Local News

Charles Murphy News 4/15

News Cast for April 15th:

IMG_0310Six cadaver dogs spent their day Tuesday looking for bodies at the former Okeechobee school for boys concentrating on four areas, an old cow barn, dairy barn, wooded areas, an old maintenance building and around an old sewage vat.

Sheriff Paul May decided to bring in tractors to help cut down on the underbrush to help the search. Under Sheriff Noel Stephen was asked by reporters why they haven’t decided to use ground penetrating radar to look for bodies. Jerry Cooper of the White House boys say medical records and other ledgers from the school are missing so there is no way to determine how many boys went missing.

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IMG_0311Gary Rice was a client at the school; he intends to sue the state in federal court. He claimed he was beaten nearly to death on many occasions for being a runaway sent to the school in the early 60s. He showed reporters a leather strap used in the beatings. Other accusations include boys turning up missing, sexual abuse by guards, and the use of experimental drugs on kids. Cooper would like the US Justice Department to take over the investigation. The search goes on today and possibly Thursday.

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Video interviews are posted on the WOKC Okeechobee’s True Country Facebook page.

Investigators did say only one client remains unaccounted for from the records they’ve been able to obtain, they released a list of clients who died in escape attempts, 4 in car crashes in Edgewater and Glades County, one by shooting in a home invasion, and another who fell into a septic tank.

St. Lucie Fatal 4-14-15 SR-713 and US-1

Sports Cast for April 15th:

Okeechobee softball ready for their district playoffs to begin today at south Fork when they meet Jensen Beach.

Coach Mary Huff said she thinks the girls will play hard and don’t want their season to end prematurely for the second consecutive year. This is freshman Megan Hargraves first taste of the drama of districts. She thinks the team is as ready as it could be. If Okeechobee wins they likely will meet South Fork on Thursday night.

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Moore Haven qualified for the 3A-12 district final with a convincing 12-2 victory over Evangelical Christian last night. The Lady Terriers will face St. John Neumann on Thursday, who defeated Community School 4-3.

Also on the sports schedule today, Flag football visits Fort Pierce Central with JV at four and varsity at 5 pm.

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Gov. Scott Signs Legislation to Reduce Tests

Gov. Scott Signs Legislation to Reduce Tests

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 7069, which reduces the amount of tests Florida students take.

Governor Scott said, “This legislation reduces the number of tests our students take, including the 11th grade English Language Arts test that we eliminated this year through an Executive Order in February. I agree with many teachers and parents who say we have too many tests, and while this legislation is a great step forward, we will keep working to make sure Florida students are not over tested.

“This legislation also improves our teacher evaluation system, which will ensure we have the best teachers in our classrooms. I want to thank Senator Legg and Representative O’Toole for championing this legislation and I applaud the Florida Legislature for quickly putting it into law to better serve our students.”


Osceola County Commission Recognizes Sheriff’s Office Telecommunicators

Osceola County Commission Recognizes Sheriff’s Office Telecommunicators

Osceola County — Today, the Osceola County Board of County Commissioners recognized the week of April 12-18, 2015, as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in Osceola County.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office has 72 telecommunicators who perform a critical function when an emergency occurs requiring law enforcement, fire or medical services. Professional telecommunicators are not as visible as the men and women who arrive on the scene of an emergency, but provide a vital link to public safety services as part of the first responder team.

Telecommunicators at the Sheriff’s Office are required to have specialized training to perform their duties. This training includes a 10-week 911 Public Safety Telecommunicator Academy, 440 hours of 911 phone training, 650 hours of radio training and 352 hours of FCIC/teletype training.

“Telecommunicators play an important role in public safety. Many times they are the first point of contact with a citizen requesting service. They must handle calls ranging from routine to the most horrific on a regular basis, obtaining all necessary information and communicating that to the first responders in the field, all the while remaining calm and professional. Their efforts make Osceola County a much safer place,” stated Sheriff Bob Hansell.

Nationally, the second week of April is dedicated annually to the men and women who serve as public safety telecommunicators.

