Articles Posted in Theft Crimes

A rather disturbing story was featured in today’s St. Pete Times about a Seminole mother who tried to sell her son for $2,000 because of her addiction to prescription drugs.

The 5-year-old boy was excited to start kindergarten Tuesday in Tampa.

Jim and Betty Gardner, who have helped raise the boy since he was an infant, were working hard to prepare him by establishing a morning routine.

Now, they’re worried how his first school year will begin.

The child was taken into protective custody Saturday after authorities arrested his mother and accused her of trying to sell him to the Gardners for $2,000.

Jessica Mickles Beers, 28, whose last known address was in Seminole, was charged with Felony Sale of Parental Rights along with a Violation of Probation (VOP) on her pending Grand Theft charge. At her First Appearance Hearing on Sunday, bail was set at $10,000.Gardner, 58, said he and his wife met Beers when the boy was just a few months old after she called their church for assistance. They took food and diapers to her.

Beers essentially was homeless, but was living with other people. She asked to move in with the Gardners and they agreed, Gardner said.

For the next five (5) years or so, the Gardners, who have fostered numerous children over the years, helped take care of Beers and her child.

About two years ago, Beers began talking about having the couple take guardianship of her son but never followed through with it. Early Saturday, Gardner said, Beers called him and offered to sign away her parental rights if the Gardners would pay her $2,000.

“It was money or else …” Gardner said. “I thought ‘Whoa, that’s illegal.’ “He contacted the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), which arrested Beers at a Seminole grocery store when she came to collect the cash.

The child was not with Beers, but she told authorities where he could be found, Gardner said. Gardner said he believes Beers is addicted to prescription drugs.
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As reported by BayNews9, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is at it again.

In another “cost-cutting” measure, the Polk County Jail will no longer provide free underwear to its inmates.Normally, when an inmate is booked in the jail, they are given an orange shirt, orange pants and underwear.

In order to save money, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has proposed making males inmates pay if they want their “tighty whities.”

The cost-saving measure was part of the sheriff’s 2011-2012 budget he presented to county commissioners Thursday afternoon. Judd said it will save the county $45,000.

Although women behind bars will still be provided underwear, the men will have to pay.

“For those who don’t want to pay, they can let the breeze blow up one leg and out the other,” Judd said (in classic Grady Judd fashion).

The idea drew smiles from several county commissioners and laughter from the crowd.

“You and I buy it at the store. So, if they want it, they can buy it,” he said. Judd said they are also cutting eleven (11) positions, including six (6) supervisors.

Judd says while his department is doing more with less, his highest priority remains keeping the people of Polk County safe.

Judd said the new policy will not cause the quality of service from the department to go down.

“None of these cuts will keep us from answering the call,” Judd said.

FYI — As for the underwear, it’s about $2.50 for briefs and $4.50 for boxers. The choice is up to the inmates.

“We give our inmates choices at our jail,” he said.

The new underwear rule will breeze into effect Aug. 1st.
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The widely-reported case against former Speaker of the House Ray Sansom came to an abrupt end on Friday when State prosecutors dropped all criminal charges.

In a dramatic end to a Jury Trial nearly two (2) years in the making, criminal charges against Sansom were dropped, in Court, Friday after prosecutors said a judge limited evidence of an alleged Conspiracy to get $6 million in state funding for an airport building a developer wanted to use.Flanked by friends and his lawyers, Sansom, 48, said it was vindication.

“First I want to thank God,” he said, then praised his attorneys. “When I first met with them, they said ‘Ray, the truth will set you free’ and we saw that today.”

Asked if he would have done anything differently, Sansom replied, “absolutely not.”

Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs also dropped the case against Sansom’s co-defendant, developer Jay Odom. Both men had been charged with Grand Theft and Conspiracy to Commit Grand Theft. According to the prosecution, the $6 million was steered to Northwest Florida State College, where Sansom took a job (coincidentally) on the same day he was sworn in as speaker of the Florida House in 2008 .Sansom and Odom agreed to pay about $103,000 each to Northwest Florida State College — two-thirds of the amount the college spent on planning the airport building. The trustees scrapped the project after Grand Jury indictments were handed down in April 2009 and then-Governor Charlie Crist asked for the money back.

