Orlando Man Arrested for Using Counterfeit Credit Cards to Fill “Bladder Truck”
ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam today announced that investigators with his Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement arrested Israel Alfonso Gonzalez-Rivero, 45, of Orlando for allegedly using stolen credit card information to unlawfully purchase fuel with the help of a “bladder truck.” A “bladder truck” is a vehicle that has been retrofitted to use hidden fuel tanks to hold large volumes of fuel.
Fuel obtained in this manner is typically purchased with counterfeit credit cards re-encoded with stolen financial information, and the fuel is then resold on the black market. The department has made eight arrests related to the illegal purchase of fuel since June.
“We will continue to pursue those who illegally purchase and sell fuel using stolen financial information,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
Investigators recovered 16 counterfeit credit cards from Gonzalez-Rivero’s vehicle. Gonzalez-Rivero was booked into the Osceola County Jail on the following charges: one count of unlawful conveyance of fuel, a third degree felony; one count of using a fraudulently scanned stolen payment device/counterfeit credit card, a second degree felony; and one count of trafficking in counterfeit credit cards, also a second degree felony.
The Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement protects Florida’s agriculture and consumers through law enforcement in support of all the regulatory aspects of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. For more information, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.
News Cast for August 16th:
The two democrats for Glades County sheriff have made youth programs a big part of their campaign platforms. Retired Captain Daryl Lewis said his career goal was to be sheriff. He’s lived in Glades County since he was a child. Lewis says he wants to add school resource officers and the DARE program for fifth graders that teaches them the dangers of drugs, alcohol and violence. He also wants to improve relations with the community.
A new Lucas tool will be placed in three Okeechobee County ambulances this week to improve the odds of those suffering from cardiac arrest. Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says time is of the essence in these cases. The machine mimics chest compressions and allows paramedics to focus on the patient’s other needs. It also keeps them safer in the ambulance enroute to the hospital.
Florida’s department of law enforcement arrested two suspects in Hendry County for a robbery and murder, 42-year-old Bubba O’Connor and 49-year-old Wendy Soucier from Lehigh Acres. They’re accused of the killing of 72-year-old Cherry Ermine on August 6th.
Sports Cast for August 16th:
Angela Jones was named the new swim coach at Okeechobee high school this month. Jones grew up in Pennsylvania and competed in college as a swimmer and diver. She said she wants to build a program at Okeechobee.
She is the art teacher at Osceola Middle School and wants to continue expansion of the arts in the school system, having directed and produced Beauty and the Beast at the school last year. She said the swim team has responded well to the change. Stephen Neafsey accepted a job in China after three years as the Okeechobee swim coach.
Senator Denise Grimsley Announces September Mobile Office Hours
Lake Wales — Senator Denise Grimsley’s (R-Sebring) staff will hold “mobile office hours” during the month of September to assist constituents with state agency concerns and to gather public input on legislative issues.
“Our office is on the road again providing constituent services for those who need help. If you or someone you know needs assistance, this is an opportunity to speak with my professional staff in person,” said Senator Grimsley.
The following are the mobile office hours for Senate District 21:
Okeechobee County Mobile Office hours
Monday, September 19th
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce
55 South Parrott Ave.
Okeechobee, FL 34974
Senator Grimsley Deputy Majority Leader for the 2014-2016 legislative term and represents Senate District 21, which consist of Okeechobee, and parts of Highlands, Martin, Osceola, Polk, and St. Lucie counties. Senator Grimsley served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2004-2012 and was elected to the Senate in 2012
Suspect Arrested for Walgreen’s Armed Robbery
Osceola County (August 12, 2016) – On August 11 at approximately 3:05 p.m., Osceola County Sheriff’s deputies responded to Walgreen’s located at 1880 W. Osceola Parkway in Kissimmee in reference to an armed robbery. Upon arrival, deputies spoke with the pharmacist who indicated an unknown male, armed with a knife who implied he had a gun, entered the store. The suspect approached an employee and demanded prescription drugs. The suspect threatened to harm the employee, so the employee complied. He left the store with prescription drugs.
Deputies in the area located a male matching the suspect’s description. With the assistance of the K-9 Unit, the suspect, identified as Mark Bearden Melvin, was taken into custody. He cooperated with the investigation and based on his statements, he was arrested for Armed Robbery, Trafficking in Prescription Pills and Resisting Without Violence. He was booked into the Osceola County Jail.
Mark Bearden Melvin (DOB 6/20/88), 725 Park Lane, Kissimmee
News Cast for August 15th:
Lee County deputies are asking the public for help in locating a good Samaritan who gave child abduction suspect Jorge Guerrero a ride on route 60 to a Yeehaw Junction gas station. Attorney Tom Busatta has been helping the family of nine year old Diana Alvarez and he says that Okeechobee could hold the key to the case. He said his office and crime stoppers have posted rewards trying to get information. He said certain witnesses in Okeechobee have refused to cooperate with police.
In the courts, 52 year old Alexis Horta pled no contest to trafficking in marijuana and tampering with electric service for a local grow house on North West 2 hundred and 52nd Street.