Telecommunicators Week Proclamation

Pictured from left to right: Commissioner Viviana Janer, Sheriff Bob Hansell, Lizette Resto, Austin Gorman, Amanda Dove, Denise Egerton, Lori Hill, Sergio Montanez, Chief Deputy Dave Sklarek.

Osceola County Commission Recoginzes Sheriff’s Office Telecommunicators


Charles Murphy News 4/14

News Cast for April 14th:

A 47 year old Okeechobee man received 2 years in federal prison and was ordered to pay nearly 2 hundred and 40 thousand dollars in restitution for a tax fraud scheme. Wyman Pittman pled guilty to aiding in the preparation and presentation of false tax returns at First Premium Financial Services in Okeechobee from 2008 to 2012. His partner, Ventrell Bouie of Fort Pierce also received 24 months behind bars.

Among arrests, 39 year old Rafael Cisneros was charged with battery, cocaine possession and introduction of contraband into the county jail after a reported domestic on North West 40th Drive. The female victim was reportedly kicked in the head and treated by EMS.

Cadaver dogs will begin a search for bodies at the former Okeechobee School for Boys, now known as G 4 S Services. Some of the former clients at the boys’ school will be attendance for the three day search. Teams of 5 cadaver dogs will take turns to search the property. Many of the former clients say ground penetrating radar is needed to find out if a secret cemetery exists there.

Okeechobee county commissioners have suggested improvements for the county administrator. They’d like more involvement in the community, more strategic planning sessions and a three year plan for five county departments. They also would like to see a way to evaluate county department heads for their effectiveness. The other requests include quarterly meetings with the heads of the city, school board and Okeechobee utility authority. They also want a refurbishment of the judicial centers exterior and a plan to ease the capacity issues at the county jail.

Hendry county deputies announced 19 arrests in recent weeks in drug operations, related to illegal sales and possession of cocaine, marijuana, met amphetamines and prescription medication.

IR-2015-71 IRS Offers Last-Minute Filing Tips

Sports Cast for April 14th:

Makayla Root was named the Most Valuable Player for OHS volleyball this past season, leading the team in blocks and kills at the net. Root performed well despite some physical injuries and issues with her back. She said the award came as a surprise. Root was also praised by opponent’s coaches for the way she played volleyball.   She said there praise means a lot as well. Root was also praised for her fundamentals at the net. The volleyball team enjoyed another winning season and reached the regional semifinal for the second consecutive year.

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Cheyenne Nunez was the Brahman Award winner for volleyball.

Brahman boy’s baseball shutout South Fork on Friday 7-0. They will be the 4th seed in next week’s district tournament and host Fort Pierce Westwood on Monday night.

On the sports schedule today, flag football visits Centennial in Port St. Lucie. JV starts at 4 pm and varsity at 5 pm.   Moore Haven baseball travels to South West Florida Christian at 7 pm. Moore Haven softball starts their district tournament at St. John Neumann in Naples with games beginning at 6 pm.


Okeechobee Man Sentenced for Preparing False Tax Returns

Okeechobee Man Sentenced for Preparing False Tax Returns

An Okeechobee man was sentenced to 24 months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $238,734.00 in restitution, by United States District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg, for his participation in a tax fraud scheme.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), made the announcement.

Wyman Pittman, 47, of Okeechobee, previously pled guilty to aiding in the preparation and presentation of false tax returns.

According to court documents, Pittman was a paid tax preparer who, together with his former partner Ventrell Bouie, of Fort Pierce, Florida, operated a tax preparation service business, First Premium Financial Services (FPFS), in Okeechobee, Florida.  From 2008 through 2012, Pittman prepared individual income tax returns.  Pittman assisted in the preparation of multiple, fraudulent tax returns by supplying false income and deduction figures, failing to review them in detail with the taxpayers, and then electronically filing them for the taxpayers.

Specifically, Pittman filed a Form 1040 income tax return for the 2008 tax filing year that falsely itemized a taxpayers’ deductions for, among other things, medical and work expenses. As a result, the taxpayer received an inflated and unmerited tax refund payment.  Pittman knew that the taxpayer had not claimed, or provided to Pittman, the information regarding those deductions for inclusion in the tax return.

