Articles Posted in Pasco County

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A domestic battery charge filed last weekend against actress and former political commentator Stacey Dash has been dropped.

The Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller posted an update on its website Friday.

According to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Dash, 52, and a man became involved in an argument just before 8 p.m. on Sunday. Deputies claimed Dash pushed the man and slapped him in the face.

Deputies arrived and took her into custody.

The 5-foot-4, 108-pound star from the 1995 film Clueless owns a home in Pasco County, according to celebrity website TMZ.

Under Florida law, domestic violence or domestic battery is defined as any actual and intentional touching or striking of another person without consent, or the intentional causing of bodily harm to another person, when the person struck is a “family or household member.”

Under Section 741.28, Florida Statutes, the term ‘family or household member’ can include the following:

  • Wives and husbands;
  • Ex-wives and ex-husbands;
  • Individuals related by blood or marriage;
  • Individuals living together as a family;
  • Individuals who have resided together as if a family in the past; and
  • Persons who have a child in common (regardless of prior marriage).

The statute specifically requires that the family or household members must be currently residing or have in the past resided together in the same single dwelling unit. The only exception is for persons who have a child in common.

Prosecutors make decisions on how to file or proceed with a criminal case based on evidence. The following are a few reasons why the prosecution may choose to drop charges of domestic violence:

Insufficient Evidence

A major reason for dropping any criminal case is due to insufficient evidence. Successfully prosecuting the accused for domestic violence means that the prosecutor must prove each element of the offense by the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

The state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:

  • Intentionally touched or struck the alleged victim against his or her will; or
  • Intentionally caused bodily harm to the alleged victim; or
  • Intentionally and unlawfully threatened, either by word or act, to do violence to the victim and, at the time, appeared to have the ability to carry out the threat; or the act of the defendant created in the mind of the alleged victim a well-founded fear that the violence was about to take place

A prosecutor might feel that the element of “intent” is missing. A prosecutor may also feel the evidence of a domestic battery is insufficient because the alleged victim’s credibility is suspect.The victim may have a history of mental illness, making false accusations in the past, or has a motive to exaggerate or fabricate the incident because the parties are involved in a custody or property distribution battle. Any of these reasons could convince the prosecutor that there is insufficient evidence to convict the accused and result in them not filing charges.

The lack of a serious bodily injury could also result in charges being dropped. A serious bodily injury usually means that the victim suffered an injury necessitating medical treatment or serious impairment of a physical condition. These injuries may include:

  • Broken limb
  • Black eye
  • Laceration or cut requiring stitches
  • Disfigurement
  • Concussion

If a physician testifies that the injuries were not serious, or that the victim was exaggerating the symptoms, then this could compel the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss the charges.

Inconsistent Statements

A prosecutor will review any statements made by the defendant and the alleged victim. In some cases, the alleged victim will make a verbal statement that is different than what they originally said or wrote in their original statement to police. Their version of events could also be inconsistent with their actual physical condition that shows little or no injuries.

A change in the alleged victim’s story or another witness’ story introduces the idea that they are unreliable, have a poor memory, or are just lying. Inconsistencies may include:

  • Why the alleged victim was hit
  • Relationship between the accused and the alleged victim
  • Time of day the incident occurred
  • If any drugs or alcohol was consumed by either party involved
  • Body part struck
  • A change of story or any inconsistencies within the alleged victim’s statement or in other questioning by police

Lack of Injuries

The lack of any visible injuries in no way means that a domestic battery did not occur and the presence of an injury is not required in order for someone to be charged with domestic battery. The prosecution only needs to demonstrate that there is evidence of harmful or offensive touching, which can include pushing or shoving someone, spitting in their face, or intentionally touching them in a violent manner. With that said, however, the lack of any visible injuries may persuade the prosecution to not pursue criminal charges.

Lack of Witnesses

In most domestic violence cases, there are no other witnesses to the incident except for the accused and the alleged victim. If there is little to no evidence of an injury or fight, conflicting statements, and the accused has no record of domestic violence, a prosecutor may not wish to proceed with charges.

