Attorney General Bondi Works with GoFundMe to Warn Against Hurricane Related Charity Scams
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—As Hurricane Matthew continues to wreak havoc on the Caribbean leaving destruction in its path, Attorney General Pam Bondi and GoFundMe are working to ensure donations meant to help victims of Matthew are actually going to those affected by the Hurricane and not to scammers.
“Hurricane Matthew has already claimed lives and destroyed communities in the Caribbean, and many good-hearted Floridians and others around the country want to help those affected by the storm. That is why we are working with GoFundMe, one of the primary crowdfunding platforms, to ensure donations go to those who truly need help and not to scammers using the disaster to prey on the good intentions of our citizens,” said Attorney General Bondi.
This week, and in the weeks following this disaster, the Florida Attorney General’s Office will be looking into charities promising relief to victims of the storm and working with GoFundMe to ensure any new accounts set up through the crowdfunding platform are used to assist victims and rebuild communities.
Before giving, donors can contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office to check if an organization has any complaints filed against it. Donors should also beware of new organizations using similar sounding names or logos as established charities. Scammers often use names and graphics that sound or look like the names and signs of legitimate, widely known charities.
Below are additional tips for anyone wishing to donate through a crowdfunding organization:
- Consider giving to campaigns created by people you know and trust;
- Report concerns to the Florida Attorney General’s Office and click the Report Campaign button on the GoFundMe campaign page, if information that raises suspicion is found, when researching a crowdfunding organizer;
- Note that some pages may lack names of beneficiaries as campaign organizers could be in the process of adding beneficiaries directly to the page; and
- Notify GoFundMe if a potential recipient does not want a campaign set up, or continued on their behalf, and the account will be closed.
Consumers who believe they have been a victim of a scam or other fraudulent activity may file a complaint by calling 1(866) 9-NO-SCAM or by visiting MyFloridaLegal.com.
News Cast for October 5th:
Okeechobee city council last night
- Approved plans to rezone just over four acres at 150 North East 13th Street to allow a two story, over 71 thousand square foot medical and dental office complex.
- Council decided to a change in name for a portion of South East 10th Avenue south of route 70 to South East 7th Street as Domer Avenue to honor the late Ray Domer, County Commissioners.
- Mayor Jim Kirk was able to resolve the alley way access issue for a local business impacted by the new taco bell on route 70 east.
Okeechobee Main Street drew the ire of several local restaurants for their plans to bring in food trucks to the parks on Fridays, October 28th and November 25th. The restaurant owners say it is hurting their businesses and they are the ones paying taxes here. The city will study the issue and decide on October 18th.
13 neglected and abused rabbits were seized by Martin County animal control from a home on South West 151st Street in Indiantown. Four of the rabbits had to be euthanized due to trauma, infection and malnutrition, the nine others were being treated at the All Creatures Animal Hospital.
Okeechobee county commissioners plan an emergency meeting at 9 this morning to set a state of emergency for the county due to the projected path of hurricane Matthew.
Okeechobee schools are expected to decide this morning whether to cancel school on Thursday.
Glades county commissioners also hold an emergency meeting at 9 this morning in Moore Haven to decide how they will prepare.
Okeechobee Christian Academy cancelled school for the rest of the week.
Indian River State College cancelled classes for the week after today’s 4 pm classes end at 5:30 pm.
Sports Cast for October 5th:
Raeley Matthews has made quite a name for herself in volleyball but also impressed with her skills in basketball last year. Matthews says she enjoyed the basketball season last year and plans to continue the sport
Her main sport will remain volleyball. She plays travel ball and would like to one day earn a college scholarship. She also was the MVP for the Lady Brahman team last season
All sports at Okeechobee high school and the two middle schools will likely be officially cancelled for the rest of the week.
The Brahman football game was moved from Thursday to next Monday night here in Okeechobee at 6 pm.
