Issued by the Media Relations Office,
Public Information Officer Deputy Becky Herrin
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January 31, 2018
Lower Keys-Alcohol Coalition Checks
On January 30, 2018, The Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Division conducted an operation checking businesses that sell alcohol in the Lower Keys. Sixteen businesses were checked including restaurants, convenience stores and bars. Four of the businesses served alcohol to minors during the investigations. The four clerks who sold the alcohol were issued Notices to Appear before a Monroe County Judge.
The following are a list of the Businesses, and attendants who sold the alcohol:
• Dion’s Quickmart- 4908 Overseas Highway, Big Coppitt Key. Attendant: Cherokee L. Dorn, 24 years of age. Notice to appear issued (NTA).
• Baypoint Market- 3124 Overseas Highway, Bay Point. Attendant: Patrick D. Costello, 67 years of age. Notice to appear issued (NTA).
• Kickin Back- 21362 Overseas Highway, Cudjoe Key. Attendant: Jahirul I. Kham, 49 years of age. Notice to appear issued (NTA).
• CVS- 30401 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key. Attendant: Diannia L. Crum, 48 years of age. Notice to appear issued (NTA).
The Sale Clerk violations are up to 60 days in jail, a $500.00 fine, $235.00 in court cost, $75.00 in cost of prosecution, and $40.00 in cost of investigation.
The Licensee Violations are:
1st-Offense $1000 fine and 7 day suspension.
2nd-Offense $3000 fine and 30 day suspension.
3rd-Offense Revocation of license.
The remaining businesses checked, were in compliance with the law. This operation was conducted in cooperation with the Monroe County Coalition for a Safe and Drug Free Community.
Man arrested in Irma-related PWC theft
A Marathon man who stole a personal watercraft in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma was arrested Tuesday.
Matthew Richard Sanchez, 21, was charged with grand theft.
The case began on Dec. 8 when Middle Keys Road Patrol Deputies Hernan Marin
and Vincent Torres responded to James Terrace street after receiving a tip that a man was overheard stating he stole a personal watercraft. The deputies did not find the suspect, later identified as Sanchez, but they did find two personal watercraft parked on the property with Florida Registration numbers that indicated the vessels were not stolen.
After the deputies left, dispatchers found an incident report from Oct. 3 where an owner called to report one personal watercraft and trailer stolen from the Niles Channel Bridge between Sept. 15 and 17, which turned out to be one of the two personal watercraft from the earlier report . The woman reported she and her husband last saw their personal watercraft damaged in a ravine along with its trailer, near the Niles Channel Bridge on Sept. 15 after the storm. She and her husband were unable to retrieve the personal watercraft at that time and when they returned on Sept. 17 the vessel was gone.
On Dec. 10, when deputies returned to James Terrace, they found the personal watercraft and trailer in question gone. They were again unsuccessful in locating Sanchez.
The next day, Detective Amanda Coleman from the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Unit spoke to the owners. They reported the personal watercraft and trailer were found that same day parked in front of an unrelated business in roughly the same condition as they last saw it.
Coleman also spoke to a man who had been working with Sanchez who he told her Sanchez attempted to put the personal watercraft on his property and he told Sanchez he could not. The man told Coleman that he and Sanchez found the registration for the vessel in one of its compartments and that he instructed Sanchez to go to the owners’ house and alert them. The man said he heard nothing more about the personal watercraft until a mutual friend mentioned it had to be moved in order to keep Sanchez out of trouble. He added that he never contacted anyone in law enforcement regarding permission to remove the personal watercraft.
A warrant was issued for Sanchez arrest given that he admitted to removing the personal watercraft and was aware of the owners’ location and never contacted them.
Sanchez was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island.
January 30, 2018
Mainland man arrested for trap robbing
A Miami man who robbed stone crab traps and harvested undersized claws last month near the Bahia Honda Bridge has been arrested on warrants in Miami.
Lazaro Jesus Alonso Rodriguez, 35, was cited for possession of undersized stone crab claws and charged with molesting stone crab traps.