Okeechobee deputies raided the home on October 13, 2 thousand 14, and allegedly located 2 hundred and 70 thousand dollars’ worth of marijuana, with 90 plans and about 1 hundred and 50 pounds of the drug. Horta received three years in prison and five years’ probation along with near 55 thousand in court fines and fees.
Alligator hunting begins in South Florida at dusk tonight. 7 permits were issued for Lake Hicpochee and two for the Caloosahatchee River. 115 for Lake Harney, 93 for Kenansville lake, 3 hundred and 41 for Lake Okeechobee, 11 for Glades County, four in Okeechobee County, and 1 hundred and 99 for the Kissimmee River.
Sports Cast for August 15th:
Raylee Coleman took home the most valuable player award for girls’ volleyball last year and returns as a senior to lead the team this year. Coleman said a lot of the players had strong seasons and easily could have won the award as well. The girls’ volleyball team opens their season next week; they hold a purple white intersquad scrimmage on Thursday night.
Coleman was also the most improved player for the girls’ basketball team. She provided strong defense and rebounding inside for the Lady Brahmans. She said the coach, Joe Smith recruited her to play. Coleman plans to play both sports this year.
Corps awards contract for Kissimmee River Restoration Project
Navigation closures scheduled to begin this fall
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has awarded one of the three remaining construction contracts for the Kissimmee River Restoration Project, a massive Everglades restoration project in Okeechobee and Highlands counties.
The $26.13 million Reach 2 Backfill construction contract was awarded to J.E. McAmis from Chico, California, on August 5. The contract involves backfilling approximately seven miles of the channelized C-38 Canal. Completion of this work will enable water to flow into the meandering oxbows that have been excavated under previous contracts, to restore the natural flow of the Kissimmee River.
Access to portions of the Kissimmee River will be closed to navigation for the duration of the construction contract. Backfilling operation are scheduled to begin this fall and will take approximately 27 months to complete. During this time, navigation in the C-38 Canal will be prohibited north of the US Hwy 98 Bridge. Navigation south of the construction site will be available via the S-65D Boat Ramp. Access from the Istokpoga Boat Ramp will allow navigation north into the oxbow only.
“With only two construction contracts remaining, we are definitely nearing the finish line for the Kissimmee River Restoration Project,” said April Patterson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District project manager. “What we have been able to accomplish in our restoration of the Kissimmee River is truly spectacular. In addition to the significant ecological improvements this project will provide, restoration of the historic river will also slow the movement of water and increase the time it takes for it to get to Lake Okeechobee, helping to slow down the rise in the lake.”
To date, the Corps has completed 25 construction contracts as part of the Kissimmee River Restoration project and has two contracts ongoing. With the award of the Reach 2 Backfill contract, only two construction contracts remain for the project.
The Kissimmee River Restoration project is a congressionally authorized undertaking by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District, the non-federal sponsor. The project encompasses the removal of two water control structures, filling approximately 22 miles of canal, and restoring over 40 square miles of the river channel and floodplain ecosystem, including approximately 27,000 acres of wetlands.
In the areas that have already been restored, comprehensive monitoring has documented substantial improvements in the river and its floodplain, making the project a model for large-scale ecosystem restoration efforts. Aquatic wading bird and duck populations in the restored river and floodplain region have soared, shorebird species have returned, organic deposits on the river bottom have decreased by 71 percent, and reestablished sand bars provide new habitat for native species.
Governor Scott: We Will Always Remember the 49 Lives Lost in the Orlando Terror Attack
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On June 24, 2016 Governor Rick Scott directed 49 Florida state flags to be placed in front of the Florida Historic Capitol for 49 days as a memorial of those who lost their lives during the Orlando terror attack at Pulse Nightclub. Today, on the 49th day, Governor Scott and First Lady Ann Scott will send the state flags to the families of the victims.
Governor Rick Scott said, “The memory and legacy of the 49 innocent victims will live on in the hearts of all Americans. These flags serve as a reminder of their individual impact on so many. While we will never completely heal from the pain of such loss, we will continue to be reminded of the joy each and every victim brought to their loved ones. We continue to mourn with the families and loved ones as they grieve, and ask all Floridians to continue praying for all those affected during this time of healing.”
First Lady Ann Scott said, “We will never forget the loss of the 49 innocent lives that were taken from us far too soon. We will continue to live and honor the victims of this horrendous attack. My heart goes out to all of the victim’s family and friends. We will continue to pray that they can find healing in this time of pain.
Gov. Scott: Florida Hits All-Time Record High for Tourism
MYERS, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced Florida set another record in tourism by welcoming the highest amount of visitors of any six months in the state’s history with 57.4 million visitors. This record amount represents a 4.3 percent increase over the year. In the second quarter of 2016, 27.3 million visitors came to the state, an increase of 3.1 percent over the year. The average number of direct travel-related jobs in quarter two of 2016 was also a record high, with 1,255,200 Floridians employed in the tourism industry – up 4.3 percent over the year.