Maria Garcia began working in 2008 for FPFS and was trained and supervised by Pittman and Bouie. Garcia, as a paid tax preparer, prepared false returns for customers based on false Schedules A and C, false education credits, and false child and dependent care credits. Additionally, Garcia filed three false returns for herself for tax years 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Garcia learned the tax preparation business, while working under Bouie and Pittman.  Pittman taught Garcia how to fraudulently inflate deductions and refunds on client taxpayer returns.  Using that knowledge, Garcia started her own tax preparation business where she too prepared false returns.

Bouie was charged separately and pled guilty to aiding in the preparation and presentation of false tax returns, in Case No. 13- 14025-CR-Martinez.  Bouie was sentenced to 24 months in prison.

Garcia was also charged separately and pled guilty to aiding in the preparation and presentation of false tax returns, in Case No. 13- 14026-CR-Graham.  Garcia was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore M. Cooperstein.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

USAO – Florida

 


NINETEEN ARRESTED ON VARIOUS DRUG CHARGES

NINETEEN ARRESTED ON VARIOUS DRUG CHARGES

On Thursday, April 9, 2015, the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit, with the assistance of uniformed road patrol deputies, arrested nineteen men and women on charges of Sale and Possession of Cocaine, Marijuana, Methamphetamine and prescription medication.  A ten month investigation into the illegal activities led Sheriff’s Office personnel to arrest nineteen of twenty-four wanted individuals. More arrests are pending.

Investigators and deputies began the tedious task of locating and arresting the identified drug violators in Hendry County.

The following subjects were located and arrested during this Drug Roundup operation.

Jerald Sims, 43 years of age, was arrested and charged with;

  • Two counts of Sale of Cocaine within 1000’ of a Church,
  • Two counts of Sale of Cocaine within 1000’ of a Church and
  • Six counts of Possession of Cocaine with Intent To Sell
  • Sale of Cocaine

Sims is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail on $220,000.00 bond

April Dailey, 56 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • Three counts of Possession of Prescription Medicine with Intent to Sell
  • Three counts of Sale of Prescription Medicine
  • Two counts of Sale of Marijuana
  • Two counts of Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Sell.

Dailey is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail on $71,500 bond.

Lajuan Simmons, 26 year old, was arrested and charged with:

  • Two counts of Sale of Marijuana
  • Two counts of Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Sell.

Simmons is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail on $30,000 bond

Donnie Keller, 48 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • One count Possession of Prescription Medicine with Intent to Sell within 1000’of a School
  • One Count Sale of Prescription Medicine within 1000’ of a School.

Keller is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail on $30,000.00 bond.

Salvador Lopez, 26 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • Possession of Methamphetamine
  • Possession of Prescription Medicine
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Lopez was released on $10,000.00 bond.

Luis Velasquez, 26 years of age, was arrested and charged with:

  • One Count Sale of Cocaine
  • Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell

Velasquez was released on $5,000.00 bond.

Brandon Caulkins, 25 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • One Count of Sale of Cocaine within 1000’ of School
  • One Count Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell within 1000’ of School
  • Sale of Prescription Medicine within 1000’ of School,
  • Possession of Prescription Medicine with Intent to Sell within 1000’ of School

Caulkins is currently being held on $40,000.00 bond.

Ruby Williams, 58 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • Four counts of Sale of Cocaine within 1000’ of Public Park
  • Four counts of Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell within 1000’ of Public Park.

Williams is currently being held on $180,000.00 bond.

Ulysses Williams, 38 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • Nine counts of Sale of Cocaine within 1000’ of Public Park
  • Nine counts of Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell within 1000’ of Public Park.

Williams is currently being held on $395,000.00 bond.

Nekisha Vasser, 37 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • Eleven counts of Sale of Cocaine within 1000’ of Public Park
  • Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell within 1000’ of Public Park

Vasser is currently being held on $460,000.00 bond.