Lower Keys Marine Deputy Seth Hopp was on patrol on Dec. 16 near Bahia Honda Bridge when he observed a man, later identified as Rodriguez, walking with a cooler and snorkel gear through an area of Bahia Honda State Park that was marked as closed due to Hurricane Irma.
Rodriguez then got in the water with a speargun and Deputy Hopp watched him as he swam to several commercial trap buoys, each time diving down on each one. Deputy Hopp then approached him near the seawall for a resource inspection. When Deputy Hopp was about 50 feet away, Rodriguez noticed him and dropped something in the water, which was later found to be five stone crab claws. Deputy Hopp ordered Rodriguez to pick up what he had dropped and he complied.
Each of the stone crab claws appeared to be freshly harvested and three were smaller than the minimum size limit of 2.75 inches.
Rodriguez said he found the claws on the bottom of the seafloor and that other divers must have removed them, but Deputy Hopp told him that he had been watching him for 30 minutes, adding that there were no other divers and that stone crab claws are not found on the seafloor in such a manner.
The owner of the traps later confirmed to Deputy Hopp that some of his traps had been tampered with and that he wished to press charges.
Rodriguez was cited at the scene for possession of undersized claws. The State Attorney’s Office reviewed the case and on Dec. 29 a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Rodriguez was arrested on Jan. 25 in Miami-Dade County where he was released on bail. He will be prosecuted in Monroe County.
January 28, 2018
Two face drug charges
Two women caught using drugs in a truck on Big Pine Key are in jail on drug charges.
A woman called the Sheriff’s Office Saturday at 12:30 p.m. because she was in the vicinity of Watson Field on Big pIne Key and had found a small child wandering around, unsupervised. She told Sheriff’s dispatchers the child appeared to be with two women. She said the two women were sitting in a truck at the park and appeared to be ingesting drugs.
Deputies Seth Hopp and Jennifer Ettish arrived and quietly approached the truck. The two women inside did not realize the deputies were there. The deputies observed a pipe on the center console – the type of pipe used to smoke illegal narcotics.
The women were identified as 29 year old Megan Burrell and 37 year old Heather Reed, both of Summerland Key.
A search of the truck turned up numerous items of drug paraphernalia scattered all over the truck as well as several plastic baggies with the illegal substance MDMA inside – sometimes called “Molly” or Ecstasy.
When questioned about the drugs, each woman claimed the other was the owner of the illegal substances.
Both women were arrested. Burrell was charged with possession with intent to sell MDMA; possession of a controlled substance; possession of drug paraphernalia. Reed was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and child neglect.
Both women were booked into jail. The child was turned over to the custody of the Department of Children and Families.
Alabama man arrested for attempting to rob his boss
An Alabama man, in the Keys to do roofing work, was arrested in Marathon Friday after he attempted to rob his boss at knifepoint.
When Sgt. Joel Slough arrived on 121st Street in Marathon at 3 p.m., he saw two men, one inside a truck and one standing outside leaning into it. Three more men walked out of a residence, one was visibly injured, bleeding from his hand. After more deputies arrived as back up, details began to emerge about what happened.
The victim was identified as 51 year old Alan Armstrong. He said he and the other men are in town doing roofing work. He said they all left work early and returned to their residence in Marathon together. He said 18 year old Samwon Zeine was asking to be paid for the week. Armstrong told him he’d been paid last week and would be paid again next week. Zeine reportedly demanded money from Armstrong, pulling a box cutter and threatening to cut him with it.
Zeine’s older brother was there and saw what happened. He managed to get his brother outside and the victim closed and locked the door, calling the Sheriff’s Office. The older brother told Sgt. Slough he was injured when he tried to disarm his brother.
Samwon Zeine was arrested. He was charged with armed robbery and aggravated assault. He was booked into jail.
Wanted man faces further drug, gun charges
A Key Largo man, wanted on a warrant, was arrested Friday night. During the arrest, he was found in possession of illegal narcotics and a stolen revolver.
