Articles Posted in Pinellas County

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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 76-year-old Pinellas Park doctor has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the deaths of three patients who were prescribed pain medications at his clinic.

A federal judge in Tampa called the man a “drug pusher” at sentencing Monday and said he will have the “rest of his life to think about that.”

Reports indicate that the man was unaware he was breaking the law and asked the judge to show mercy on his 66-year-old wife who is scheduled for sentencing Tuesday. She managed her husband’s office.

The couple was convicted during a 17-day trial on multiple counts in a drug and financial conspiracy.

The man was held accountable for the three deaths.

In an attempt to crack down on the pill mill epidemic in Florida, police and prosecutors can be a tad overzealous when it comes to charging legitimate health care professionals with running pill mills. With that said, innocent doctors and other health care providers are often accused of committing crimes they did not commit.

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Detectives arrested a St. Petersburg man who was allegedly running a drug operation involving more than $1 million worth of marijuana.

The 24-year-old is facing charges of possession of marijuana with intent to sell and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Detectives claim they have been watching the man for several years.They received a tip that he was storing large quantities of marijuana in his apartment, which led them to obtain a search warrant, according to reports.

On March 23, investigators went to his apartment and apparently found 23 pounds of high-grade hydroponic marijuana that was packaged and ready for distribution inside his kitchen cabinets. Detectives claim they also found three guns and $87,000 in suspected drug money.

For the next month, detectives continued to investigate the man, and they claim they were able to identify about 230 pounds of marijuana — including the 23 pounds found his house apartment — and $168,000 cash associated with his operation.

Police say 230 pounds of marijuana has a street value of $1,150,000.

The U.S. Postal Service assisted police with the investigation, according to reports.

Being caught with any amount of marijuana and charged with a crime of marijuana possession in Florida is a very common drug charge. However, this does not mean you  should take these charges lightly. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, you could be facing hefty fines, a permanent criminal record, and a significant amount of time behind bars.

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A 17-year-old student is accused of luring an 11-year-old boy out of in-school suspension at Pinellas Secondary School, an alternative school for grades six through 12, and attempting to rape the boy.

The 17-year-old apparently told the 11-year-old they were going to go to McDonald’s, but instead they wound up behind abandoned buildings and into a wooded area, where the 17-year-old, 255-pound, 6-foot-1 high school sophomore allegedly hugged the 73-pound sixth-grader and told him they were going to have sex.

According to police, the 11-year-old boy escaped by faking an asthma attack and asked the 17-year-old to let him call his mother from a nearby business.

Reports indicate that the 17-year-old teen has had similar run-ins with the law previously.

Last week, police arrested the 17-year-old teen and charged him with lewd and lascivious conduct on a minor and interference with custody for removing the 11-year-old from school. He is currently in custody at the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

When an individual is under the age of 18 and is accused of a crime, he or she usually ends up in juvenile court. A record of conviction in Florida juvenile court can follow the juvenile into adulthood and lead to serious problems. Our Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton fight aggressively to protect children and teens from unnecessary punishments that will haunt them well into adulthood.

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Undercover deputies arrested 15 men during an operation that sought out suspects who tried to solicit minors online, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office report.

The sting, called “Operation Wayfarer,” lasted five days. During the operation, Pinellas investigators posed as minors online on different websites, chatrooms and social media. They looked to establish online relationships with men who were looking to meet up with minors for the purposes of sexual activity.

Pinellas detectives allege that the suspects explicitly sought out minors for sex in their online communications.

The operation ended with 15 arrests. The suspects range in age from 20 to 47 years old and they were arrested on various charges like traveling to meet a minor and online solicitation of a minor.

If you have been charged, accused of or are under investigation for any type of Internet sex crime, it is vital to the outcome of your case to retain a criminal defense lawyer who is well-versed in the technical elements of your case. Sex crimes charges, especially ones involving minors, are not taken lightly by police or prosecutors. You must protect yourself and get the legal help you need right away.

At Whittel & Melton, our Pinellas County Criminal Defense Lawyers are comprised of former prosecutors who understand Internet sex crimes defense cases. We are more than familiar with how police set up online sting operations to catch alleged sexual predators in chat rooms, dating sites and other Internet sites. We also know that these aggressive police tactics can often infringe upon the constitutional rights of the accused. That is why we analyze every aspect of sex crimes cases, including the arrest and all evidence, to expose any holes or weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.

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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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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 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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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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A Clearwater doctor has been accused of writing fraudulent prescriptions in order to obtain the controlled substances for herself, according to police.

The 50-year-old doctor was arrested Monday at a pain management clinic in Clearwater. She has been charged with  two counts of obtaining or attempting to obtain controlled substances by fraud.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office claims they began investigating the woman last month after detectives received a tip that the woman was allegedly writing prescriptions for oxycodone using patients’ names and filling them for herself.

5116635021_77b9367552_mDetectives believe the Tampa Bay area doctor filled those prescriptions at several pharmacies around Pinellas County. Investigators allege that they have surveillance video that displays the woman picking up one of those prescriptions for oxycodone.

The woman was arrested and booked into the Pinellas County Jail without further incident. She was released later in the day after posting $10,000 bail.

The investigation is ongoing, according to police.

Many people that find themselves facing charges of prescription fraud are actually upstanding individuals that had a brief lapse in judgment, became addicted to a prescription after receiving medical treatment or are just being falsely accused. As this case shows, even health professionals like doctors and pharmacists can be slapped with charges of prescription fraud. If you or a loved one has been charged with a prescription drug crime, it is absolutely vital to speak with a Pinellas County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton immediately.

Doctors, just like unlicensed individuals, can be arrested for prescription fraud. It is illegal for a doctor to write a false prescription, just as it is illegal for anyone else to forge a prescription.

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