Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

Put out by the Media Relations Office, Public Information Officer Deputy Becky Herrin


July 31, 2000

Marathon council receives hate mail

Marathon – The Sheriff’s Office is investigating hate mail received by members of the Marathon City Council.

Council members received the hate mail in June, and then again last week. The content of both mailings was the same. It indicates displeasure with the issue of vacation rentals. The letter is generally threatening in nature, but does not make specific threats to harm any particular person.

City Manager Craig Wrathell came to the Sheriff’s substation Friday morning to report the incidents. He said city council members received the first letter on June 13th. The second letter was received in Wrathell’s office on July 26th and by Mayor Bob Miller on July 27th. In addition, Mayor Miller said he has suffered three flat tires on his car over the past several weeks, and on one occasion found a drill bit in one of his tires.

The details of the letter’s contents will not be released at this time for fear it would hamper the investigation. Detectives have been assigned to pursue the case.

Teens arrested for theft of BMW, burglary to autos

Islamorada – Two teens are in custody, accused of burglarizing multiple vehicles in the Venetian Shores Subdivision of Islamorada. During the course of the burglaries, they also stole a BMW after finding the keys to the car under the matt.

18-year-old Blake Malone and 15 year old Timothy Acosta have both been charged with auto theft for stealing the 2000 BMW from a residence on Giardino Drive. Both boys live in the Venetian Shores neighborhood. Deputies have also identified at least 18 automobiles and boats that have been burglarized. All of the vehicles were left unlocked, many with valuables such as cell phones and cash inside.

The burglary spree began Saturday night and continued on into the morning hours. The boys said they originally entered the BMW to burglarize it, but decided to take it for a ride after fining the keys hidden under the matt. They abandoned the BMW Sunday morning on a nearby street, but forgot some personal CDs in the car that they had been listening to as they drove around.

Later on Sunday morning, Acosta returned to the BMW to retrieve the CDs and he was spotted near the car by the car’s owner, who was driving around the neighborhood looking for his stolen vehicle. The vehicle’s owner called the Sheriff’s Office. When deputies arrived, Acosta gave them Malone’s name, saying Malone was the one responsible for stealing the BMW. Further investigation led to the arrest of both Acosta and Malone for the auto theft.

The boys then admitted to the auto burglaries. Some of the stolen property was recovered from the boy’s homes. A search of neighborhood streets also turned up some items that had been discarded by the boys. Charges are currently pending in those cases. Deputies are continuing their investigation.

Vandalism at Key Largo Elementary School

Key Largo – Deputies responded to reports of extensive damage to school buses and windows at Key Largo Elementary School Saturday.

Thousands of dollars worth of damage was done by vandals, who broke windows and damaged air conditioning vents at the school sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning. Three maintenance vans and a truck had broken windows and one van had sand and rocks in the gas tank. Three school buses were also damaged. Rocks were thrown through school windows, and someone climbed on the roof and threw several air conditioning vents onto the ground. Trees were also pulled out of the ground on the side of one of the buildings. It also appeared that someone entered the school through a gym door by breaking out a window in the door, but nothing inside appeared to be missing or damaged.

Detectives are investigating the case.

Checkpoint a success

Big Coppitt Key – An automobile checkpoint set up on Big Coppitt Key yielded results Saturday night.

Deputies stopped a total of 15 cars out of the 45 that passed by the intersection of Boca Chica Road and Egret Lane between 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday. Out of those 15 cars, two citations were written, 4 warnings issued and one person was arrested for an outstanding warrant for worthless checks.

All cars stopped were checked for safety violations, and driver’s licenses were checked as well.

July 25, 2000

Note: as of 11:45 a.m., Commissioner Shirley Freeman has also received this letter.

Commissioners get threatening letter

Monroe County – The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating threats made against the lives of two County Commissioners.

Commissioner Wilhelmina Harvey and Commissioner Nora Williams have both received the same letter in the mail. The letter, signed “The Patriots” expresses displeasure with the way the commissioners are conducting themselves in office and at one point says “You must be made an example. You will be executed!!” The actual contents of the letter is being withheld because release of it might interfere with the investigation.