Deputy Cody Kerns and Sgt. Scott Ward went to a residence on Silver Springs Drive in Key Largo Friday at 11:30 p.m. to serve a warrant on Sonny Santamaria. Santamaria was wanted on charges of theft and fraudulent use of a credit card.
Santamaria was living in a shed in the back of the residence. The officers made contact with him. He initially identified himself by a false name. They knew who he was through previous law enforcement contacts and confronted him with the false information he had given them.
Santamaria was arrested. While he was being taken into custody, he managed to reach around to his waistband and threw two items to the ground. Those items were later identified as a plastic bag with cocaine inside and a revolver, fully loaded. A check on the gun’s serial number revealed it had been reported stolen on January 17th from a home on Silver Springs Drive.
Santamaria was charged with the warrant; he also faces charges of possession of a weapon and ammunition by a convicted felon, grand theft of a firearm, two counts of resisting arrest, possession of cocaine and two counts of tampering with evidence.
January 22, 2018
Woman arrested for fraud
A Marathon woman was arrested for paying money into a jail inmate’s commissary account using a stolen credit card number.
In January of 2017, a couple from Illinois was staying at the Kingsail Motel in Marathon. They were notified by one of their credit card companies of possible fraudulent activity on one of their cards. They called the Sheriff’s Office to report it.
The victims said on January 16th, they had left the cards inside a wallet, in a drawer in their motel room while they went to the beach. They said that was the only time they left the credit cards anywhere.
Investigations revealed one of the cards had been used on January 16th to deposit money into a jail inmate’s account. That jail inmate was 27 year old Mary Ann Scott. A woman working at the Kingsail Motel – 27 year old Jeanne Sawyer of Marathon – had used Scott on her employment application as a reference. According to motel records, Sawyer was also the person assigned to clean the victim’s room on January 16th, the day the card had been used to deposit to Scott’s inmate account.
Sheriff’s Detective Rosary Ponce was the investigating detective on the case. Following her investigation, a warrant was issue for Sawyer and today she was arrested on that warrant, charging her with grand theft, fraud and fraudulent use of a credit card.
January 21, 2018
Marina fire burns building, boats; shuts down traffic
A fire at a Key Largo marina Saturday night destroyed a number of dry docked boats at the marina. Traffic on highway U. S. One was disrupted for several hours as firefighters stretched hose across the highway to reach a water source to fight the fire.
According to reports, it appears the fire may have started in a building that houses the offices of Catamaran Boat Yard, at 97951 Overseas Highway. It then spread to a number of dry docked boats stored nearby.
Deputies responded at 10 p.m. after Sheriff’s Office dispatchers received a number of calls reporting the fire. Firefighters responded to fight the blaze; deputies and FHP troopers on scene assisted with traffic. A hose stretched across the highway to reach a water source temporarily shut down traffic. Deputies were able to divert north and southbound traffic through the parking lots of nearby businesses, but the roadway was not completely opened to traffic until 5:30 a.m.
Monroe County Fire Marshal Steven Zavalney responded to the scene and will be investigating the cause of the fire.
Detectives investigate armed robbery
Sheriff’s detectives are investigating the armed robbery of a restaurant worker in Islamorada which took place Friday night.
Deputy Nicholas Thaler and Sgt. Patricia O’Keefe responded to Marker 88 restaurant at 10:30 p.m. to reports one of the employees had been robbed in the parking lot. The victim told Deputy Thaler he was taking the trash out when two men jumped him. He said one man pointed a black semiautomatic handgun at him and demanded money. He said the other man then punched him on the side of the face, knocking him to the ground.
He said the two men stole his money and his cell phone and then left in a dark colored older model Honda Civic, northbound. He said he believes he briefly lost consciousness after being hit. He was visibly shaken by the incident and was treated at the scene by paramedics, then was transported to Mariner’s Hospital.
A co-worker came outside and found the victim in the parking lot, on the ground. He ran back into the restaurant, instructing a manager to call the Sheriff’s Office.
