Articles Posted in Lake County

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The Lake County Sheriff’s Office arrested 10 men last week following a recent undercover cyber operation dubbed “Treasure Florida’s Kids.”

Detectives said during the week-long operation, they posed online as a teenager or a child’s caregiver to target those looking online for sex with children.

Eight of the men reportedly traveled to the Golden Triangle area. Authorities said it includes Eustis, Tavares and Mt. Dora.

Two other men were arrested at their homes after detectives allege they sent explicit pictures.

Authorities claim some of the men brought items with them, like blankets, pillows, beer and money.

Ten other law enforcement agencies participated in the sex sting, including Osceola, Seminole, Polk and the Citrus Sheriff’s Offices.

Internet sex stings are nothing new. In fact, these are a common occurrence with police departments across the state of Florida as well as throughout the United States. Police stage these stings and use all kinds of tactics to get normally law abiding citizens to agree to their requests so they can arrest them. In fact, police will bend the rules in order to make an arrest in these undercover schemes. Many of the men arrested for allegedly seeking to have sex with a child were not trying to meet children online. Rather, they were looking for other adults when detectives started to persuade them to break the law.

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A Tavares High School janitor has been accused of poisoning his coworker last week after she received a job promotion he wanted, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

The 39-year-old was arrested Friday on a poisoning charge after a fellow custodian reported to a school resource deputy that she suspected she had been poisoned, according to reports.

The woman, the school’s lead custodian, told investigators she believed the man wanted a job promotion and he had been trying to get her in trouble.

She told deputies she had sipped a Coca-Cola that she had bought from Wendy’s and had left unattended on her office desk. After sipping the drink, she said her throat started to burn and she had trouble breathing.

The woman said she recognized the odor, saying it was similar to that of a commercial floor stripper that was near her desk.

When investigators tested the Coke, they found chemical levels consistent with ingredients of the floor stripping product.

The manufacturer’s website warns that the substance is harmful if ingested and can cause respiratory irritation.

She was taken to Tavares’ Florida Hospital Waterman for treatment.

The man was booked into the Lake County Jail. He was released after paying $25,000 in bail.

The school district said the man’s employment status is under internal review. Officials said he was assigned to another location with no access to the woman or to any children.

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Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents arrested a 24-year-old man Wednesday for attempting to solicit a 10-year-old girl on the internet.

Authorities say the girl’s mother told the Orange County Sheriff’s Office that her daughter received sexually explicit material from a man.

Deputies then sent the case to FDLE agents in Orlando.

Over the course of the investigation, agents claim they discovered additional evidence that they say shows the man was both sending sexually explicit material and soliciting the 10-year-old to provide explicit material.

Investigators met with the man at his home in Clermont and arrested him. He is charged with transmitting material harmful to minors and using a computer to solicit a child.

The investigation is ongoing, according to reports.

Internet sex crimes, especially those involving minors, are viewed quite seriously by both prosecutors and judges alike. Juries tend to side with the child in these cases, which means an adult accused of soliciting a child could be facing major penalties if convicted. These charges must be dealt with right away, and a Lake County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you understand the full scope of the charges you are facing.

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The new year is quickly approaching, and thousands of Floridians have made plans or are starting to think about how to say goodbye to 2015 and ring in 2016.

But before you solidify your New Year’s Eve plans, fire officials have some tips for residents and visitors when it comes to fireworks.

“Anything that is projectile or leaves the ground is illegal in the State of Florida. Basically your safest bet is with a sparkler,” said Natalie McQueen, a Firefighter and Paramedic for the Panama City Beach Fire Department.

Even though sparklers are allowed in the Sunshine State, residents and visitors still need to exercise caution when using them.

Younger children should never light or handle sparklers. Parents should maintain a close watch on kids at all times if sparklers are going to be used. Burns are very common to the hands and face since sparklers do have flickers that come off once they are lit.

If you are using sparklers, after you are done with them, fire officials say to place them in a big bucket full of water, and let them sit overnight.