Stock-Up Checklist For Your Hurricane Survival Kit
START GATHERING THESE ITEMS FOR YOUR HURRICANESURVIVAL KIT.
FOOD AND WATER:
***Stock a 3-day supply for each family member including pets. Store in sealed unbreakable containers. Identify the expiration date and replace every six months.
- Bottled water (3 gal per person/ per day) Don’t forget water for animals, too
- Water purification tablets (order over the Internet at www.quakekare.com)
- Non-perishable foods
- High-energy packaged foods (peanut butter, crackers, nuts, raisins & dried fruits, snacks, cookies, etc.)
- Shelf-packaged juices (cans or cartons)
- Canned, prepared meats
- Canned, prepared foods
- Baby food/formula
- Pet food (Note: Most shelters do not allow pets)
- Powdered or canned evaporated milk
- Special dietary needs
- Toilet paper & moist towelettes
- Sponges & paper towels
- Soap, shampoo, other misc.
- Toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant)
- Baby Diapers and wet wipes
- At least one change of clothing for each person
- Rain gear (ponchos, umbrellas, boots, etc.)
- Blankets, sleeping bags, pillows
- Flashlights (1 per person w/1 extra package of batteries each)
- Battery-powered radio, with extra batteries
- Alarm clock (wind-up or battery operated)
- Portable cooler/ice chest
- Bleach (pure, unscented liquid)
- Can opener (hand-operated) & utility knife
- Pots, pans and cooking spoons
- Disposable plates, cups, utensils
- Sterno cans
- Butane lighters & waterproof matches (in plastic bags)
- Portable barbeque grill or camp stove
- Charcoal and lighter fluid or stove fuel
- Pet carriers, bowls, leashes, chain and stake
- Plastic grocery bags (as many as you can save-you’ll use them for everything)
- Driver’s license (for each person or photo ID)
- Important phone numbers (updated address book)
- Home video tape or photos for insurance
- Extra set of car keys
- List of important family information (i.e., serial numbers of medical devices such as pacemakers,etc.)
- Prescription medicine (2-week supply)
- Doctor and pharmacy
- contact information
- Medical paperwork, including insurance cards a copy of prescriptions and a list of allergies.
- Pain relief and anti-diarrhea medications.
- First Aid Kit
- Sun screen
- Insect repellant
- Feminine hygiene products and birth control
Tips from Waste Management on pre- and post-storm preparation
Okeechobee, FL., October 4, 2016 — In order to keep you safe as Hurricane Matthew approaches and enable our drivers to restart essential services as soon as the storm passes, Waste Management offers the following tips to all its residential and business customers in Florida:
BEFORE THE STORM:
- Secure all garbage and recycling containers. Place containers in a secure location away from open spaces.
- Stop all yard maintenance and tree trimming activities.
- Bundle and tie down all loose trash such as tree limbs, wood planks or building and roof tiles. Place these materials in a location where debris cannot become hazardous to homes and vehicles in high winds.
- Waste Management will continue to collect household garbage and recycling materials in the neighborhoods it serves according to regular schedules until sustainable winds reach 35 miles per hour or local authorities instruct Waste Management to suspend service.
AFTER THE STORM:
- If Hurricane Matthew does directly impact your area, you must separate normal household garbage such as food refuse, diapers and regular household waste from storm debris caused by high winds and rain. Storm debris including tree limbs, carpet, aluminum and wood fencing, and household appliances should be placed curbside in a separate
- Separating normal household waste from storm debris will allow Waste Management employees to collect your household garbage more quickly and safely. The separation is also necessary because other firms independent from Waste Management may be authorized to collect your storm debris in accordance with arrangements made by local municipalities and/or the County
- Waste Management will restart curbside garbage collection of normal household waste as soon as local authorities deem it safe for our trucks to be on the road. Initial focus will be on streets that are passable. The company will expand its routes to additional areas as more streets become clear of debris and other impediments.