Nakia McMullen, 32 years old, arrested and charged with:

  • Two counts of Sale of Cocaine within 1000’ of Public Park
  • Two counts of Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell within 1000’ of Public Park.

McMullen is currently being held on $115,000.00 bond.

Billy Smith, 43 years old, arrested and charged with:

  • Sale of Cocaine within 1000’ of Public Park
  • Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell within 1000’ of Public Park
  • Resisting Arrest Without Violence

Smith is currently being held on $62,000.00 bond.

Santiago Bustamante, 49 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • Trafficking Drugs
  • Possession Narcotic with Intent to Sell

Bustamonte was released on $75,000.00 bond.

Rana Broussard, 35 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • Possession of Cocaine
  • Possession Drug Paraphernalia

Broussard was released on $5,000.00 bond.

Dennis Graham, 54 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • Two counts of Sale of Cocaine within 1000’ of Public Park
  • Two counts of Possession of Cocaine within 1000’ of Public Park

Graham is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail without bond.

Gregory Pitts, 39 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • Five counts of Sale of Cocaine within 1000’ of Church
  • Five counts of Possession of Cocaine within 1000’ of Church.

Pitts is currently being held without bond.

Amy Ferguson, 47 years old, arrested and charged with:

  • Two counts of Sale of Controlled Substance
  • Two count of Possession of Controlled Substance with Intent to Sell

Ferguson is being held on $25,000.00 bond.

Rosie Clos, 31 years old, was arrested and charged with:

  • One count of Sale of Prescription Medicine
  • Possession with Intent to Sell Prescription Medicine

Clos was released on $51,000.00 bond.

Felix Quinones, 16 years old was arrested and charged with:

  • One count of Sale of Cocaine
  • Possession of Cocaine

Quinones was released to his Guardian.


Charles Murphy News 4/13

News Cast for April 13th:

Okeechobee law enforcement helped the Special Olympics Friday with the annual Torch Run through town. Over 7 thousand dollars was raised with a BBQ fund raiser. Jeff Hancock is the new director for Okeechobee, Indian River and St. Lucie County. He said he was pleased with the results. This year four Okeechobee athletes will compete in the state Special Olympic competition on May 1st in Marion County. The four will compete in various equestrian events.

Indian River State colleges Take Stock in Children program continues to help students in Okeechobee earn their goal of a college degree. Betty Saffioti with the College spoke to the Okeechobee Kiwanis Club recently about its success. She explains the program The students must be under federal poverty income levels, have a GPA of over 2 point and be drug and crime free, they must also graduate from high school.

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It is the 20th year of the program in Okeechobee. 78 students are currently in college and 180 students have taken part, 80 students have achieved degrees so far.

04 10 2015 Press News Release Third Arrest in House Party

St. Lucie Fatal 4-12-15 SR-91 and mm 142

Flyer for Skywarn in 2015

Sports Cast for April 13th:

Elisia Garcia had three hits including a homerun as Okeechobee slammed Sebring 10-0 to wrap up their regular season on Friday.

Garcia said it was a perfect script for her senior night. Okeechobee won by mercy rule and scored in each of the first four innings of the game. Megan Hargraves had a two run triple. Senior Lexi Ward singled and scored in her final home game. She said it was a good win for the team.

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Kristin Dryden and Jordan Lawlis both pitched well for Okeechobee in the game. Lawlis added two hits and two runs batted.   Jillan Crosby had a two run snigle and Peyton Campbell an RBI double.

Coach Mary Huff said senior night is always emotional and her two seniors, Garcia and Ward, will be missed.

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Okeechobee meets Jensen Beach in the district tournament on Tuesday afternoon at South Fork.


Charles Murphy News 4/10

News Cast for April 10th:

Okeechobee county commissioners approved a small scale comprehensive plan amendment Thursday that potentially allows 100 housing units on 10 acres of property on the east side of North East 48th Avenue. They also proclaimed this month as water conservation month, and sexual assault awareness month.