While setting off your own fireworks might seem fun, our Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton want to remind everyone that the best way to stay safe while ringing in the New Year is leaving the fireworks to the pros. If you are caught with fireworks in the State of Florida it could lead to misdemeanor charges.

Under Florida law, the use of or possession of illegal fireworks is a first-degree misdemeanor. If you are accused of breaking this law, please be aware that you will be arrested. If you are convicted of this crime, you can be sentenced to up to one year in jail, given up to one year on probation, and/or fined up to one thousand dollars.

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A Eustis man has been sentenced to more 37 years in federal prison for sexually exploiting children and producing and receiving child porn.

The 52-year-old was also ordered by the court to pay $2,020 restitution to the victims.

According to the Department of Justice Middle District of Florida:

As early as 2005, the man hid video cameras in the bathrooms of his residence so he could take pictures of four minors in his custody. In 2014, he sexually assaulted another minor in his custody and recorded the abuse with his computer. He also collected and sent hundreds of pictures depicting sexual abuse and exploitation of minors from at least 2008 to the day before his arrest on Feb. 17, 2015.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Sexual exploitation is a broad category under Florida law in regards to sexual offenses, including Internet communications and child pornography. Federal laws and sentencing guidelines play a role in these sex crimes, which can result in lengthy prison sentences. A conviction under state or federal law could also result in mandatory registration as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

Many accusations regarding alleged sexual exploitations of children are drummed up by overzealous police, prosecutors, and judges who are actively trying to “send a message” about child protection. The sad truth is that even honest mistakes can lead to damaging criminal cases that can change your life forever.

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Thanksgiving is a time of year when families get together to celebrate memories and honor traditions. However, this is also the time of year when law enforcement agencies gear up to catch drunk drivers on our roadways.

Most law enforcement agencies, receive federal grants to increase their staffing levels during the holiday season, which typically begins with the four-day Thanksgiving weekend and continues to New Year’s Day. Arrests for DUI are highest during this time period.

The following are a few tips that may prove helpful to avoid a Thanksgiving DUI:

  1. Do not drink and drive. If you have been drinking, call a cab, a friend or use a ride share app like Uber or Lyft to get home safe. If you know you will be drinking, designate a sober driver to take you home.
  2. If you are pulled over, do not talk to law enforcement about where you were or what you were doing. Remember, you have the right to remain silent until you have your lawyer present.
  3. If you are involved in an accident, stop immediately and remain at the scene. Do not admit to anything and request to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
  4. Do not fall asleep inside your vehicle. You could get arrested if the officer observes that you have the keys in the ignition or if the engine is running.
  5. Drive cautiously. Police will be closely monitoring motorists for any mistakes they make. In particular, they will be on the lookout for motorists who may be driving too fast or too slow, or running red lights or failing to stop at stop signs.

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A 17-year-old Leesburg teen, who was expelled from Tavares High School for allegedly inappropriately touching female students, was arrested Friday for doing the same thing, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

The teen was charged with two counts of simple battery and trespassing. He remained in the Lake County jail Monday in lieu of $15,000 bail.

According to an arrest affidavit, the teen was a student at Tavares High, but was previously expelled for inappropriately touching female students. He was also trespassed from the facility.

He is accused of returning to the school on Friday at 7:15 a.m. where he allegedly hugged random girls.

“Statements were provided that he was asking the victims for ‘hugs,’ then he would grab their butts, and run his face in their breast area and try to kiss them …,” according to the affidavit.

The teen was arrested at 8:30 a.m.

He is scheduled for a court arraignment on Feb. 25.

Having a criminal conviction at a young age can negatively affect your child’s life for many years to come. Not only could they be facing jail time, but he or she could be denied college acceptances, driving privileges, jobs, student loans and other types of financial aid. A criminal conviction could even lead to your child getting suspended or expelled from school.