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Stacey Dash was arrested for domestic battery after an incident Sunday night in New Port Richey, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

The 52-year-old “Clueless” actress was taken into custody after an argument with a male, whose name was redacted in an incident report obtained by CNN. She is accused of pushing and slapping him.

The report states that police were called to a home Sunday evening “to respond to a domestic dispute” between the two.

According to the report, “The victim sustained red scratch marks to his upper left arm from being pushed.”

Dash was taken into custody and transported to the Land O’ Lakes detention facility without incident. She posted bail and was released on Monday morning, according to a spokesperson for the Pasco County Sheriff.

Prosecutors have become extremely aggressive about pursuing allegations of domestic violence in the state of Florida. While family violence against a spouse, significant other or anyone else with whom one resides is a serious issue, domestic violence allegations are among the most common to be made up, exaggerated or used for an ulterior motive. 

Many Florida domestic violence charges arise out of the context of a marriage or bad family living situation that is deteriorating or a child custody dispute to give one parent leverage against the other. In many of these situations, an ordinary family disagreement is exaggerated by one person who may later try to recant once they have had time to cool down. Unfortunately, Pasco County prosecutors can and often do pursue these cases even when the alleged victim has recanted and does not wish to continue with pressing criminal charges. 

Domestic abuse charges may arise out of a wide range of situations even when there is no actual contact and the alleged victims suffer no actual injury. Acts that may constitute domestic violence include but are not limited to the following:

  • Battery
  • Assault
  • Punching
  • Acts of intimidation or threats of harm
  • An open handed slap
  • Marital rape
  • Punching, shoving or kicking
  • Sexual abuse
  • Biting
  • Choking
  • Strangling

Domestic battery is defined as intentionally causing unwanted touching or striking of another person or causing bodily harm to the person. The difference between a battery charge and a domestic battery charge is the relationship between the defendant and the victim. 

A domestic battery charge can arise when the alleged victim is a family member or household member of the defendant. A family member or household member under Florida law includes wives, husbands, ex-spouses, individuals related by blood or marriage, co-parents even if never married, individuals who live together as a family and individuals who lived together as a family in the past. With the exception of co-parents, one of the required legal elements that must be proven in these cases is that the defendant and victim currently or previously lived together in the same residence.

In the state of Florida, domestic battery is classified as a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties that may include up to one year in jail or twelve months probation, and a $1,000 fine. Prosecutors might rely on minor injuries like bruising or swelling in the neck area to support this aggravated version of the domestic violence offense. Because allegations of choking or grabbing of the throat and neck area are common in domestic violence cases, people sometimes face severe felony charges based on relatively minor signs of injury.

Being convicted of any battery charge, regardless of whether it is domestic violence or not, can cause very serious consequences. A conviction can affect a person’s freedom, livelihood, reputation and finances. Any individuals facing such charges should choose to consult with a criminal defense lawyer who has extensive knowledge and experience with domestic violence cases, aggravated battery, and simple battery charges. Our Pasco County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have handled numerous domestic battery and domestic violence cases, so we know your rights and can go over all of your legal options that may be available to you given the particular circumstances of the case.

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A federal jury found the owner of a Tampa Bay area medical marketing company guilty on Thursday for his role in a $2.2 million-plus Medicare fraud scheme involving the payment of kickbacks and bribes to medical clinics in Miami in exchange for the referral of DNA swabs that were obtained from Medicare beneficiaries.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez of the Middle District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office and Assistant Inspector General Shimon Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office made the announcement.

After a four-day trial, the 49-year-old Land o’ Lakes man and owner of DBL Management LLC was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to pay health care kickbacks and one count of structuring currency transactions to avoid reporting requirements.  

The man is expected to be sentenced Oct. 2 by U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew of the Middle District of Florida, who presided over the trial.

According to the evidence presented at trial, the man was paid by Clinical Laboratory Company A for each DNA swab that he arranged to be referred to the laboratory.  In order to obtain DNA swabs, the man paid cash kickbacks and bribes to medical clinics in Miami in exchange for the referral of DNA swabs that were obtained from Medicare beneficiaries. The man directed the owners of the medical clinics to collect the DNA of all of the patients at the clinics, regardless of medical necessity.