Detectives have been assigned to the case and, because the letters were delivered via the U.S. Postal Service, the Sheriff’s Office will be working with investigators from that office as well.

The Sheriff’s Office will be providing special security for Commissioner’s Harvey and Williams, and any others who receive a similar threat until it is determined there is no longer any danger to them.

Anyone with information about this case should call the Sheriff’s Office immediately. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If information leads to an arrest, the caller would be eligible for a monetary reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.


July 19, 2000


Search turns up pound of cocaine, cash

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Click on thumbnail to see photo

In the photo: Drugs seized during search warrant Wednesday

Big Coppitt Key – A Big Coppitt Key man was arrested today (Wednesday) after a search of his residence turned up over a pound of cocaine and almost $1200.00 in cash.

Detectives from the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Division served a search warrant Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. at 45 Riviera Drive on Big Coppitt Key. 27-year-old Omar Betancourt was arrested after a search turned up illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia and cash from the proceeds of drug sales.

A plastic grocery bag with 424.6 grams of powdered cocaine inside was found in Betancourt’s bedroom; three smaller bags were also found in the room with a total of 65 grams of cocaine inside. Drug paraphernalia was also seized from the room, including a microwave oven, electronic scale, plastic bags and a box of baking soda. A total of $1,166.00 in cash was also seized as possible proceeds from drug sales.

Betancourt was charged with trafficking in cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Reminder: Parking a car for sale on the right-of-way a second degree misdemeanor

Monroe County – The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone in the county that it is against the law to park your car, boat, or any other vehicle on state right-of-way with a for sale sign on it.

The state statute, 337.406, is entitled “Unlawful commercial use of state right of way”. Anyone in violation of this statute faces the possibility of up to sixty days in jail and $500.00 fine. A county ordinance also addresses the issue. Ordinance 11-6.5 allows for a $20.00 fine for someone unlawfully parking a vehicle for sale on the right-of-way.

Not only is it against the law, but it is unsightly and it sometimes poses a safety hazard. Cars parked on the right of way can block a driver’s line of sight and can cause other problems to drivers on the highway.

“We are doing everything possible to make our highway safer. This may not seem like an important issue to some, but if we can help prevent just one accident, we feel it is worth our efforts,” said Sgt. Pete Johnston, Sheriff’s Office Zone Commander for the Key Largo area. Sgt. Johnston and his squad say they will be concentrating efforts to clear such vehicles from the right-of-way in their area.

Other Sheriff’s Office sergeants say they will be directing the deputies under their command to do the same. They are giving people fair warning – move your vehicles now, or face the consequences.

Deputy suggests mile markers for upper Keys roadway

Key Largo – A Sheriff’s deputy’s suggestion will make it easier for law enforcement officers and citizens alike to tell where they are when driving State Road 905 and Card Sound Road in the upper Keys.

With the assistance of Monroe County Public Works employee Jim Medallion, Deputy Tim Hurd has seen his idea become a reality. There are now mile markers lining the roadway on State Road 905 and on Card Sound Road in the upper Keys. The mile markers, installed recently by Public Works, will make it easier for law enforcement officers to tell their dispatchers where they are when patrolling the road, including the location of traffic stops, disabled vehicles and accidents. It will also allow a citizen who breaks down or has an accident to better communicate his or her whereabouts to the Sheriff’s Office when they call for assistance.

“I don’t know why no one thought of this before,” said Sgt. Pete Johnston, Zone Commander in the Key Largo area, who supervises Deputy Hurd. “It was a relatively simple thing to do, and will really help with finding locations on the road.”

The new mile markers are designated with a “C” and the mile number on State Road 905 and with a “CS” and the mile number on Card Sound Road.

July 18, 2000

Search Warrant leads to drug arrests

Marathon – A search warrant served at a Marathon trailer resulted in the arrest of three people Monday by detectives from the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Division.