Waste Management uses various social media tools to assure that local residents can find up-to-date information in the event of service disruptions resulting from challenging post-storm conditions. Once a storm strikes and is severe enough to warrant community updates, turn to www.wm.com for timely information about service. You can also find community information from Waste Management at www.facebook.com/wastemanagement or follow the company on Twitter at twitter.com/wastemanagement.
“Following a powerful tropical storm or hurricane strike, one of the most essential needs for a community to begin recovery is the reliable return of its most vital services,” said Dawn McCormick, Director of Communications for Waste Management. “Doing everything we can to prepare before a storm, and return to service and help local residents recover after a crisis, is what being a good community partner is all about.”
More tips for hurricane preparedness are available on www.ready.gov.
INDIAN RIVER STATE COLLEGE CLOSING ANNOUNCEMENT:
Due to the projected path of Hurricane Matthew, IRSC will close all campuses at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5 and all classes and activities will be cancelled.
Wednesday classes beginning at 4 p.m., will end by 5:30 p.m.
The College will be closed on Thursday, Oct. 6 and Friday, Oct. 7.
Monitor the IRSC website (www.irsc.edu), social media, and WQCS 88.9FM for updates.
IRSC will re-open for the normal schedule of classes and services on Monday, Oct. 10.
Please be aware that IRSC is not an approved hurricane shelter.
September Rainfall Average Across South Florida
SFWMD preparing for Hurricane Matthew
West Palm Beach, FL – After a month of average rainfall throughout South Florida in September, water managers are preparing for possible heavy rainfall this week as Hurricane Matthew approaches the region.
Water Managers are placing the district’s flood control canals into their low operating range in anticipation of rainfall associated with Hurricane Matthew. These operations are being completed in the southern part of the system in the Homestead Miami-Dade area as well as in canals throughout Broward, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. Low range means water levels in the SFWMD canals are adjusted lower than would typically be maintained this time of year. This action creates more capacity to accept local stormwater runoff from local drainage districts and city or county drainage systems.
All of this comes after a September where most basins throughout South Florida experienced at or below average rainfall for the month. A total of 6.87 inches fell Districtwide in September, representing 99 percent of the average rainfall for September or just 0.10 of an inch below average.
Southeasterly steering winds directed most of the rainfall inland to the western and northern basins. The one region that saw above average rainfall for September was the Upper Kissimmee basin, which experienced 7.3 inches of rainfall for the month. That represents 123 percent of average or about 1.35 inches above average. The eastern-most basins of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties as well as the Big Cypress Preserve were all below average with eastern Palm Beach County being the driest. That region experienced 6.10 inches of rainfall, representing 76 percent of average or 1.97 inches below average.
Other rainfall totals included:
- Lake Okeechobee recorded 6.63 inches of direct rainfall, representing 117 percent of average, or 0.97 inches above average.
- Martin and St. Lucie counties received 6.72 inches of rain, representing 95 percent of average, or 0.35 inches below average.
- Water Conservation Area 3 received 5.97 inches of rain, representing 90 percent of average, or 0.33 inches below average.
- Eastern Broward County received 6.82 inches of rain, representing 87 percent of average, or 1.06 inches below average.
- Eastern Miami-Dade County received 7.30 inches of rain, representing 87 percent of average, or 1.06 inches above average.
South Florida Wet Season Facts
On average, South Florida’s wet season begins around May 20 and ends around Oct. 13, lasting for about 21 weeks.
- Typically, about two-thirds of annual rains fall during the wet season, or approximately 35 inches out of 52 inches.
- June is usually South Florida’s wettest month.
- The wet season has three general phases:
- Memorial Day weekend through July 4 weekend, which are typically the wettest six weeks of the year.
- Early July through mid-August, which are hotter and often drier.
- Late August through October, which are characterized by highly variable rainfall mainly due to tropical activity and cold fronts.
