News Cast for April 10th:

Okeechobee Police arrested two brothers Friday evening on charges of grand theft and fraud in connection with a case involving charges on a stolen debit card. Police arrested 42 year old Gerardo Fernandez of West Palm Beach and his brother, 39 year old Yoel Fernandez of Hialeah after video surveillance cameras caught them using a stolen Center State Bank debit card to purchase several gift cards from Wal-Mart on March 27th. Detective Bill Saum says it was sheer coincidence that allowed police to arrest the Fernandez brothers. Gerardo and Yoel Fernandez were arrested and booked into county jail and are now free on bonds of $30 thousand dollars’ apiece. They also used this stolen debit card in a Wal-Mart in Clewiston. The case is still under investigation.

Saum-Debit Card Fraud Arrest 1

Saum-Debit Card Fraud Arrest 2

An Okeechobee woman is facing grand theft charges in connection with missing money from her now former place of employment. Sheriff’s deputies arrested 34 year old Melissa Lynn Battle Frida afternoon after her former boss told law officers that Battle had stolen nearly nine thousand dollars in profits from the Landing Strip Café where she worked as a waitress and bookkeeper. Deputies say Battle was fired after her boss discovered Battle had been misreporting her tip amounts to show she was making more money than what she was really making between 2017 and 2018. Battle was told by her boss that she had until February of this year to pay off what she owed but Battle has since not paid anything at all. Deputies say Battle also has a drug problem and she was planning to move to another state, prompting deputies to arrest her. She was arrested and charged with grand theft and booked into county jail. She is free on a $15 hundred dollar bond.

With the recent arrival of a new South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) board, there will be a public workshop this afternoon. Spokesperson Randy Smith says this is a chance to discuss items with the public-items that will likely be a part of the regular meeting which takes place tomorrow-and gain input from them before they make decisions on certain items. Smith says while there will likely be public discussion on items like the EAA Reservoir and the Watershed Restoration Plan, the issues surrounding Lake Okeechobee will likely be a big, if not the biggest, topic of discussion. The public workshop for the SFWMD will take place at their headquarters on the 33 hundred block of Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach beginning at one o’clock. It will also be broadcast on their website at

Smith-SFWMD Public Workshop

A prescribed burn that flared up again caught the attention of Okeechobee County firefighters Sunday night. Crews were called to an area on the eight hundred block of SE 128th Avenue at 9:30 for what was initially reported as a brush fire. Firefighters arrived on scene and were told by the property manager that he had a controlled burn there two days earlier but it somehow re-ignited. Firefighters were told by the property manager that the fire was now under control and investigators agreed, allowing crews to leave the scene. No one was hurt and no damages reported.

A vehicle accident claimed the life of an Immokalee man and seriously injured four other Immokalee residents Friday night. Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers say 26 year old Alfonso Chavez Velasquez was driving a Dodge Caravan north on Highway 29 near Route 82 a little before 9:30 at the same time an International 4300 truck was moving ahead of Velasquez’s vehicle. Velasquez failed to slow down for traffic ahead of him and he rear-ended the truck. The impact sent the truck onto the paved shoulder of the road and Velasquez’s vehicle ended up in both the northbound and southbound lanes of Route 29. Velasquez, and his passengers, 46 year old Benito Chavez Rojas, 27 year old Elia Morales Cervantes, 20 year old Narcito Marcilino and 22 year old Minerva Ramirez were all taken to area hospitals for treatment. Medics later pronounced Rojas dead. The truck driver was not injured. The accident is being investigated.

On the arrest report:

56 year old Richard Thomas Voss of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for violating probation on past drug and alcohol offenses. He was released after posting a three thousand dollar bond.

38 year old Mikel Chaden Wood of Okeechobee was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. His bond is set at two thousand dollars.

30 year old Diego Javier Cintora-Corona of Okeechobee was arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior on another person. He was released after posting a $25 thousand dollar bond.

37 year old Janet Nichole Raynor of Okeechobee, an inmate at the county jail, was arrested for battery on another inmate. Her bond has not been set.

28 year old Heather Nicole Wofford of Okeechobee was arrested for contempt of court during her hearing on past charges of prostitution, burglary, criminal mischief and failing to appear in court. She’s being held without bond.

56 year old Geneva Guyton of Okeechobee was arrested for disorderly conduct. Her bond is set at five hundred dollars.

23 year old Dakota Voltz of Okeechobee was arrested by police for petit theft after she was caught stealing from Wal-Mart. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

31 year old James David Engle of Delray Beach was arrested on warrants from St. Lucie County for past burglary charges. His bond is set at $15 thousand dollars.