The State’s case unraveled on the fifth day of Sansom’s Jury Trial, just before a lunch break.

The jury was out and defense lawyers raised objections to testimony State Attorney Meggs planned to introduce to establish a Conspiracy. He was going to bring up a key witness, former college president Bob Richburg, who was also criminally charged but two (2) weeks ago agreed to testify (otherwise known as “snitch”) against Sansom and Odom.

Richburg, Meggs later said, would have described conversations with Sansom and Odom about the airport project prior to Sansom getting the money. Meggs also planned to introduce e-mails showing conversations about the building.

But the defense mounted a challenge, saying the state had to prove there was an illegal agreement.

“There’s no evidence of conspiracy because there’s no evidence of an illegal agreement,” attorney Larry Simpson said.

After a lengthy discussion, Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said, “I don’t think you have enough to show a conspiracy.” He said several college employees and an architect said they were aware of the private use.

Meggs had argued that college trustees did not (two testified during the trial) and neither did other legislators.

But if he could not lay the ground for the conspiracy — the planning for a hangar and attempts to conceal its nature that he said were clear before Sansom got the money — Meggs said his case was damaged.

What’s more, Meggs said he was limited because the proposed jury instructions would have said, “the passage of legislation, including an appropriations bill, by itself, cannot constitute theft by any of the defendants.”

So during lunch, Meggs offered “a plea deal” to both defendants. He would drop the charges if they agreed to wrongdoing, did community service and paid restitution (otherwise known as buying their way out of the criminal charges?).In the end, Sansom and Odom only agreed to pay the money, and Sansom’s attorney, Steve Dobson, said his client resisted that as well. Sansom blamed Meggs and the news media.

Dobson declared, “They were not guilty.”

Meggs maintained there was wrongdoing and attributed the defeat to “fundamental” differences in understanding of conspiracy law with Lewis.

“I agree the State was not able to carry its burden of establishing a conspiracy with the court,” Meggs said. “And so if I can’t establish a conspiracy with the court before the appropriation, I can’t get in statements of co-conspirators after the appropriation. And that’s what all our evidence is about, is what they did after the appropriation was put into place.”

The trial started Monday and more than a dozen witnesses had testified for the State of Florida, leading up to its primary witness, Richburg, who agreed March 11 to testify for the prosecution (“turn State’s evidence”).

Meggs had argued that the three (3) men worked together to accomplish Odom’s goal of getting an airplane hangar then worked to conceal it as an educational facility, contending that college officials scrambled to find a use for the building and even then planned to use half of the space. Meggs presented documents and testimony showing the bulk was for a hangar.

Noting that Meggs first charged the men with Official Misconduct then changed it to Grand Theft after the charges were mostly gutted in court, Dobson said, “I would say the state attorney lost big time.”

As if this wasted prosecution hasn’t cost the citizens of the State of Florida enough already, Florida law allows a public official who is charged with a crime to seek payment of legal fees if he’s not convicted when the charges arose from his public duties. Dobson said he plans to seek payment from the Legislature.

Dobson said he did not know yet what the total fees would be but “because of Mr. Meggs’ dogged pursuit, it’s going to be big.”

Federal investigators have been looking at some aspect of Sansom and Odom’s dealings (an FBI agent sat in on some of the depositions of witnesses in the state case). Asked about that, Dobson said “if they are charged in Federal Court, we’ll fight that, too. If I am retained.”

I particularly love how that last quote was quickly modified…
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According to a recent online story in the Bizarre Florida section of the St. Pete Times, a California adult entertainment company is about to make some south Florida husbands pretty upset with Federal lawsuits seeking up to $150,000 in damages (each) for copyright infringement.

As initially reported in the south Florida Sun Sentinel, married men who illegally downloaded the movies “Bootylicious Girls” and “Brazilian Babes” may have a really awkward conversation coming with their wife and/or girlfriend.