More information is available at:
HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS CHECKLIST
BE PREPARED TO:
- SAFEGUARD COMPANY RECORDS AND IMPORTANT PAPERS
- Make duplicates to take with you, to overnight express to a branch office, or to put in a bank.
- Move all records away from windows, preferably into a room without any windows.
- If you are on the first floor, place valuable papers, records, files, etc. one to two feet off thefloor (in case of flooding)
- If possible, cover with large plastic bags or vinyl sheeting for additional security.
- DISCONNECT ALL ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES AND EQUIPMENT
- Backup, shutdown and unplug computers. Take backup discs with you, or overnight express to a branch office or put in the bank.
- Unplug copies, FAX machines, coffee pots, microwaves, and all other electric or electronic equipment to prevent damage due to power surges, blown transformers, etc.
- Clean out refrigerators, including ice makers or freezer compartments. Take all food to the building dumpster. DO NOT leave food in wastebaskets or any part of your office.
- CLEAR OFF THE TOPS OF DESKS, TABLES, FILE CABINETS, ETC.
- Put papers, pens, pencils, calculators, and ALL items on the tops of desks and other furniture in drawers, closets or some other place where they will not be blown away in case a window breaks. Remember even a small plant can become a projectile in hurricane force winds!
- Computers, terminals, keyboards, etc. should be stored in a room with no windows, if possible. Remember to close and latch the door after you store your valuables.
- LOWER ALL BLINDS AND CLOSE THEM
- Lower all blinds or close verticals. Put slats in the closed position. DO NOT TAPE
- If possible, put folded towels inside the bottom of any doors you may have which go to balconies, or the building exterior.
- Make sure all interior doors are closed TIGHT. Make sure doors leading to balconies (if applicable) are closed TIGHT and LOCKED!
- MAKE SURE ALL EMPLOYEES LEAVE
- Check your Company policy and clarify with your employees their status DURING AND AFTER the storm.
- Who will be the substitute supervisor (if needed); who do they call (including two alternatives) after the storm in case your business phone lines are not in operation, etc.
- Make sure everyone leaves as quickly as the office is secured. Appoint one person to check the office to make sure EVERY employee has safely left the building.
- TURN OFF ALL LIGHTS. LOCK THE DOOR(S) TO YOUR SUITE. LEAVE THE BUILDING. REMEMBER THAT BUILDING PERSONNEL WILL BE BUSY WITH THEIR OWN DUTIES SHUTTING DOWN THE BUILDING, AND WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE TO HELP YOU IN ANY WAY. YOU MUST BE PREPARED TO CLOSE YOUR OFFICE WITHOUT THEIR HELP
Belle Glade Resident Sentenced in Stolen Identity Tax Refund Fraud Conspiracy
Involving Students and Other Individuals’ Personal Identifying Information
A Palm Beach County resident was sentenced to 48 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $188,570 for his participation in a stolen identity tax refund fraud conspiracy involving students and other individuals’ personal identifying information (PII).
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Terry L. Rhodes, Executive Director, Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), made the announcement.
Oniel Winston Scarlett, 27, of Belle Glade, previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, to retain and conceal monies stolen from the United States, and to commit identity theft, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371; one count of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A.
According to court documents, Scarlett and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained and exchanged amongst themselves the PII of other individuals, filed fraudulent income tax returns with the IRS using the stolen PII, and directed fraudulent refunds to be deposited onto pre-paid debit cards in the names of other individuals using the stolen PII.
Scarlett was in possession of stolen PII during a traffic stop on September 20, 2011. During the traffic stop, the FHP trooper conducted a consent search of Scarlett’s vehicle and found 92 Wal-Mart pre-paid debit cards; printouts of hundreds of peoples’ PII; pre-paid debit card information and money amounts for the cards; more than fifty Palm Beach County School Board’s mainframe database printouts with students’ names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth; two laptop/notebook computers with accessories; two memory sticks; a cell phone; and a phone book for the Belle Glade, Florida area. The trooper also found bank account information, where it was later determined that nearly $77,000 in federal tax refunds were direct deposited from fifty-two separate fraudulent tax returns filed with the IRS.