Detective Lance Hernandez responded and will be investigating the incident.
January 17, 2018
Three charged with condo burglary
Three men working on a construction crew hired to clean up moldy items at Ocean Pointe Condominiums in Tavernier were arrested after they were caught in a condo they were not hired to work in, taking items from inside.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to the condo complex Tuesday afternoon. When they arrived they met with two managers who pointed out the three suspects, sitting on a ledge outside. The managers put the deputies in touch with the condo owners. The owners said they have video cameras inside the condo which alert them when there is movement inside.
They said they were alerted to movement inside at 4:15 p.m. When they checked the video feed, they saw the three men going through all the rooms, opening drawers and cabinets and taking things. The video also has audio, and they could hear the men talking about taking a Wii video game. One of the men said his kids would love the game. Another said he would be playing the game later on that evening.
The owners alerted employees of the condo complex who intercepted the three men as they left the unit.
The men told deputies they must have accidentally entered the wrong condo. There is a sign on the condo they entered, clearly saying not to enter and that no work was needed inside.
Some stolen items were located in one of the men’s bags; other items were found discarded in a dumpster nearby.
The three men all work for Bellon Construction Group. They are all from Homestead. 21 year old Michael Chavez, 35 year old Jorge Rubio and 25 year old Noppon Chunchalean were all arrested and charged with burglary and theft.
January 15, 2018
Nine vehicles burglarized in the Lower Keys; detectives investigating
Sheriff’s detectives are investigating burglaries to at least nine vehicles burglarized overnight between Rockland Key and Bay Point in the Lower Keys.
All nine vehicles were left unlocked. Suspects entered the vehicles and took various items which had been left inside, including two handguns, a computer, cell phone, GPS, wallets and a purse, cash and sunglasses. The burglaries took place on Ed Swift Road, Emerald Drive and Parrot Lane on Big Coppitt Key; Bay Drive on Bay Point and Calle Dos on Rockland Key.
The Sheriff’s Office highly recommends always locking vehicle doors and removing valuable items from inside. The vast majority of vehicle burglaries are crimes of opportunity; suspects generally go car to car, checking for open doors and leaving vehicles alone if they are locked.
Anyone with information about this crime should contact the Sheriff's Office. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a Crimestoppers tip leads to an arrest, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crimestoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may be made anonymously on line at www.P3tips.com/139.
Two arrested for stolen truck
A man and woman from Tennessee were arrested Sunday afternoon after they were caught southbound in the Lower Keys in a truck stolen from Sebring, Florida.
Deputy Seth Hopp spotted the stolen black Nissan Titan truck southbound at the 30 mile marker of the highway at 1:15 p.m. The truck was reported stolen in the early morning hours that same day. Deputy Hopp pulled the truck over at the 14 mile marker with two other deputies as backup on the traffic stop. Inside the truck were a male driver identified as 44 year old Neal Gowen and a female passenger who gave the name Crystal Brooks, which later turned out to be false.
Both claimed they had permission to take the truck from Sebring. Deputy Hopp checked with law enforcement in that location and a Deputy with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the truck had been reported stolen and the owner did not give anyone permission to take the truck. The deputy from Highland County said the truck owner gave him the name of Crystal Reese as the person who took the truck. The victim said Reese and Gowen had been staying at his house and when he woke up, they and the truck were gone.
Deputy Hopp confronted the female passenger about her real name. When he checked her real name through Sheriff’s Office computers, he discovered an outstanding warrant for 33 year old Crystal Reese from Coffee County, Tennessee. The Tennessee warrant was for failure to appear in court on drug related charges.
A check of the contents of the truck revealed cocaine hidden in an unmarked prescription pill bottle, a glass pipe for smoking illegal substances and a grinder also used to prepare illegal substances for ingestion. Most of these illegal items were found on the passenger side of the vehicle, where Reese had been sitting.
Reese was charged with theft of a motor vehicle, possession of drug paraphernalia, giving officers a false name and with the outstanding warrant. Gowen was charged with theft of motor vehicle. Drug charges are pending further testing.