Governor Scott said, “Today, I am proud to announce that Florida has continued our record breaking success and welcomed the most visitors in Florida’s history over the first six months of the year. It’s exciting that we are starting the first half of 2016 off with back to back record quarters which puts us on pace to reach our goal of 115 million tourists this year and $100 billion in visitor spending by 2020. In Florida, the health and safety of our visitors is a top priority and we look forward to welcoming even more visitors to the Sunshine State this year.”
VISIT FLORIDA estimates that 23.6 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in the second quarter of 2016, which is a 4.6 percent increase over the same period last year.
Will Seccombe, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA said “The Florida tourism industry has a tremendous amount of momentum because every month we have millions of new visitors who are experiencing the best tourism product on earth and returning home to share their Florida memories with friends and family.”
Tourism and recreation taxable sales for Florida increased 6.1 percent year over year for January through April 2016 (last reported month). For quarter two of 2016, the average daily room rate (ADR) rose 1.4 percent and the demand in rooms sold grew 1.1 percent.
William D. Talbert, III, CDME, Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors said “The success of Florida tourism is directly attributable to the strong alignment between VISIT FLORIDA and our tourism industry partners, and their continued investment in strengthening the state’s incredible tourism product.”
To view additional Florida visitor data, please go to the Research page on VISIT FLORIDA’s media website.
*Preliminary estimates are issued 45 days after the end of each calendar quarter. Final estimates are released when final data are received for all estimates in the report.
Former Okeechobee Sheriff Passes
Former Okeechobee Deputy Sheriff Edwin R. Pent, age 70, passed away on August 9, 2016 at his home in Moore Haven, Fl. He was born on April 29, 1946 in Arcadia, FL. to the late Edward F. and Ethel M. Crews Pent. He was of the Baptist faith.
Edwin served our great nation for over 13 years in the United States Coast Guard. After his honorable discharge from the Coast Guard he became a Deputy Sheriff. He served as a Deputy within five Florida counties (Collier, Hendry, Desoto, Glades and Okeechobee) during his sixteen year career. During his Law Enforcement career the highest rank he obtained was Lieutenant. Ed was experienced in Road Patrol and Investigations. Ed was a Firearms Instructor and a certified armorer. Ed also served as the Liaison Deputy for the Sheriff’s Office Auxiliary. He was a member of the Elks Lodge # 1524, Loyal Order of Moose #1597, Eagles, Am Vets and the Masonic Lodge in Arcadia, which he held the 32nd degree. He was
Lifetime NRA Member.
He is survived by one son Edward L. Pent of Arcadia, FL; three daughters Deejah Pent of Lakeland, FL., Delaine Pent and Danielle Pent both of LaBelle, FL; two sisters Patricia A. Billings of Moore Haven, FL and Ola (Floyd) Norman of Arcadia, FL. A special friend, that stayed by his side Rebecca E. Pent of Moore Haven, FL; three grandchildren Lindsey Rayl, Logan Stockwell and Meadow Pent. Numerous nieces and nephews.
Edwin was preceded in death by his parents and sister Mavis Johnson. Graveside services will be held Saturday, August 13, 2016 at 10:30am at
Pine Level Campground Cemetery with Rev. Ken Galloway and Rev. David Cooper officiating. Closing the ceremony will be military honors presented by the United States Coast Guard.
Online condolences can be made at pongerkaysgrady.com
Ponger-Kays-Grady Funeral Homes, 50 N Hillsborough Ave, Arcadia, FL 34266, have been entrusted with the arrangements.
News Cast for August 12th:
Okeechobee commissioners want a noise ordinance to better regulate noise from the Okeechobee Music Festival. Commissioners tabled a proposal to amend the ordinance for Sundance Trails so they wouldn’t tie the event to temporary use permits. Resident Mike Chilame said something must be done to help neighbors late at night. Promoter Cliff Rosen said the event had an economic impact of nearly 17 million and was a resounding success in its first year. Rosen was also lukewarm to a county proposal to add a 3 dollar per ticket surcharge to help offset the costs for county manpower and staff time to handle the festival.
Commissioners also rejected a request by the United Way for 13 thousand dollars to help them pay rent money for the first year of a United Way House to serve local non-profit agencies on North Parrott Avenue.
A man suspected of killing his wife, was held in jail with no bond Thursday. 50 year old David Schwendenmann was charged with first degree murder in the shooting of Angela Schwendenmann on July 31st, attempted murder on law enforcement officer Jose Garduno, attempted murder of a relative, robbery with a firearm, and aggravated battery on a pregnant person, another relative.
Sports Cast for August 12th:
OHS baseball coach Eric Kindell said he was proud of the way his team handled the tough 2016 season. He said he’s proud that his kids competed night in and night out against some of the best teams in the area.
Kindell says he hopes the team will be even more motivated this year. He said he thinks he has the talent again to make a run at a district title and says some of the younger kids have a lot of talent. He said he keeps in touch with his players through the off season and tells them there is a lot of depth in the program and they need to keep working and playing if you want to start this coming year.