Scarlett admitted he had been recruited to help register pre-paid debit cards that were to be used to accept the fraudulent IRS refunds. He also admitted his role in agreeing to accept money for his role in helping complete the crime. Some of the PII was also used to file false tax returns with the IRS. On the computer, law enforcement found 228 separate login user identifications used to file false income tax returns claiming approximately $290,000.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI and the FHP. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Carlton.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. 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.
News Cast for October 3rd:
Okeechobee’s youth smoking rates remain three times the state average. Dr. Barry Hummel, spoke to the Kiwanis Club about smoking and electronic cigarettes. He notes the tobacco industry continues to target the youth. Tobacco use has declined in recent years, in 1965 more than 45 percent used tobacco, today that number is less than 20 percent.
The hurricane of 1928 was remembered two weeks ago with solemn ceremonies in West Palm Beach and Port Mayaca. Eliot Kleinberg, a longtime writer for the Palm Beach Post, re-released his book, Black Cloud, the deadly hurricane of 1928. Kleinberg says there aren’t a lot of people who know about the storm, one of the deadliest on record because mostly black, migrant workers died. He noted scholars even debate how many died and the official toll of 18 hundred was not accurate. There was a bad weather forecast, little media available, and few cars to get people out of the Glades even if they knew the storm was coming.
Sports Cast for October 3rd:
Demetrius Clark caught a game tying 20 yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter as Okeechobee defeated Heritage Palm Bay for the first time, 7-6, to stay alive in the District race. Bubba Fludd passed for 79 yards and rushed for 110 yards to lead the Brahmans. The defense also added a goal line stand in the fourth quarter to keep the Brahmans in the game. Coach Chris Branham said it was a big win for the team
The game was delayed again by rain and lightning. Heritage only touchdown came in the first quarter on a 28 yard pass from backup QB Matt Allaire to Brian Nieves, who had 1 hundred and 12 yards in receptions in the game.
Clark, who dropped a possible touchdown pass, two plays earlier, said he didn’t let the mistake bother him.
Linebacker Buster Mond led an inspired defensive effort with several big hits. He says he has strived to make his defense better.
Okeechobee plays at Fort Pierce Westwood on Thursday night.
Other games around the big lake, Kings Academy defeats Glades Day 37-0. Glades Central rips Somerset Academy 55-0, Pahokee edged Boca Raton 17-14, Clewiston defeated University 24-7 and Moore Haven ripped Evangelical Christian 35-6.
Commissioner Adam Putnam Highlights National Farm to School Month in Florida
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–To celebrate National Farm to School Month this month, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam encourages students and families to take full advantage of the locally grown fruits and vegetables served in Florida’s school cafeterias. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Farm to School program connects K-12 schools with local farmers and growers to provide fresh, seasonal produce to students during school meals.
“National Farm to School Month in Florida provides students with a better understanding of where their food comes from, and it highlights our continued effort to connect Florida’s nutritious produce directly to our students in order to enhance classroom performance,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
The Farm to School program supports Florida farmers by promoting opportunities for schools and growers to work together to increase the volume of locally grown produce served in cafeterias and dining halls. Additionally, the department has helped coordinate statewide lunch menus to coincide with Florida’s harvest season.
National Farm to School Month facilitates opportunities for hands-on nutrition and agriculture education through activities including: cafeteria taste tests, nutrition education activities in the classroom, farm visits and school garden harvests. To further encourage school garden participation, the department awards six outstanding school gardens in October each year during the annual Golden Shovel Awards presentations.
The department’s Farm to School program positively impacts local economies, reduces transportation costs and helps to preserve farms and farmland. For more information on efforts to increase the volume of locally grown product that is served in school cafeterias and dining halls, visit the department’s Farm to School program webpage.
For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.