Juvenile Court is quite different from the adult legal system, but you need a Juvenile Criminal Defense Lawyer to help guide you through the system. There are things you need to know, like when your child will be released to you, the potential punishments and how the charge could impact the rest of your child’s life.

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You want to avoid getting arrested for DUI in Florida on New Year’s Eve and “becoming a statistic.” New Year’s Eve is a holiday that it is both cause for celebrating and relaxing. After the stress of getting ready for Christmas, people usually take this time to enjoy the end of the holiday season and contemplate their goals for the new year. However, because this is the last holiday of the year, there tends to be an increased number of people who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Listed below are several tips to help drivers avoid a DUI this New Year’s Eve.

  1. Limit Drinks

If you are at a party that has an open bar, and you know you are driving, know exactly how many drinks you are having so that you can watch your personal limit. Remember that once you start drinking it can be difficult to stop yourself from having too many. Be mindful of the exact amount you have had to drink.

  1. Call a Cab or Uber or Lyft

Public transportation can save many people from DUI-related accidents and arrests. Save the number of a local cab company in your phone, use a ride share app on your phone or attend parties or social gatherings close to a bus route.

  1. 15958303240_5a5181cc2a_zDon’t Go Solo

Don’t go to a party or social gathering by yourself. Bring along at least one other friend and make sure to determine who the designated driver is for the entire group before any alcohol is consumed.

  1. Eat!

While many people have New Year’s resolutions about weight loss, New Year’s Eve is one of those nights where you should eat. Food fills the stomach, making less room for alcohol. Try to snack on foods like meats or dark chocolate, which are known to keep you fuller longer.

  1. Offer Alternative Drinks

If you are hosting a party, include “mocktails,” sodas, punch, or even just water on your drink menu.

  1. Make Accommodations for Guests

If you know your guests have a far trip ahead of them, arrange for them to stay with you or at a nearby hotel. That way, no one drives home drunk.

  1. Leave the Party Early

New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest nights of the year. You can expect delays for taxis and other modes of public transportation, so be prepared. Leaving your party or social gathering early can also ensure that you get home safely and at a reasonable hour.

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According to the most recent FBI Crime report, Florida is home to some pretty dangerous cities. The top 20 cities that were found to have the most violent crimes and property crimes are as follows:


  • Miami Beach, Florida5196788334_e6ed189c68_m


With a population of 91,066, the total reported crimes were found to be 109.47 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 10.33 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 99.14 per 1,000 residents.


  • Orlando, Florida


With a population size of 246,513, the total reported crimes in Orlando were assessed at 78.19 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 10.34 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 67.85 per 1,000 residents.


  • Daytona Beach, Florida


Daytona Beach has a population of 61,861, and 74.10 reported crimes per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 11.56 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 62.54 per 1,000 residents.


  • Panama City, Florida


Panama City’s reported population is 37,187, with a total number of reported crimes at 70.27 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 7.80 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 62.47 per 1,000 residents.


  • Key West, Florida


With a smaller population of 25,249, Key West has a total of 69.47 reported crimes per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 8.24 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 61.23 per 1,000 residents.


  • Homestead, Florida


Homestead has a reported total population of 62,785, with a total number of crimes at 67.87 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 16.64 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 51.22 per 1,000 residents.


  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida


With a population of 170,827, the total reported crimes in Fort Lauderdale were determined at 67.92 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.11 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 58.80 per 1,000 residents.


  • Pensacola, Florida


Pensacola’s population size is 52,909. The total reported crimes are 69.86 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.11 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 60.75 per 1,000 residents.


  • Fort Pierce, Florida


The total population for Fort Pierce is 42,566 and the number of reported crimes ranks in at 65.95 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 11.14 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.81 per 1,000 residents.


  • Miami, Florida


With a larger population size of 414,327, Miami has a total reported crimes of 65.47 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 11.72 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 53.75 per 1,000 residents.


  • Pompano Beach, Florida


The total population size in Pompano Beach is 103,003. The total reported crimes in the area are 64.29 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 10.29 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.00 per 1,000 residents.