Traffic stop reveals illegal fish
A Marathon man, stopped for speeding on Long Key, received citations for having over the limit and undersized yellowtail snapper in his vehicle.
Deputy Matthew Cory was on patrol at 11 p.m. Friday when he spotted a black Ford Expedition speeding northbound on the Long Key Bridge. The vehicle was traveling 83 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone. Deputy Cory pulled the vehicle over and identified the driver as 50 year old Oreste Medina of Marathon.
Medina told Deputy Cory he had been fishing. He agreed to show the deputy his catch, which was in a cooler in the back of the vehicle. Inside the cooler, Deputy Cory found 25 yellowtail snapper, 15 over the limit allowed. Four of them were under the legal size of 12 inches.
Medina received citations for having over the limit and undersized fish. He also received a citation for speeding.
January 12, 2018
Man arrested for drugs, gun
A Miami man was arrested after a traffic stop revealed he had drugs and a gun iin his car.
Traffic Enforcement Deputy Shaun Lones was on patrol at 11:30 a.m. Thursday when he spotted a black Ford truck southbound at the 93.5 mile marker. Another deputy was on a traffic stop on the side of the road with his emergency lights activated. The black truck traveled past the traffic stop location without moving over or slowing down, as required by the Florida Move Over law.
A short distance past that location, another deputy was on a traffic stop. The black truck again failed to move over or slow down. At that point, Deputy Lones turned on his lights and siren to pull the truck over at the 92.5 mile marker.
The driver was identified as 48 year old Ulises Curbelo of Miami. When Curbelo rolled down his driver’s side window, Deputy Lones could smell the odor of burnt marijuana coming from inside. When he asked Curbelo about it, Curbelo admitted to smoking marijuana earlier, and he turned over the remnants of a marijuana cigarette to the deputy.
A K-9 team from another agency happened to be nearby and responded to the scene. The dog alerted indicating the presence of more drugs inside the truck. More marijuana was then found inside in a number of different locations. An electronic cigarette and two cartridges for it with THC inside – the active ingredient in marijuana – were also located. Drug paraphernalia in the form of a black grinder with marijuana residue inside was also found. A .380 Ruger, loaded and within immediate reach of the driver was also found.
Curbelo was charged with possession of a felony amount of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance and possession of a firearm while committing a felony. He also received citations for violating the move over law. He was booked into jail.
Key Largo man charged with vehicle burglary
A Key Largo man was arrested for burglarizing a neighbor’s vehicle Thursday night.
The victim called the Sheriff’s Office at 11:30 p.m. to report he’d seen a man take a fishing rod and reel from his uncle’s rental vehicle, parked on 2nd Ct in Key Largo. He said when he confronted the man he knew as a neighbor, 37 year old Steven Walters, Walters dropped the rod and reel and fled the area.
He said he knew Walters because Walters lives on an adjacent street and sometimes walks around the neighborhood. He pointed out Walter’s house. At the time, Walters was standing on the front porch of the house. The victim told deputies Walters was definitely the person who stole the rod and reel.
Walters denied stealing the items, and said he’d been in his house all day. He was arrested, charged with burglary and grand theft and he was taken to jail.
January 8, 2018
Deputies pursue stolen vehicle
Sheriff’s deputies chased a stolen vehicle Sunday morning in several different locations in the Lower Keys. A Lower Keys man, identified as the driver of the car, will face numerous charges in connection with the case.
The vehicle, a 2006 silver Lexus, was stolen overnight from a residence on Cudjoe Key. The owner called to report the theft at 8 a.m. The owner’s roommate also reported a chain saw stolen from his truck, which was parked at the same residence.
A short time after the report, Deputy Alexandra Davis spotted the vehicle northbound on Cudjoe Key. She attempted to stop it, but the vehicle refused to stop and began to drive very dangerously at high rates of speed so she stopped pursuing for fear of endangering other people on the roadway.
