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Bud Garner
Sentry columnist
Copyright 2012

Volume XXI Phone (954) 532-2000 Fax 954-532-2002 Editor@flsentry.com
Click Here for Current Edition

Woman accused of stealing cellphone at Fort Lauderdale animal shelter

Mary Luz Diaz, 34, captured on surveillance video stealing $660 cellphone
A woman accused of stealing a pricey cellphone from an animal shelter last year was arrested Friday.
It was early in the evening on December 2, 2014, and Pethy Dome was at the Broward County Animal Care and Regulation building near The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport.
It wasn't long after she left the shelter that she realized she had left her phone behind. But when she went back to the office, her phone was nowhere to be found.
According to an arrest report, a review of the security camera footage showed that Dome had left her Samsung Galaxy 5 on the counter. The couple behind her in line, identified as Mary Luz Diaz, 34, and Robert Dey, then decided to take the phone.
The arrest report stated, "The male and female acted in concert to take the victim's cellphone without turning the phone over to anyone at the facility."
Fortunately for the victim, Diaz was easily identified by police, because she had filled out an adoption application that included her address and phone number.
According to the Broward Sheriff's Office, when they called Diaz, she admitted to taking the phone, and identified the man in the surveillance video as her boyfriend, Robert Dey.
Diaz agreed to return the phone, but when police arrived at her house on December 5, she was not home. Her brother, David Diaz, answered the door and handed the officer the phone. The memory had been erased, and the SIM card removed.
Police finally tracked down Diaz on Friday, charging her with grand theft. The phone was valued at $660.

Woman says ex-girlfriend, new boyfriend attacked her for money

Couple arrested after former romantic interest accuses them of attack
Hollywood Detective Margaret Smires dealt with a love triangle gone terribly wrong over money this week.
An unidentified victim reported that her ex-girlfriend Katherine Lamas, 20, kidnapped her, beat her and robbed her with the help of a man, who was later identified as Stevie Acao, 30, who has a criminal history.
Lamas was arrested Wednesday. Miami-Dade County Police Detective Ishak Riaz told Smires that Acao was in custody for an unrelated incident. He later confessed, but "gave varying accounts of the story," Smires said.
The alleged attack happened four days after Christmas. The victim said Tuesday that it all started when Lamas asked her to come to her house, 219 Glenn Parkway, because she needed money.
After an argument, she said she left running. Lamas and Acao caught up to her on Hollywood Boulevard, she said. Lamas was driving a red Toyota Camry, when Acao got off and grabbed her by the neck and pushed her into the car.
Once inside, "Lamas grabbed her by the hair and both suspects began punching her with closed fists," the police report said. The victim said they continued to hit her and ask her, "Where is the money?"
She told police that Acao found $50 to $60 that she was hiding in her bra and took her cell phone. She would later identify him on Facebook and learn that she was Lamas' boyfriend.
Lamas and Acao were charged with robbery and kidnapping.

Voters may get chance to vote on casinos

South Florida voters may get a chance to tell legislators whether they want Las-Vegas styled casinos.
A Florida House panel on Thursday voted in favor of a stripped-down gambling bill.
Legislators removed a provision to allow two casinos in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, but agreed to let county commissioners hold referendums on whether casinos should be allowed.
Rep. Ritch Workman said he wants to know if people in "downtown Miami" support a casino.
Even if voters say yes, the Legislature would have to give approval.
The House bill (HB 1233) was changed to allow slot machines at dog tracks in Lee and Palm Beach counties.
A similar gambling bill now moving in the Senate would also extend for one year a deal that lets the Seminole Tribe offer blackjack at its casinos.

House OKs allowing adoption agencies to refuse gay couples

Private adoption agencies in Florida would be able to turn away gay couples based on religious and moral beliefs under a bill the House passed.
The House voted 75-38 today for the bill, sending it to the Senate.
It was a response to a backlash from social conservatives after the House passed a separate adoption bill last month that stripped a gay adoption ban from state law. That law hasn’t been enforced since it was found unconstitutional five years ago.
Representatives debated from more than an hour, with Republicans saying the bill was needed to protect the rights of religious groups and Democrats saying the state shouldn’t be allowing discrimination.