  • Sarasota, Florida


Population size in Sarasota totals 53,055 with the total reported crimes at 63.14 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 8.03 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 55.11 per 1,000 residents.


  • Riviera Beach, Florida


Riviera Beach has a total population of 33,309 and the total reported crimes are 61.97 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 13.21 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 48.76 per 1,000 residents.


  • Lake Worth, Florida


Lake Worth has a population size of 35,788 and the total reported crimes are 61.17 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 12.88 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 48.28 per 1,000 residents.


  • West Palm Beach, Florida


The population size is 102,422 and total crime ranks in at 60.78 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 8.02 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 52.76 per 1,000 residents.


  • Oakland Park, Florida


Oakland Park’s population is 42,071, with the total reported crimes at 60.75 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 7.85 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 52.90 per 1,000 residents.


  • Ocala, Florida


The population in Ocala is reported at 57,288. The total reported crimes for the area is 60.61 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 6.55 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.06 per 1,000 residents.


  • Sanford, Florida


Sanford has a population of 54,662. The total number of reported crimes for the area is 60.13 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 5.91 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.22 per 1,000 residents.


  • Lauderdale Lakes, Florida


The population is 33,644 and the total reported crime is 59.80 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.99 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 49.82 per 1,000 residents.


  • Leesburg, Florida


Leesburg’s total reported crime is 60.05 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.19 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 50.85 per 1,000 residents.

If you are facing criminal charges, you need to understand exactly what is at stake. How you respond to your charges will have a direct impact on how your case plays out, including your freedom and your future. During this critical time, everything you say and do, along with every decision you make can be the difference between imprisonment and you being free to move forward with your life.

Have you been arrested for a crime in Florida? You must act fast to protect your good name even if you have not had formal charges filed against you yet. A Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you with your case no matter what you have been arrested for or charged with. We will fully investigate the facts of your case and aggressively defend you in court or in seeking a settlement.

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A ring of 74 suspected drug dealers allegedly infiltrating Lake County with cocaine, heroin and prescription pills have been charged with various drug-related charges.

These arrests come after a four-month undercover investigation where the Lake County Sheriff’s Office claims the members of the drug ring were caught red handed. The charges resulted from the undercover operation dubbed “Close to Home,” which was started due to numerous citizen complaints. Investigators claim they seized two pounds of heroin, seven ounces of cocaine and about 300 prescription pills, totaling nearly $140,000 in street value.

The Sheriff’s Office announced that those involved in this alleged drug ring never strayed too far from home. They allegedly made transactions where families are shopping with their children.

5829666604_516663f8ee_mSo far, arrest warrants have been served on 67 suspects. The investigation was conducted by the Lake County Sheriff’s office along with Clermont, Mount Dora and Leesburg police departments, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the Orlando division of the U.S. Marshal’s Office. The state Department of Children and Families is also involved. Children found in the homes that were searched have been placed with other family members.

Investigators also seized 23 vehicles, including two BMWs and two Suzuki motorcycles, along with 20 guns and about $33,000 in cash. According to officials, the vehicles will be sold or used by the participating agencies.

A majority of the suspects, ranging in age from 18 to 60, are from south Lake, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Police believe the suspected ring leader is a 27-year-old man from Clermont who has a history of drug and criminal charges.

In most large-scale drug trafficking investigations, it is quite common for police to conduct multiple undercover drug transactions with the same suspect, or in this case suspects, before making an arrest. This is just one tactic that allows police to gain new evidence as well as new suspects as they continue to perform undercover transactions. This also gives law enforcement and the State’s Attorney’s Office a powerful edge in negotiating strategies as they can prosecute suspects for numerous different criminal counts.

Those who are facing any type of drug charges must take these matters very seriously. A conviction will likely result in jail time, not to mention a criminal record, which could limit one’s chances of obtaining employment or qualifying for a loan.

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