Articles Posted in Federal Offenses

One of the first pieces of advice that I give to new clients is to take down any social networking profiles that they may have (if they tend to use these accounts, like Facebook or MySpace, to talk about or post evidence of their criminal activity).

Another recent story out of Seattle reaffirms this advice. To read the complete story, check out this link to the original CBS story.

Maxi Sopo was living the dream of a fugitive abroad, kicking back on the beaches of Cancun during the day and partying in the clubs at night. Then, Maxi Sopo did two (2) things that are NEVER a good idea to do when you are hiding from law enforcement. First, Sopo started posting Facebook messages about how much fun he was having. He then accepted a “Friend Request” from a former Justice Department official.Because of these poor decisions, Maxi Sopo, a 26-year-old native of Cameroon, is now in a Mexico City jail awaiting extradition back to the United States to await his trial on Federal charges of Bank Fraud.

Even in the hold-nothing-back world of social networking, where police search Facebook photos for evidence of underage drinking and watch YouTube videos to identify riot suspects, it’s rare that a fugitive helps authorities this much (see Maxi Sopo’s Facebook profile below).Prosecutors say he masterminded the Bank Fraud scheme with Edward Asatoorians, who was convicted by a Federal jury in Seattle last week. Testimony at trial indicated the pair persuaded young co-conspirators to lie about their income to obtain loans for fabricated auto purchases, and then used the money to prop up Asatoorians’ business and to take an expensive trip to Las Vegas.
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Yesterday, a Safety Harbor man was arrested on various charges stemming from his involvement in a counterfeit money order scam. Raul Francisco Zelaya, 50, was arrested for Scheming to Defraud a financial institution, Communications Fraud and Possession of Counterfeit Checks. For the complete story, check out today’s Tampa Bay Online article.On Tuesday, when investigators finally arrested Zelaya, he had an additional 243 counterfeit money orders valued at over $230,000. Zelaya is believed to have obtained these checks from a known online check-cashing scam. These type of scams typically appear online as “work from home” job opportunities and can be posted on websites or appear in spam e-mail.This is not the first time that this Zelaya character has been involved in this type of activity. According to the Clearwater Police Department, Zelaya previously took part in a similar scam that was investigated by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
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An interesting story in today’s St. Pete Times highlights the life, or lack thereof, of Teddy Braden, the former gang member turned blogger that blogs from the Pinellas County Jail.

Braden, who is in the Pinellas County Jail on Drug Charges, blogs with the help of his mother — who takes his notes and letters and posts them online at: teeninjail.blogspot.comBraden, who was arrested for the first time at age 13, has a Juvenile record consisting of various Drug Charges and a Residential Burglary. As an adult, he has been locked up for doing drugs, selling drugs, Grand Theft, Burglary and now Drug Trafficking.

In one of Braden’s blog posts he states that “One of my biggest regrets is joining a gang.” The quote sits below a picture of Braden, wearing a red t-shirt, hat and bandana, while throwing up a “B” (a noted gang hand sign for the Bloods). However, something about this photo tells me that Braden would not survive, on the streets, for very long.
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In what is becoming an all-too-familiar story in Pinellas County (and throughout the entire Tampa Bay region), the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office rounded up 21 suspects in a multitiered Oxycodone Trafficking scheme. For the complete story, check out today’s St. Petersburg Times article.Working under the code name “Operation Oxy-Con,” several local law enforcement agencies including the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the Clearwater Police Department and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) started rounding up street level suspects. The operation, which targeted 52 subjects with 122 criminal charges (including Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud and Trafficking in Controlled Substances began in December.

The suspects involved in “Operation Oxy-Con” are part of a Pinellas County prescription drug ring that has obtained over 30,000 pills and made approximately $300,000 since last November.

For those of you that are not yet familiar with the potent pain killer Oxycodone: You will be real soon. As stated by Lt. Robert Alfonso of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, this bust was a huge step in the fight against illegal prescription drug abuse. Alfonso further stated: “This is the new heroin. This is the new cocaine. It really is to that magnitude in Pinellas County.”

The Blake & Dorsten, P.A., in Clearwater, has extensive experience defending prescription drug cases including: Trafficking in Oxycodone, Doctor Shopping and Obtaining Controlled Substances by Fraud.
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A recent Bay News 9 story indicates that crime and gun ownership are both up in Manatee County, Florida. Some residents have indicated that it’s the large increase in crime that prompted them to buy a gun. Specifically, Manatee County residents have been fighting back against a recent string of Home Invasion Robberys and Murders.Recent changes in Florida law have made it easier for each of us to defend our own home and property. Expanding the old concept of the “castle doctrine,” Florida lawmakers have given individual property owners additional tools to protect themselves from violent and/or gang-related activity.The Blake & Dorsten, P.A., in Clearwater, is a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and is a firm believer in allowing law-abiding property owners to possess firearms for the protection of their home and family.
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Welcome to the odd world of random crime committed in the Tampa Bay area. As they say on “Law & Order,” here’s another story that has been “ripped from the headlines.” You just can’t make this stuff up.

Yesterday, the Chief of Tampa General Hospital’s trauma center pleaded “no contest” to two (2) misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to two (2) years of probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. For the complete story, check out the full St. Petersburg Times article.