Card skimmers on the rise

Police are warning the public about credit card skimming devices found on fuel pumps in Broward County.
In the latest case, Miramar police said a skimming device was found during a routine inspection by the Department of Agriculture at a Shell gas station at 3500 Red Road on March 27.
Police said they are seeing a rise in skimming devices found at gas stations, especially those that are located near highways.
Police advise the public to lock their cars and pay inside if they are uncomfortable paying through the machines.

Coral Springs Police Find Missing 9-Year Old Girl

The search is over for a missing 9-year old Coral Springs girl.
The Coral Springs Police Department tweeted out at 11:23 a.m. that the girl had been found safe.
Earlier in the morning police asked for the public’s help in finding Hope McGruder. Her family told investigators that the last time they saw her she was in bed in their apartment, near the 2500 block of Coral Springs Drive, Thursday night. Friday morning she was gone.
A Broward Sheriff’s helicopter and bloodhounds assisted Coral Spring police in their search for Hope.
Police said the girl was found on nearby Sample Road. She was reportedly trying to get to her aunts.
Police have classified this as a runaway situation.

Embry Riddle Student Arrested For Threating To Kill Professor

A Florida student is under arrest, accused of threatening to kill his professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Daytona Beach Police Deputy Chief Craig Capri said 33-year-old Konstantinos Kostakis was arrested Thursday.
He’s charged with making a written threat to kill or injure.
Capri said the student confessed.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports police went to the College of Aviation building on April 1st after assistant professor of commercial space operations Diane Howard found the typed letter. It claimed two heavily-armed students would shoot her.

Remains Prompt Reopening Of 1993 Cold Case

A woman’s remains recently identified have prompted Boca Raton detectives to reopen a cold case from 1993.
Police said the same year, a man discovered the remains in a pond near 6401 East Rogers Circle.
Boca Raton Police were able to find several body parts in the pond and identify them as belonging to a white female in her 20s. They later ruled her death a homicide.
But the woman remained unidentified and the case went cold until recently.
The department replaced their fingerprint identification system and the woman’s print’s were resubmitted and verified by technicians. This time they were identified as belonging to Michelle Deann Cooper.
The discovery has prompted detectives to pursue additional leads in her case.
Investigators believe Cooper may have been living in the West Palm Beach area at the time of her death.
Investigators are looking for anyone with more information on her or her death. Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 458-TIPS.

Report Could Shed Light On Hollywood Boy’s Death

The head of the state’s Department of Children and Families appeared before a Senate panel Thursday to talk about the death of a three year old Hollywood boy last month.
DCF Secretary Mike Carroll told the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee that he sent a special investigative team — known as a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team — to South Florida to find out why social-service agencies missed a series of internal and external injuries to Ahziya Osceola.
The child’s body was found on March 19, wrapped in garbage bags and hidden in the laundry room of his family’s home.
“There were signs that this child may have been physically abused,” Carroll said. “It wasn’t clear who or to what extent, and with all of the parties we just didn’t close the loop and get to a place where we were able to determine what really is the nature of these bruises and who really is the perpetrator in this.”
The boy’s father and stepmother face charges.
Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Hollywood Democrat who chairs the committee, said Ahziya was “beaten to death.”
Sobel said she wants to review the state’s child-welfare arrangements with the Seminole Tribe, to which the boy and his family belonged and which had been handling his case after ChildNet, the community-based care organization in the region, terminated services to the family in September 2014.
“We need much more specific guidelines around information sharing,” Carroll said. “And while I appreciate the need to respect the sovereignty of the Indian nation in these cases, the best interests, well-being and safety of the children should be the foremost concern of both parties involved in this.”
Neither the Seminole Tribe nor the Broward Sheriff’s Office, which had investigated the family four times without taking action, appeared at the committee hearing. Carroll told lawmakers the special investigative report will be complete within weeks.