The search warrant was obtained after an undercover operative purchased drugs from the residence on a number of occasions. The warrant was served at 12:15 p.m. at 413 92nd Street in Marathon. The trailer is split into two separate residences. The search warrant was for one part of the trailer, and the detectives got consent to search the other section.

60-year-old Aldaberto Pelaez was arrested after a search of his area of the trailer turned up 25 small bags of powdered cocaine and 28 small bags of crack cocaine. The drugs had been packaged for sale, and weighed a total of 20 grams. Pelaez was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was further charged with possession of drug paraphernalia after pipes and other items of paraphernalia were seized.

31-year-old Helen Rich, who gave the detectives consent to search her area of the trailer, was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine after detectives found five small bags of powdered cocaine weighing a total of 4 grams.

While detectives were on the scene, 47-year-old Steven Paradeo approached the trailer and asked to purchase cocaine. Paradeo was charged with possession of the illegal drug.

All three people were booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.


July 13, 2000

Key Largo man charged with armed burglary

Key Largo – A Key Largo man was arrested early today and charged with breaking in to a residence on Coral Drive.

According to reports by Deputy Todd Wyatt, the victim returned to his home at 7:30 a.m. today after being gone all night. When he walked in, he noticed the inside of the house smelled like cigarette smoke, and he doesn’t smoke cigarettes. He found his bedroom door locked and opened it with a kitchen implement. As he entered the bedroom, he noticed the cigarette smoke was stronger and he saw the closet door closing and fingers pulling the door from inside.

The victim retrieved a gun from his bureau drawer and warned the person in the closet not to move, then he called 911 for the Sheriff’s Office. Deputy George Rosemeyer arrived and took 22 year old Michael Minnix into custody. Further investigation revealed Minnix had cut a screen on the back door with a large serrated knife in order to gain entry. Minnix was charged with armed burglary and attempted theft and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Raccoons found dead at SPCA

Stock Island – Four raccoons have been found dead on the doorstep of the Stock Island office of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

According to reports taken Monday, for four days in a row employees of the SPCA who report for work at 6 a.m. have found a dead raccoon wrapped in a plastic bag dumped in front of the building. They all reportedly appear to have been shot in the head.

Anyone with information about the case should call the Sheriff’s Office immediately at 292-7075. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. A caller whose information leads to an arrest could be eligible for a monetary reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS.

Stock Island man charged with possession of cocaine

Stock Island – A Stock Island man was arrested Tuesday and charged with possessing 32 crack cocaine rocks.

Deputies stopped 36-year-old James Atkins at the Key Haven Boat Ramp and asked him for his name and other identification. While they were speaking to him, he became very nervous and repeatedly put his hands in his pockets. Deputy Cynthia Garcia asked Atkins if she could see what was in his pockets for officer safety reasons. She asked Atkins to empty his pockets onto the seawall near the boat ramp. In one pocket he had a pill bottle. Inside the pill bottle were 26 crack cocaine rocks. Inside a cigarette box were six more crack rocks.

Atkins was arrested, charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and he was taken to jail.



July 11, 2000

Marathon man turns himself in on warrant for insurance fraud

Marathon – A Marathon man who falsely reported his boat stolen turned himself in to the Sheriff’s Office Monday on charges of insurance fraud, making a false report to the Sheriff’s Office and theft.

43-year-old Martin Guarino of Marathon was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center Monday afternoon by Detective Mike Langston. His bond was set at $10,000.00. He paid his bond just a short time later and was released.

Guarino reported his 31 foot Sea Ray stolen May 4th. He said it had been taken from the canal behind his house on Allyn Place in Marathon sometime between April17th and May 4th.

Investigations later revealed that the boat was docked at a Marathon marina for a week in late April. Some repairs were done on it, then, on April 26th, three men arrived to pick the boat up. They told people at the Marina they were taking it to Fort Lauderdale.

