles
  • Knives
  • Cutting tools
  • Nunchuck sticks
  • Any other tool, instrument or implement that can inflict serious bodily injury

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A Marion County teacher assistant was recently charged with molesting a middle school student, according to Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

The 36-year-old is being charged with lewd or lascivious molestation.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said she allegedly admitted to investigators that she had sexual contact with a then 14-year-old student.

According to the sheriff’s office, she was working as a paraprofessional teacher’s assistant at the school at the time when she met the student. Marion County Public School officials say she has been removed from the classroom and is on paid administrative leave.

The investigation started in July of 2017 when a Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputy found a suspicious vehicle in a church parking lot.

According to investigators, the deputy found the woman alone and partially clothed.

Authorities claim the woman made statements about having a relationship with an 8th grade student.

Investigators said the teen told them he was with the woman in the parking lot that night, but he ran away when he saw the deputy.

She was released on $5,000 bond.

If you have been arrested for child molestation, you need to consult with a Marion County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton right away. We can provide you with the aggressive defense you need to fight the sex crimes charges against you. As trial attorneys, we have decades of experience and a solid understanding of sex crimes defenses throughout the state of Florida. We can put our experience to work for you and develop an aggressive defense strategy for your child molestation charges.

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A top University of Florida housing official has been charged with stealing more than $180,000 to buy $16,000 worth of lunches, nearly $45,000 in furniture and $37,000 more in electronics, a report shows.

The 41-year-old senior director of UF housing and education, was arrested Monday night and charged with grand larceny of more than $100,000.

According to a UF police report, the man used state funds to buy $25,000 in household items, more than $11,500 in maintenance items like lawn mowers and more than $44,000 for miscellaneous items including internet service, electricity and seven cellphones.

The report says the UF Office of Internal Audit also has records detailing fraudulent purchases of a recliner chair, blue-cushioned patio furniture, a motion-sensor trash can, tablecloth, cloth napkins, flatware, plates, lamp, storage box, motion light sensor, pitcher, several floor rugs, wall mirror, a seafoam green cabinet and several flat-screen televisions.

In November 2016, the man used his assigned UF credit card to buy a dining set and hutch at Furniture Kingdom in Gainesville for $1,340 and $1,399.95 respectively, the report says.

According to the report, a witness saw the dining set and hutch inside the man’s house. Several photographs posted on the man’s wife’s Facebook page also clearly show the dining set and hutch that were purchased with UF funds, police say.

Beginning in April, the UF Ethics and Compliance Hotline received several anonymous reports of several employees in the UF Housing and Resident Education Department who were using their positions within the department to make fraudulent reimbursement and expense claims and using department funds for private gain, the report says.

The man apparently told police Monday he was only storing the items and planned on bringing them back. He also said he would make restitution for the items.

The man was trespassed from all UF properties, the report says.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said five additional employees who worked under the man have have been placed on administrative leave and may have been involved.

The man started at UF Housing in May 2004 and worked his way up to senior director about a year ago. Records show the man earned $145,675 in 2016.

As of Monday night, the man was in the Alachua County jail, awaiting a first appearance before a judge.

While many people think theft charges are minor offenses, theft convictions can damage your reputation and limit your future employment opportunities. If you or a loved one have been charged with theft or larceny, you should speak with an Alachua County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton. We can assess your case and determine your options.

Theft charges in Florida are no joke – they can result in hefty fines and jail time. A conviction can limit your ability to gain employment. Penalties stemming from a theft/larceny conviction may include:

  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Restitution
  • Mandatory counseling
  • Difficulty obtaining employment
  • Trouble securing a professional license

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A woman was arrested and charged in the attempted murder of a homeless man in Nashville.

Police claim the 26-year-old allegedly shot a 54-year-old homeless man Aug. 26 near Music Row.

The man was critically wounded and is being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

According to police, the man was trying to sleep on the sidewalk at 3 a.m. at 19th Avenue South and Chet Atkins place.

He was reportedly disturbed by exhaust fumes and loud music coming from a Porsche SUV.

The man said he asked the driver to move the vehicle. Police say the two began yelling at each other, and the woman allegedly got out of the car and shot the man twice before running up the street with another woman.

The woman’s father released the following statement, saying his daughter fired two warning shots not meaning to hit the man.

The two women were actually acting in self defense. The man was always on his feet and not asleep as someone apparently has alleged and had accosted a group of very young women and nearly became physical with one. He then approached the white Porsche (not Lexus) with two female occupants  and started verbally accosting them threatening them because their music was too loud for him to sleep… The driver fired a round as a warning to scare him away as he came at her. He kept coming and she fired a second round, again intended to scare him away. They quickly got back into the white vehicle and left, not knowing  that the man was hit by the warning shots. Both girls contacted the police and DA shortly after the incident and have always agreed to cooperate fully with the investigation.

The woman has since posted a $25,000 bond and was released from jail.

While this incident occurred in Tennessee, it raises the question of what if this happened in Florida? This brings up Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law, which states:

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity, and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

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A Jupiter man’s license to practice medicine was suspended in 2015 after he was allegedly found dispensing powerful pain medications to drug addicts, patients with mental-health issues and, in one case, a “morbidly obese” woman complaining she couldn’t bend over.

According to law-enforcement officials, the man offered to diagnose and treat an undercover Florida Department of Health investigator during an appointment on Aug. 21, 2015.