In the first phase of the scheme, from November 2013 to May 2014, the evidence at trial showed that the man paid these cash kickbacks directly.  In the second phase of the scheme, from May 2014 to November 2014, after his arrest on other charges, the man established shell companies, including Healthcare Marketing Florida of Melbourne, and conspired with nominee owners to facilitate the payment of kickbacks, receipt of fraud proceeds, and transfer of unlawfully obtained DNA samples for medically unnecessary testing.  Over the course of the entire conspiracy, Clinical Laboratory Company A submitted more than $2.2 million in genetic testing claims and paid the man a percentage of the Medicare reimbursements that it received.

The evidence at trial showed that, in order to conceal his payment of illegal cash kickbacks, the man would travel to different ATMs and bank branches throughout southern Florida and make separate withdrawals of thousands of dollars in cash in order to avoid the filing of U.S. Department of Treasury “currency transaction reports” for an individual withdrawal of more than $10,000.

The man was previously found guilty by a jury in December 2015 of various health care fraud, money laundering and identity theft charges in a case handled by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  

He is currently serving 14 years in prison.

The state of Florida, along with every other state, is constantly looking for ways to bring in additional revenue and to cut the rapidly growing costs of Medicare and Medicaid programs, which is why they are going to such great lengths to uncover potential Medicaid and Medicare fraud and abuse cases. 

In the majority of cases, Medicare fraud involves using false information to obtain unauthorized benefits, and can take a variety of forms, but it typically involves defrauding the Medicare system through billing for services that were not provided or that were not provided as described. Medicare beneficiaries are sometimes involved in fraud schemes where they split the Medicare or Medicaid funds with another party for care that was not provided.

A number of programs exist at both the state and federal level to uncover and prosecute cases of Medicare fraud by patients, providers, insurers, or owners of a company in the healthcare industry. 

Medicare and Medicaid costs the federal government between $80 and $100 billion each year, so government investigators make it their top priority to constantly be on the lookout for any red flags. The Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) is one tool that the government uses to prosecute actions of fraud. The AKC makes it a crime to give or receive bribes or kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals. 

The penalties for violating the AKS are very serious. The AKS is a criminal statute, and a conviction equates to a felony. A conviction under the AKS can lead to five years in prison and fines of $25,000 per violation. The government can also seek hefty financial penalties of $50,000 for each violation of the AKS.

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The former mayor of Port Richey, Dale Massad, was found guilty Tuesday of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The jury’s verdict came at about 6 p.m. at the end of a one-day trial in which four witnesses testified. The jury took less than an hour to decide on the evidence.

Massad, 68, faced multiple charges from his February arrest, but the ones at issue Tuesday stemmed from a jailhouse phone call with former acting Mayor Terrence Rowe.

The state tried to prove that call showed Massad targeted a Port Richey police officer involved with his case.

Investigators claim that Massad called the man who filled his spot as mayor, Terrance Rowe, from jail and the two conspired to have a Port Richey police officer involved in Massad’s case fired.

The police officer testified that he felt threatened and intimidated by Massad. 

The police officer had helped the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate Massad’s alleged practice of medicine without a license, and he was the one monitoring his calls for the agency.

Massad’s defense team argued that there was no clear evidence of conspiracy to intimidate the police officer in the call, including when the former mayor told Rowe that “anything he can do” where the police officer is concerned was good.

The call lasted 14 minutes. It took the jury about 50 minutes to convict Massad of obstruction of justice and unlawful use of a two-way communications device. 

Jurors also heard from City Manager Vince Lupo, who testified that council members usually made records requests through him.

The state argued that because Rowe made repeated email requests to the city clerk instead of Lupo, he was trying to avoid the normal process.

Police Chief Gerard Decanio said the jury made the right call.

“To think that you’re going to call from jail and order certain things to be done, it’s ridiculous,” Decanio said. “So justice prevailed today. The jury brought back the right verdict.”