The Sheriff’s Office issued a press release about the theft May 10th. Local radio stations and newspapers carried the story. One of the men told detectives he got nervous after hearing about the missing boat on the radio. He said Guarino asked he and two other men to take the boat to Fort Lauderdale and he agreed. He said at the time, he was not aware of Guarino’s intentions. Guarino reportedly told the men he wanted to put the boat in dry-dock so it would be safe during hurricane season. Guarino paid the men $1,000.00 to take the boat to Fort Lauderdale for him.

A caller to the Crime Stoppers hot line confirmed that information. An insurance investigator working on the case also received an anonymous tip giving information about the boat’s whereabouts.

Detectives found the boat in a storage yard in that area. It is now in the custody of Nation’s Bank. Guarino owed $40,000 to the bank for the boat.

After making the theft report to the Sheriff’s Office, Guarino also filed a claim with his insurance company, Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Company. The boat is valued at $70,000.00.

July 10, 2000

Detectives arrest man for 70 crack rocks

Key Largo – Detectives from the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Division arrested a Key Largo man after he was found to be in possession of 70 crack cocaine rocks.

Detectives were looking for 38 year old Melvin Johnson because they had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Johnson and two other men are accused of beating a man during a fight in Hibiscus Park in May. The victim sustained broken bones in his face and several broken ribs.

They spotted Johnson Friday in Hibiscus Park. When the detectives identified themselves, Johnson ran from them. They caught him a short distance away. Just before his capture, he tossed a small plastic bottle onto the ground. When the detectives retrieved it, they found 70 crack cocaine rocks inside.

Johnson was charged with the outstanding warrant for aggravated battery and with possession of cocaine. He had $936.00 in cash which was seized as possible proceeds from drug sales. Johnson was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.


July 6, 2000

Search warrant results in two arrests

Stock Island – Two Stock Island men were arrested after a search warrant turned up cocaine at a residence on Cross Street on Stock Island.

The search warrant was the result of an undercover investigation as well as a tip called in to the Crime Stoppers hot line.

Detectives from the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Division served the search warrant at F29 Cross Street just before 7 a.m. today (Thursday). Inside the residence, they found crack cocaine, powdered cocaine, a liquid that tested positive for cocaine and numerous items of drug paraphernalia. Two men in the residence were arrested. 41-year-old Manuel Milan and 40 year old Geraldo Cutino were both charged with trafficking in cocaine and they were booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Detectives seized $256.00 in cash believed to be proceeds of drug sales.

Key Largo man charged with sexually molesting young girl

Key Largo – Sheriff’s detectives with the Special Investigations Division arrested a Key Largo man Wednesday, charging him with sexually molesting a young girl.

59-year-old Anthony Fransisco Williamson has been charged with three counts of sexual battery on a child under the age of 12. The victim told Detective Mark Coleman Williamson fondled her and sexually battered her numerous times between February of 1994 and August of 1999. She recently told her mother about the abuse, and her mother reported it to law enforcement authorities.

Williamson was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center on the charges, with bond set at $100,000.00.

Big Pine man charged with shooting at another man

Big Pine Key – A Big Pine Key man is charged with shooting his gun in an effort to threaten another man Wednesday night.

The victim told Deputy Jorge Morffi and Detective Lynn McNeill he drove 43 year old Carlos Gonzalez home to Big Pine Key at 8:20 p.m. Wednesday. When they arrived at the residence on 1st Street, the victim asked Gonzalez for money he owed him. Gonzalez told him he would go inside and get it. Instead of returning with money, however, he returned with gun. He fired the gun at least once before it jammed. The two men then struggled over the weapon. The victim managed to get it away from Gonzalez, then hit him in the head with it. A neighbor called the Sheriff’s Office to report hearing shots fired and seeing the two men fighting.

When deputies arrived, they found Gonzalez bleeding from a head injury. He denied knowing anything about a gun or a fight. He said he fell and hit his head. The gun was found underneath a flight of stairs at the residence.

Gonzalez was arrested. He was treated for his injury at the hospital, then booked into the Monroe County Detention Center on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm.

Key Largo woman charged with burglary

Key Largo – A Key Largo woman was arrested and charged with breaking in to her ex-boyfriend’s residence early today (Thursday).