Adult entertainment company Elegant Angel filed a series of Federal lawsuits last week against 58 “John Does” in South Florida who allegedly pirated its movies. Elegant Angel, based in Canoga Park, California, has the Internet addresses of the computers used to illegally download the movies and wants Judges to allow it to subpoena the computer owners’ names through their Internet service providers (ISP’s).”I firmly believe that everyone has the right to protect their intellectual property,” said M. Keith Lipscomb, one of the Miami attorneys for Elegant Angel. “Right now, the adult entertainment industry is being tremendously damaged by the infringement of its copyrights over the Internet.”The adult entertainment industry has become more aggressive within the last year in pursuing copyright cases. In many instances, film companies have filed lawsuits against dozens–even hundreds–of “John Does” at a time, accusing them of downloading videos using BitTorrent, a file-sharing
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According to an online story on The Street.com, Facebook investment scams are proliferating on the Web and investors should be on the lookout, the securities industry’s main self-policing organization warned on Tuesday.Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) warned in a a statement that con-artists have been pitching fake investments in Facebook and other “well-known social media companies.” The scams usually take the form of “pre-IPOs”, or the sale of unregistered shares in a private company to an investor prior to the initial public offering.

The release notes the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently settled a civil action against one trader “who allegedly bilked more than 50 U.S. and foreign investors out of more than $9.6 million in a series of pre-IPO scams involving purported shares of Facebook, Google and other well-known companies.”Among the tips FINRA is disseminating to the public, the release urges investors to ask themselves “why would a total stranger tell me about a really great investment opportunity?'”

The warning comes as Wall Street firms like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs have climbed aboard a mini-Gold Rush in hot, privately-traded social media companies. Continue reading

According to an online story on BayNews9.com, a Polk County teenager and her Juvenile friends made a costly trip to the shopping mall and now they are all facing criminal charges.

Ashley Turner, 16, went to the Lakeland Square Mall and ended up getting more than she bargained for from her local Spencer’s Gifts store.

“We just went in there and sprayed some spray,” she said. “I didn’t know I was Shoplifting.”

As we enter another Holiday Season, the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. would like to wish you and yours a Happy and Safe Holiday weekend.With the support of all of our friends, family and clients, 2010 was another excellent year for the Blake & Dorsten, P.A.. And for that, we have much to be thankful for this Holiday Season.

To our family and friends, thank you for your patience and understanding when it was necessary to work late nights and/or weekends.

To our business colleagues and our outstanding network of fellow attorneys, thank you for not only your referrals but for the trust that you have placed in the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. to provide an experienced and aggressive representation to those that you’ve sent our way.

And to both our former and present clients, thank you for the trust that you have placed in the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. to protect your rights and to handle your important criminal and/or traffic-related matters.

As many of you know, 2010 presented some different challenges for the Blake & Dorsten, P.A.. Without your support, we would not have been able to achieve the many successes that came our way.

On behalf of the entire Blake & Dorsten, P.A. team (Pam, Eryn, Oatie and myself), have a Happy, Healthy and Safe Holiday Season.As always, attorney Nicholas J. Dorsten will be available throughout the Holiday Weekend. In fact, we were very grateful to sign up a new Client today and make a Christmas Eve trip to the Pinellas County Jail.
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Earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (a Federal appeals Court) issued a landmark opinion in the criminal case of United States v. Warshak, finding that individuals have “a reasonable expectation of privacy in their email” and that the Fourth Amendment protects email held by an Internet Service Provider (ISP).In other words, “[t]he government may not compel a commercial ISP to turn over the contents of a subscriber’s emails without first obtaining a warrant based on probable cause.” United States v. Warshak, et al., No. 08-3997, Slip Op. at 23 (6th Cir. Dec. 14, 2010).

As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve been asked the following question many times: To what extent can the police secretly view/obtain your private email? This core question, namely – what are the limits of police surveillance – was answered this week by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a lengthy opinion (that is hyperlinked above).