Between 8:22 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., the stolen vehicle was spotted numerous times by Sheriff’s deputies, Fish and Wildlife officers and by Key West Police officers. The officers attempted to stop the vehicle repeatedly. Each time, the driver would flee in such a dangerous manner they could not pull the vehicle over, nor could they stop it safely.
Finally, the vehicle’s tires were spiked by Deputy Ken Fricke at the 13 mile marker. It continued to travel onto Big Coppitt Key with three flat tires after being spiked. The car was located abandoned on Ed Swift Road. A pair of black gloves were found on the passenger seat; cocaine was also found inside the car.
During the course of the investigation into who was driving, Deputy Davis received photographs and videos showing 20 year old Adrian Diaz of Big Coppitt Key with the stolen vehicle. Diaz was identified from numerous previous law enforcement contacts and from mug shots from previous arrests.One of the videos showed a man with Diaz who was identified from previous law enforcement contacts as 29 year old Frank Ramirez. Detectives interviewed him and he gave them further information pertinent to the case.
A warrant has been issued for Diaz. He will be charged with grand theft auto, driving with a suspended license, burglary of a vehicle, theft, possession of cocaine, reckless driving, fleeing and eluding police and possession of burglary tools.
Anyone who can help to locate Diaz should contact the Sheriff's Office. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a Crimestoppers tip leads to an arrest, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crimestoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may be made anonymously on line at www.P3tips.com/139.
Key Largo man charged with fleeing from deputies
A 26 year old Key Largo man was arrested Sunday for fleeing from deputies after a traffic stop.
Deputy Jose Hernandez was on patrol at 11:30 p.m. at the 101 mile marker when he saw a green Ford Bronco northbound with a broken taillight. He stopped the vehicle at the 101 mile marker. The driver was identified as 26 year old Corey Tolli of Key Largo. Tolli was unable to produce a driver’s license or a registration for the car, which he said belonged to his grandfather.
Deputy Hernandez asked Tolli to turn off the vehicle so he could check the VIN number. As the deputy was checking it, Tolli suddenly turned the vehicle back on and sped off, northbound. Deputy Hernandez jumped into his patrol car to chase the Bronco. Tolli was driving dangerously fast, however, so the deputy broke off the pursuit.
The deputy saw the vehicle turn onto Canal Street and he followed, but lost sight of it. A short time later, Deputy Tommy Durham spotted the vehicle parked at dead end on Ellen Street. Deputy Hernandez found the jacket Tolli was wearing. The jacket was wet, as if Tolli had jumped into a canal to escape.
Deputies Hernandez and Durham followed a trail of water from the jacket to a nearby wooded area and located Tolli. He was taken into custody.
The Bronco he was driving had been reported stolen earlier in the day by his grandfather, who later refused to press charges. Tolli was charged with fleeing and eluding police and he was booked into jail.
January 5, 2018
Marathon man arrested for sexual battery
A Marathon man was arrested Thursday, charged with sexual battery on a 33 year old woman.
The victim told detectives from the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit she was sitting in front of K-Mart in Marathon at 2 p.m. on January 3rd when the suspect, 53 year old Julio Melendez, pulled up in his gold colored GMC pickup truck. She said she decided to go for a ride with him. She said they got cigarettes and alcohol and went back to his travel trailer where they had consensual sex.
During their encounter, she became unwilling to continue having sex with him and told him to stop. He failed to stop and continued the activity against her will. She said he held her there against her will for approximately 13 hours.
They finally left the travel trailer in his truck and drove to the shopping center parking lot at 55th Street in Marathon. In the parking lot, he sideswiped a man’s vehicle. The man told detectives he saw the victim inside the truck yelling for help. The witness intervened and told the victim to get into his vehicle. Melendez then sped off in his truck and the witness told the bartender in the Brass Monkey lounge what happened.
Sgt. Joel Slough recognized the description of the suspect and his vehicle from previous law enforcement encounters. The victim identified the suspect in a photo line-up and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Melendez was arrested on Thursday and was booked into jail on charges of sexual battery. Bond is set at $150,000.