Okeechobee city council decided not to fund a parking study for the downtown area per request by the Okeechobee economic council. Instead they are moving ahead with an appraisal on a commercial lot located at South West Park Street and South West 4th Avenue. DR Wilson Company will provide the appraisal. City officials say the site could accommodate as many as 20 vehicles.

The council also delayed action on a request from the Okeechobee Kiwanis Club for a special needs park in Park 6 or Park 5 of Flagler Park. The council wants more time for their staff to review the proposal.

Okeechobee sheriff deputies will be raising funds today for the Special Olympics of Florida. They will hold their torch run this morning starting at 9 am and ending at the Publix Plaza on 441S.

The US Army Corps of Engineers opted to reduce flown from Lake Okeechobee west for the next week. They will send an average of 18 hundred cubic feet per second out the W.P Franklin Locks. They will not send any water out the St. Lucie Canal. The lake stage is currently at 13 point 77 feet.

South Florida water managers ended their interest in the purchase of 46 thousand acres in Hendry County from the US Sugar company. Instead the board has backed a 5 billion dollar restoration plan over 20 years. Environmental groups continue to lobby in Tallahassee urging support for the US Sugar deal. A dozen resolution from Florida counties and cities that back the teal was presented to the water district Thursday.

Press News Release Guest Column Telecommunications

Sports Cast for April 10th:

wokc sports photo flag football Lake Placid 1Dracia Peacock scored the only touchdown of the game with a 19 yard touchdown reception as Okeechobee defeated Fort Pierce Central 6-0 in flag football action Thursday. Okeechobee drove 75 yards in 11 plays to get the touchdown. Peacock says she was glad she was able to make the big play. The Okeechobee defense was tough all day. Caylea Nunez and Baylee Farless had interceptions. Nunez said the girls have worked hard to get to the .500 mark. Heaven Feltenberger led the defense with two sacks and seven tackles. Baylee Farless threw for 2 hundred and 10 yards in the game.

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Moore Haven softball winning two of three this week, defeating Glades Central 11-1 and Lake Placid 8-0 the Lady Terriers fell to Sebring 2-1.

Moore Haven baseball whupped Pahokee 17-1 but lost last night at LaBelle 11-1.

On the sports schedule today, OHS softball senior night tonight, with ceremony to begin at 6:30. They play Sebring at 7 pm. OHS baseball visits South Fork at 7 pm.


Corps to reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee

Corps to reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District will reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee Estuary over the next week.

The adjustment in discharges will take place tomorrow (April 10).  The new target flow for the Caloosahatchee will be a seven-day average of 1,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock (S-79) near Fort Myers.  The target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary is unchanged at a seven-day average of 0 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock & Dam (S-80) near Stuart.  Flows at one or both locations could occasionally be exceeded by runoff from rain that accumulates in the Caloosahatchee or St. Lucie basins—those flows will be allowed to pass through the structures as necessary.

“Dry conditions over the past month have caused the lake to drop more than three quarters of a foot,” said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida.  “We are making this change to allow the environment to adjust should a further reduction in flows become necessary.”
Today, the lake stage is 13.77 feet.  It is currently in the Operational Low Sub-Band as defined by the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS).  Under current conditions, LORS authorizes the Corps to discharge up to 3,000 cfs to the Caloosahatchee and up to 1,170 cfs to the St. Lucie.

For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management website at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.


Statement by Commissioner Putnam on Updated Citrus Forecast for 2015

Statement by Commissioner Putnam on Updated Citrus Forecast for 2015      

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Following today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on an updated 2015 citrus forecast for Florida, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam released this statement:

“The updated citrus forecast of 102 million boxes is holding steady, but the future of Florida’s iconic citrus industry continues to be threatened by citrus greening. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has requested $18 million this year to support research, to grow clean citrus stock and to remove and replant diseased trees. We will fight to save Florida’s $10.7 billion citrus industry, and the 64,000 jobs the industry supports.”

The USDA forecast for this year estimates 102 million boxes of oranges, down from the 104 million boxes produced last year. This represents a decline of 59 percent since the peak of citrus production at 254 million boxes in 1997-98.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.


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