FBI To Formally Open New South Florida HQ

There will be a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony Friday for the FBI’s new South Florida field office in Miramar.
FBI Director James Comey and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson are scheduled to officially open the building which is named for agents Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove, who were killed in a gun battle with bank robbers in South Miami-Dade on Friday, April 11, 1986. The firefight is still considered the bloodiest in the history of the FBI. Agent Grogan was a 25 year veteran of the Bureau. Agent Dove had been with the FBI for four years.
“The naming ceremony and dedication is a fitting tribute to Special Agents Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove. These brave men answered the call of duty and gave their lives to keep our streets, communities and country safe. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid,” said Wilson in a statement.
The new $194 million office building contains 330,000 square feet and sits on a 20-acre site adjacent to Interstate 75.
For 28 years, the FBI’s South Florida headquarters was located in North Miami Beach. The field office has jurisdiction over federal cases along Florida’s southeast coast from Vero Beach to Key West.

Research Before Trying To Sell Smartphone Online

You’ve probably heard about the various websites that will give you cash for your old electronics—including cell phones. But there is a consumer warning about the sites that seem to promise more than they are willing to deliver for the old devices.
Tony Caffarelli scanned the internet to find the best site to sell his smartphone. During his search he found the popular, Cash for iPhones site which he said came up with the highest price.
The company initially quoted Caffarelli $586 for his iPhone six so he sent them the phone and waited for his check—which is the standard operating procedure for these types of sites.
A few days later, however, Caffarelli got an email with a much different offer. Now that the company was in possession of his device they wanted to pay him $76.
Caffarelli said he didn’t react well to the new, much lower offer.
According to the Better Business Bureau, which gave the company an “F” rating, there are hundreds of similar complaints.
One disgruntled customer even set up a Facebook page called Stop Cash for iPhones.
Ken Abbe with the Federal Trade Commission said companies get away with this because most people don’t read the fine print.
If you take a look at Cash for iPhone’s terms and conditions it said initial quotes are qualified pending our evaluation.
It also said customers have three days to either accept or reject the new price.
But Caffarelli said he couldn’t reach anyone by email or phone in the three days following his second offer. He said he was put on hold, his call was dropped, and then passed to different costumer reps.
When he finally got the chance to tell them that he wanted his iPhone back, Caffarelli said the company told him it was too late.
“They have to provide a mechanism for people to cancel if they offer the opportunity to cancel,” said Abbe.
Cash for iPhones, which is located in Sparks, Nevada, is now under investigation by the Nevada Attorney General’s Office.
Caffarelli said after much back and forth he finally received the original offer of $586.
Bottom line, experts say do your due diligence. The internet can be a great way to connect you with buyers and sellers but this company is a great example that you should not do business with just anyone. Do your research, look up the company. If there are red flags chances are they will pop up.

Florida House Passes Nearly $700 Million Tax Cut Package

Nearly $700 million in tax cuts and breaks are coming after the Houseoverwhelmingly approved a bill on Thursday.
The legislation includes a substantial cut in the taxes charged on cellphones and cable television bills. The bill (HB 7141) also authorizes a three-day back to school sales tax holiday and exempts college textbooks from sales taxes.
The tax cut bill passed by a 112-3 vote.
It’s not clear, however, what taxes the Florida Legislature will cut this year.
Florida Senate leaders have said they won’t talk about cutting taxes until they figure out what to do about health care spending in the state budget. The House and Senate have passed rival budgets that differ by $4 billion.

USDA Predicts Drop In Citrus Production This Year

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is predicting a drop in citrus production for this year.
USDA officials said Thursday they predict about 102 million boxes of oranges will be produced. That’s down from the 104 million boxes produced last year.
Following the announcement, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam released the following statement, saying in part, “The future of Florida’s iconic citrus industry continues to be threatened by citrus greening. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has requested $18 million this year to support research, to grow clean citrus stock and to remove and replant diseased trees. We will fight to save Florida’s $10.7 billion citrus industry, and the 64,000 jobs the industry supports.”
This year’s forecast is a 59 percent decline since the peak citrus production of 254 million boxes from 1997 to 1998.

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