Massad’s attorney, however, believes the jury should have come back with the opposite verdict. The defense team believes city officials wanted him out as mayor, and that they unfortunately succeeded. 

Massad’s legal team requested a speedy trial in the hopes that they would win and Massad could post bond. They are now working to expedite the prosecution for the original charges.

This was only the tip of Massad’s legal problems. He still faces trial on charges of attempted murder and practicing medicine without a license.

Massad will continue to be held in jail without bail, pending his next trials. However, Tuesday’s conviction could result in prison time. 

At the first Port Richey City Council meeting since the city elected its new mayor, Scott Tremblay, it was business as usual, with no comments about the Massad trial during the first few minutes of the session.

Tremblay did say he’s looking forward to helping the city move forward, despite two other trials involving Massad looming over the city’s near future.  

Conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges are nothing to scoff at. These crimes are nothing minor. In fact, these are felony offenses that can negatively impact one’s freedom, life, and livelihood. A person commits the crime of obstruction by engaging in any act or behavior that interferes with the investigation or prosecution of a crime. Both state and federal laws have many provisions written in regarding obstruction of justice for many different laws, but such actions can range from simply warning someone about a subpoena for documents to hiding a suspect from police. Certain types of interference may seem innocent, such as warning a co-worker that they are being investigated, while others cross the legal line more blatantly, like destroying evidence. The greater the obstruction of justice, the greater the criminal consequences. 

Even a person who is not directly involved in a crime that is under investigation can be charged with criminal obstruction. These charges are not necessarily black and white, and can be quite confusing. If you have been charged with criminal obstruction or have questions about the crime, consult with our Pasco County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton who can make sure you fully understand what you are up against. 

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Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents arrested the city of Port Richey’s acting mayor Terrence Hagan Rowe, 64, on Wednesday charging him with obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and use of a two-way communications device to facilitate the commission of a crime.

According to the agency, agents received information that Rowe was conspiring to interfere with an active criminal investigation.

Rowe has served as Port Richey’s acting mayor since the previous mayor, Dale Glen Massad, was arrested in February following an incident where he allegedly fired a weapon at Pasco County Sheriff’s Office deputies at his home to serve a warrant.

Rowe was transported to the Pasco County Jail on a $15,000 bond. Rowe posted bond overnight.

Obstruction of justice is not a minor offense. It is actually a felony offense that can have serious implications on your freedom, life, and livelihood. The crime embodies numerous behaviors, including providing false information to a police officer, concealing material relevant to a prosecution, or destroying or disguising physical information.

If you have been charged with obstruction of justice, you need to obtain a criminal defense lawyer right away to make sure your rights are protected. Due to the severity of this offense, you need to act fast as you could be facing years in prison plus hefty fines. Our Pasco County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can piece together a strong defense against these charges or work to obtain a favorable plea deal without jail time.

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A former Pasco County School District transportation manager was sentenced to life in prison in federal court for sexually assaulting children and producing and distributing child pornography.

In August, the 35-year-old New Port Richey man pleaded guilty to enticing and coercing a minor to engage in sexual activity and to possessing child porn.

After statements were delivered and counsel was heard, the judge delivered the man’s sentence.

Court documents described the man as having a deeply embedded preference for sex with children that “descended to depths of depravity that are hard to fathom and that he’s a constant threat to society.”

The man began his career with Pasco schools as a school bus driver and worked his way up to the district’s transportation manager.

According to the plea agreement, beginning in 2014, the man, while employed by Pasco County Schools as a transportation manager, knowingly enticed a 15-year-old student from a local school to engage in sex acts.

Officials said the man had met the teen on the app Grindr.

The man engaged in a sexual relationship with the student that went on for several years. Officials said during that time, the man invited the student to view his collection of child pornography, invited him to watch live productions of child porn on the internet, and invited him to engage in group sex with other adults and minors.

The man also produced and distributed child porn of the student, according to the plea agreement.

Investigators said the man also had a close relationship with a Pasco County assistant principal. Officials said the two men would share child porn.