On one side of the issue, privacy advocates are pleased as punch with the opinion which holds that the government/police must obtain a search warrant based on “probable cause” before it can search emails stored by Internet Service Providers (ISP’s).The case involved a Federal Fraud prosecution of Steven Warshak, an Ohio executive, whose company sold an herbal supplement which was touted for its purported ability to increase a man’s, um, physical attributes. Perhaps you’ve seen a commercial or two for this product?As part of its Fraud investigation, the United States government obtained about 27,000 private emails from Warshak’s Internet Service Providers. Warshak moved to suppress/exclude the emails as evidence, contending that the U.S. government obtained them through an unreasonable search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

People have a “reasonable expectation” that emails will remain private, the Sixth Circuit stated, using some colorful language. “Lovers exchange sweet nothings” and “businessmen swap ambitious plans” all with the click of a mouse button, the Court said. By obtaining access to someone’s email, law enforcement agents gain the ability to peer deeply into his activities. . . the Fourth Amendment must keep pace with the inexorable march of technological progress, or its guarantees will wither and perish.”

The Sixth Circuit held that Warshak’s constitutional rights were violated when investigators obtained his e-mails without a search warrant.

In a minor side note, the Court upheld his convictions. One of Warshak’s attorneys, Martin Weinberg, told the Associated Press that the Court’s ruling on email-privacy was helpful to his client; however, the Court should have also overturned his convictions.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation hailed the recent Sixth Circuit ruling, saying in a statement that it is the “only federal appellate decision currently on the books that squarely rules on this critically important privacy issue.”

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also weighed in with praise. “Americans expect and deserve protection from government agents who would snoop into their private communications without probable cause and a court order,” the group said in a statement.Please remember, this opinion only applies to “government agents.” This opinion will not prevent your wife or girlfriend from snooping into your private email account.

BEWARE…….
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For some people, bailing out of the Pinellas County Jail is now as simple as whipping out a credit card. A recent story in the St. Pete Times describes a new county program which allows inmates to use a credit card to bond out of the Pinellas County Jail on minor offenses.

You can now use a debit card or credit card to post bail of $750 or less, instead of paying cash or using a bail bond company. It is the first program of its kind in the Tampa Bay area and one of only seven (7) in Florida.Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats says it’s a convenience with a purpose: to reduce the number of people in the Pinellas County Jail awaiting trial.

The program emerged from a meeting among the Sheriff, County Clerk, Chief Judge, Public Defender and State Attorney.

The $750 bail limit was a compromise between the parties. Sheriff Coats wanted $1,000 so more people could use the program. State Attorney Bernie McCabe wanted $500 (presumably, so less people would be able to bond out). The $750 limit is a start, Coats said, and might be adjusted.

The limit means only a small percentage of people in jail — those charged with minor crimes — can use the program.

Of the 3,252 people in the Pinellas County Jail Wednesday morning (September 8, 2010), 74 had bail of $750 or less. Another 1,075 people had bail between $750 and $1 million. The rest could not get out on bail. At least two dozen people have used the program since it began August 23rd.

Before now, someone had to appear in person with cash, a money order or a bail bond agent. That often meant calling mom or dad or your best friend to come bail you out.

Now anyone, even the inmate, can do it by phone with a credit or debit card.

The crimes covered by the $750 limit are mainly non-violent Misdemeanors and Traffic Offenses. For instance, No Valid Driver’s License (NVDL) or an Open Container violation carry a standard $250 bail. On the other hand, Armed Robbery with a Firearm typically carries a bail of $50,000.

A 7 percent fee will be added by Government Payment Service of Indianapolis, which runs the program. The Sheriff’s Office and Clerk’s Office each get a 10 percent cut of that fee.

Government Payment Services also accepts all liability for the transactions, said Marian Garret, the jail’s inmate records supervisor. That will help protect the government from people who use stolen credit cards or don’t pay their debts, she said.

The company has worked with the Florida Department of Corrections for more than a decade, processing Probation and Parole fees. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin use the company for a majority of their governmental services.

Bail bond companies, which have the most to lose from such a program, are skeptical.Michael Nefzger of BAIL Florida, an association for bail agents, thinks the added fees could become exorbitant. It could also lead to more people using stolen credit cards, he said.

Nefzger said the real problem with jail crowding is too many people facing charges in which state law forbids release on bail.
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