Deputies were called to the house on the Bayside of the highway at mile marker 98.4 in Key Largo. When they arrived, they found the suspect, 40-year-old Kimberly Hamilton, still on the scene. The victim told Deputy Jim Ford he woke up at midnight when Hamilton broke his front window and climbed through it into the house.

Hamilton was arrested, charged with burglary and booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.

Stock Island man charged with beating, robbing another man

Stock Island – A Stock Island man was arrested after he beat up another man in an effort to steal his pickup truck Wednesday night.

The two men work together at a roofing company. On Wednesday night at 10:30, the victim said he was in the vicinity of the Stock Island Lobster House when 27-year-old James Swearingen hit him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Swearingen then demanded the keys to the victim’s 1995 Mazda pickup truck. When the victim refused, Swearingen hit him several more times. The victim finally handed over the truck’s keys.

Swearingen left the area with the keys and the victim called the Sheriff’s Office to report the incident. When Sgt. Vaughn Sommers arrived on the scene, the victim told him he’d been attacked by Swearingen. The victim was then transported to the hospital where he received treatment for a broken jaw as well as stitches above his left eye.

Sgt. Sommers returned to the area where the incident occurred and began searching for the suspect. He found Swearingen a short time later. The victim identified him as his attacker. Swearingen was arrested and charged with aggravated batter and robbery and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.


July 5, 2000

Big Pine man charged with burglary

Little Torch Key – A New York couple that awoke to find a man in their room called the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies found the man nearby and arrested him for burglary.

At 5:45 a.m., the victim said he and his wife heard noises in the dining room at their suite at the Dolphin Marina on Little Torch Key. When he got up to investigate, he found 49 year old John Ladresky standing there. He confronted Ladresky, who said “I thought it was empty.” Ladresky then left the room and the victim called the Sheriff’s Office.

Deputy Tom Peteck arrived on the scene to investigate. Ladresky was found a short distance away, sitting beside a storage shed on the property. He was arrested, charged with burglary to an occupied dwelling and trespass and he was taken to the Monroe County Detention Center.

Motorcycle deputy injured

Key Largo – The Florida Highway Patrol investigated an accident involving a Sheriff’s Office Motorcycle deputy Tuesday morning.

Traffic Enforcement Deputy Eric Lundberg sustained minor injuries in the accident that took place near the 99-mile marker of the highway just before 10 a.m. According to reports, he was traveling southbound on the four-lane highway in the left hand lane. A mini-van driven by a man from Bradenton, Florida was in the right hand lane. The van turned left from the right hand lane, colliding with the officer’s motorcycle. Deputy Lundberg was working a traffic patrol detail, assisting with the Fourth of July Parade in the upper Keys.

Deputy Lundberg was treated at Mariner’s Hospital and released. More information is available from the Florida Highway Patrol.

Search Warrant results in two arrests, one NTA

Key Largo – Detectives from the Special Investigations Division arrested two people Friday and issued a notice to appear in court to a third person following a search warrant.

A search warrant was served at 8 a.m. Friday at a house located just south of Hibiscus Park in Key Largo. Inside the house, detectives found cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.67 year old Mattie Lee Jones and 43 year old Richard Whitehead were both arrested and charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana. Whitehead was also charged with an outstanding warrant for Sale of Cocaine. 59-year-old Harry Jones was issued a notice to appear in court for possessing drug paraphernalia.

A total of seven crack rocks, 43 grams of marijuana and $900.00 in cash was seized from the residence. The search warrant was the result of an undercover operation conducted by the Special Investigations Division of the Sheriff’s Office.

Traffic wrap-up

Monroe County - Traffic enforcement deputies worked numerous special law enforcement details over the holiday weekend, including parades and fireworks displays, and still managed to write a large number of tickets to those people not following the rules of the road.

Traffic deputies wrote a total of 178 citations over the holiday weekend, from Friday through Tuesday. They also worked three accidents and issued three notices to appear in court for criminal traffic violations.

Best of all, there were no serious accidents or traffic fatalities during one of the heaviest traffic weekends of the year.