The 62-year-old was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail on Friday and is facing a charge of practicing medicine without a license. He was released after posting a $3,000 bond.

At the time of the appointment, the man’s license had been suspended for six months after investigators allegedly found he had prescribed drugs such as oxycodone, Xanax and Dilaudid sometimes without performing adequate examinations and, in a few cases, failing to refer patients to addiction specialists, according to Florida Department of Health documents.

The investigation into the man dates back to 2010.

If you are facing charges of practicing medicine without a license, you must obtain legal representation as soon as possible to mitigate the serious potential consequences. It is essential to consult with a criminal defense lawyer immediately as these charges can negatively impact your life severely if not handled properly. Our South Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can advise you of your rights and apply the best possible defense strategy for your specific charges.

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A Gainesville doctor convicted of 162 counts of health care fraud for false billing and using drugs not approved in the United States was sentenced Friday to effectively serve one year in prison and to pay a fine of more than $1.13 million plus restitution.

The doctor, who had practices in Gainesville and Hawthorne, was convicted in May 2016 and sentenced Friday in federal court.

She was ordered to serve one year and one day in prison on each count. The terms will run concurrently. She will also serve three years’ of supervised release and perform 400 hour of community service. In addition to the fine, she was ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution.

The woman was indicted in April 2014 on 210 counts of health care fraud and money laundering. She was charged with submitting fraudulent claims for unnecessary tests, buying drugs from outside the U.S. not approved for use here and giving those drugs to patients without their knowledge or consent.

She was convicted of falsely billing Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, in addition to billing insurance companies for counseling, treatment and training procedures that were never performed.

The woman’s Gainesville office was raided by authorities in 2011. In 2013, she closed her practice.

A conviction for health care fraud is devastating. In addition to potential criminal and civil sanctions, charges like these could wreak havoc on professional and personal reputations and there is the very real possibility of losing professional licenses. Any Floridian who suspects that they are under investigation for health care fraud or who has been charged with a related crime should seek the advice of our Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton as early in the process as possible to start building the most powerful defense possible. The risks are extremely great in these situations.

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Florida authorities said three teenagers – one 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds – stole a sport utility vehicle, sped away from officers and died in a fiery, violent crash early Sunday morning.

The 4:30 a.m. crash happened in Pinellas County.

A fourth teen in the SUV, who is 14, survived and is hospitalized.

All the teens all had criminal histories – including one who had gotten out of jail on July 31.

Reports indicate that a Ford Explorer and a Chrysler Sebring were stolen from a Clearwater car dealership Thursday. Both vehicles were spotted by deputies early Sunday morning. Deputies tried to apprehend the drivers of the cars, but didn’t pursue them. The sheriff’s office’s pursuit policy generally does not allow deputies to chase stolen cars.

Deputies believed the teens were using the stolen cars to commit burglaries. At one point, they set up a perimeter to try to catch the teens, but a deputy spotted the vehicles outside of the perimeter.

According to reports, the cars were in a “cat and mouse” game with each other, accelerating and slowing down, hitting speeds of 100 mph or more.

The deputy that spotted them did not initiate a high-speed chase, but the Explorer continued at about 100 mph when it hit another vehicle, caught fire and went airborne. The Explorer also hit a billboard pole.

The driver hit by the Explorer suffered minor injuries, reports indicate.

Officers found the Chrysler Sebring and arrested the two in that car; one is 16 and the other 18.

The teens involved were being monitored under a program for repeat offenders.

In 2015, police in Pinellas made 499 felony arrests for juvenile auto theft, more than any other county in Florida going back eight years, and more than the most populous counties in America, including Los Angeles. The Tampa Bay Times did an investigation into teen car thefts in April of 2017; the paper found that every four days, a teen crashes a stolen car in Pinellas County. It also found that in nearly every other county in Florida, most people arrested for auto theft are adults. But in Pinellas County, 62 percent are younger than 18 – the largest rate of juveniles arrested for grand theft auto of any sizable Florida county for at least a decade.

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A suspected drug dealer was arrested while allegedly carrying 70 baggies of possible heroin, four grams of marijuana, six grams of cocaine, $4,000 in cash — and had kids ages 1, 2 and 5 in his back seat, according to police.

The multi-agency bust happened Tuesday afternoon after investigators got a tip that a 23-year-old Delray Beach man would be at Jaycee Park with a large amount of drugs.

Officers watched as he pulled into the park, driving a 2012 Ford Edge with dark tinted windows.

When the man wouldn’t unlock the SUV, agents moved in and smashed the tinted window, according to a Boynton Beach police arrest report.

A woman and another man were also in the vehicle along with the children.

Inside the SUV, investigators found the drugs and money, according to the report.

Police claim the man was carrying more than $4,000 cash, according to the report.

The man faces multiple drug charges. He is also charged with child neglect. He is being held on bonds totaling $295,000.

Have you been accused of a heroin crime? In Florida, drug crimes are punished quite severely, especially those which involve a narcotic like heroin. Individuals who are convicted of offenses involving heroin can face very serious consequences, including heavy fines and years behind bars. Because of the serious nature of these charges, if you have been arrested for a heroin crime or are facing allegations, you need to seek legal help right away. Our South Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you understand your rights and what to expect from your particular situation. We will do our best to help reduce the existing charges or get them dismissed.

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