The government will review the man’s case in a few years under what’s called a Rule 35. That could determine whether he may be eligible for a parole at some point in the future.

After a person has been sentenced, there are several circumstances that could reduce the sentence. A direct appeal can be filed or the prosecution can file a motion pursuant to Rule 35(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to reward the person for providing substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.

Only the prosecution may file a Rule 35 motion, however, a criminal defense lawyer’s role in the process is substantial. Our Pasco County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help make sure your are rewarded properly for the assistance provided. Our goal is to interest the prosecution in what you have to offer, ensure that the cooperation goes smoothly, and that the desired outcome is mutually achieved.  

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Pasco County authorities have arrested a 19-year-old man and charged him with lewd and lascivious molestation at a county library.

The man accused was a library volunteer when the incident was reported but has since been terminated.

According to a Sheriff’s Office report, a 14-year-old boy claims the man “enticed him to engage in sexual activity.”

The report also said four other juveniles were present at the time gave the same version of events.

Pasco County Libraries said Friday afternoon that a background check was completed on the man in late January and that his first shift was worked on Feb. 9.

He was dismissed from his volunteer position on May 7.

While molestation charges are very serious, especially when it involves a minor child, there are also many cases where a person is falsely accused of a crime they did not commit. Sadly, false accusations are quite common and can wreak havoc on the life of the individual who has been wrongly accused.

If you have been arrested or accused of a sex crime you did not commit, you need to speak with a sex crimes attorney right away. Your reputation and future are at stake, and our Pasco County Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton do not take false accusations lightly. We are dedicated to aggressively defending those accused of sex crimes so that they can avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction.

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The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested a Dade City man for allegedly possessing hundreds of files of child pornography and possibly accessing thousands more.

A Pasco County Sheriff’s Office arrest report states investigators found 274 suspected child porn files on the man’s laptop. They allegedly reviewed 22 of those files and found graphic videos, some involving children younger than five years old, engaged in sex acts.

An IP address linked to the man’s home also may have allegedly accessed child pornography files at least 2,529 times in October and 18,779 times in March.

According to the report, the man admitted to downloading such files since he was 17 years old.

The man is charged with 21 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of transmission of child pornography.

He’s currently in jail on $1.1 million bond.

A conviction of child pornography can be devastating to your personal life and career. The number of images, type of pictures and the ages of the alleged children are factored into the charges and sentencing guidelines. You could be looking at years, decades or even life behind bars for each image in question and a permanent stamp on the sex offender registry.

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Two 19-year-old boys have been charged in an alleged holiday crime spree.

Pasco deputies claim the two teens went on a crime spree over the late hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas night in the Zephyrhills area.

The two 19-year-old’s are accused of burglarizing vehicles and stealing money, personal items, firearms, ammunition, and other items from victims.

Investigators claim they recovered several guns, ammo, narcotics, drug paraphernalia, and stolen property items from the suspects.

The teens were arrested and charged with over 18 felony offenses related to the holiday crime spree.

Authorities said further investigation may lead to additional charges and suspects.

Theft crimes usually increase over the holiday season. If you are facing criminal prosecution, you could be dealing with serious life consequences. You could be looking at years behind bars, a permanent stain on your criminal record, fines and other punishments.

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A woman has been arrested in Pasco County after allegedly renting out homes she didn’t own.

Authorities said the 43-year-old was arrested for scheming to defraud after allegedly pretending to be the owner of two homes — one in Holiday and the other in New Port Richey.

According to reports, she was renting out the property for $800-$850 a month.

The actual owner of the property was apparently unaware of this transaction.

The woman also had active felony warrants for grand theft and unlicensed real estate broker or sales associate in Hillsborough County.

There are many reasons why good, normally upstanding people end up facing fraud or other white collar crimes charges. Whatever the reason, our Pasco County White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton have one goal, which is to defend you against the charges. This means investigating your case thoroughly and presenting the strongest case possible to help you get back to leading a normal life.

We represent people throughout the state of Florida that are under investigation or facing formal state or federal charges for a wide range of white collar crimes, including:

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