Documents which were released yesterday shed some light on this unusual crime. On April 21, 2009, Dr. Sergio Alvarez, a first year resident in the plastic surgery department of the University of South Florida, was assisting Dr. David J. Ciesla during a surgery when they located a bullet on top of the man’s liver. About an hour into the surgery, Dr. Ciesla was relieved by another doctor. However, prior to leaving the operating room, Dr. Ciesla reached into the fugitive’s body and removed the bullet. According to Dr. Alvarez, Dr. Ciesla stated “this is what we do with bullets” before placing the bullet inside the rubber glove on his right hand.

Unfortunately for Dr. Ciesla, two (2) agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were sitting inside the operating room waiting to take the bullets into evidence. However, when questioned by the FDLE agents, Dr. Ciesla stated that the bullets were still stuck in the patient’s body.

Dr. Ciesla eventually returned his souvenir, one week later, after being confronted by University officials. For his part, Dr. Ciesla was charged by the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office with Providing False Information to Law Enforcement and Obstructing or Opposing an Officer without Violence.

Yesterday, County Court Judge Cheryl Thomas “withheld adjudication,” meaning Dr. Ciesla will not receive a conviction on his record (assuming he completes the terms of his probation successfully). He will also be eligible for an Early Termination of Probation, after serving one full year of probation, if all of his terms and conditions have been met.
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A Pinellas County doctor, Kevin Mark Denny, ot Tierra Verde, pleaded guilty to Federal Charges that he illegally sold and/or distributed pain pill prescriptions. For more info, you can check out the full Tampa Bay Online article.

Denny, who also had an office in Tampa on North Dale Mabry Highway, illegally prescribed popular painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone as well as alprazolam (which is the generic form of Xanax). A Federal prosecutor stated that Denny was employed by Shiloh Medical Group to work in a “small, one doctor shop connected to a pharmacy,” and was paid to seek patients and write lots of prescriptions. In April alone, Denny wrote $25,000 worth of presciptions for oxycodone at Grace Pharmacy.The Blake & Dorsten, P.A., in Clearwater, has been seeing many new clients that have been arrested and/or charged with various Drug Offenses like: Sale of Oxycodone, Possession of Oxycodone, Doctor Shopping (formally known as “Withholding Information from a Practitioner,” Obtaining Controlled Substances by Fraud and Trafficking in Illegal Drugs (covering the wide spectrum of drugs from painkillers like Oxycodone to hardcore street drugs like Cocaine, Heroin and Methadone). Likewise, clients are coming into the office at an ever-increasing rate with a Violation of Probation on one or many of the above-listed offenses.

It is important to know that there are many different ways in which a drug case can be handled. How YOUR drug case is handled and whether YOUR criminal defense attorney has the training and experience necessary to aggressively fight the State of Florida on your behalf are two questions that YOU should consider very carefully. With the many life-changing consequences associated with a drug conviction, the selection of the right criminal defense attorney is vital.
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The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office finished up a three-month undercover investigation into street level drug sales in and around the Largo area of Pinellas County. Named “Operation Mid-County Clean-Up, this street level investigation focused on the Sale of various Controlled Substances including Marijuana, Cocaine and Prescription Drugs.

For more information, you can check out the original St. Petersburg Times article.

As a general rule, the State of Florida is very tough on drug cases — especially those involving a Trafficking amount of a controlled substance. Florida law calls for “minimum/mandatory” sentences that can last 3, 7, or 25 years. Unlike other criminal sentences that get imposed, if you are sentenced on a Drug Offense to a “minimum/mandatory” sentence, you will complete that sentence “day-for-day,” without the ability to obtain any “good or gain time” or be released early.
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In yet another reminder of how out-of-control our Prescription Drug problem is within the Tampa Bay area, the self-professed “King of Hudson” and 18 others have entered guilty pleas in Federal Court to Federal Drug Distribution Charges.

For more information, check out the full St. Petersburg Times article.

Run out of an auto repair shop in Hudson, this Doctor Shopping ring would visit multiple doctors throughout the Tampa Bay area in order to obtain and resell the highly addictive painkiller, Oxycodone.

The Blake & Dorsten, P.A. in Clearwater frequently handles Drug Offenses & Drug Trafficking charges. Many times, these drug offenses have harsh minimum/mandatory prison sentences.If you’ve been arrested for or charged with a Drug Offense or a Drug Trafficking charge, the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. is here to assist you. 365/24/7.
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A recent story in the St. Petersburg Times has indicated that crime is on the rise in the City of St. Petersburg, Florida. According to the latest numbers, Burglary
and Theft Crimes are rapidly increasing.

For the full story, click here:

Police Chief Chuck Harmon has suggested that the rapid rise in crime is due to many factors including the current economic crisis, rising unemployment and home foreclosures.

While Property Crimes like Auto Theft are on the rise, most Crimes of Violence are down this year. Robbery is down 12 percent this year and the number of Homicides have been cut in half.These statistics have lead to a steady increase in business for the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. in Clearwater. Criminal Attorney Nicholas J. Dorsten, of the Blake & Dorsten, P.A., handles all criminal matters arising in the City of St. Petersburg and throughout the Tampa Bay area.
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