News Cast for May 7th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners will be joined by commissioners from four other counties this evening to discuss matters of mutual interest, specifically Lake Okeechobee, in a special meeting. The meeting will be held at the Okeechobee High School Lecture Hall on the 28 hundred block of Highway 441 North beginning at six o’clock. Commissioners from Hendry, Palm Beach, Martin and Glades Counties will be attending. The meeting is open to the public.

Okeechobee City Councilmembers will also be meeting at a special two o’clock start time this afternoon and they will be proclaiming this week as Municipal Clerk’s Week and this month as Building Safety Month. Councilmembers will also be discussing possible legal action against CVS pharmacy regarding a code enforcement lien. The meeting will be held this afternoon at two o’clock in City Hall.

Speaking of the Okeechobee City Council, one member of the council got to experience a trip of a lifetime in a place very far and very different from Okeechobee. City Attorney John Cook recently joined members of a charity called All Hands and All Hearts on a three week trip to Nepal. Cook says it’s been a dream of his for the last twenty years to go to Nepal and hike in the Himalayas and this was an opportunity to fulfill that dream. Cook says it was quite an experience from the first day he arrived there. Members of All Hands and All Hearts have been there building elementary schools since 2015. Cook, an avid outdoorsman, says it was a great experience despite the issues hiking with the altitude; his group hiked seventy miles in eight days in altitudes from eight to twelve thousand feet.

Cook-Nepal Trip 1

Cook-Nepal Trip 2

We may have had some rain recently but we’re still technically in the dry season and with that, the Florida Forest Service is reminding people about better preparing your home and belongings for the potential for wildfires. This past Saturday was the National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. While that day has passed, now is the time where homeowners should clear their roofs and gutters and underneath your homes of any dead fuels like leaves, sticks, twigs, basically anything that can burn easily in a fire. Forest Service Spokesperson Melissa Yunas says in a wildfire, this is especially important for people who live in manufactured homes because they are more vulnerable than other types of homes. Yunas says even though the dry season is technically expected to end soon and give way to hurricane season, there’s still a chance we could get wildfires well into July.

A traffic stop turned into a drug arrest for an Okeechobee man Saturday afternoon. Sheriff’s deputies stopped a Chevy passenger car, driven by 22 year old Austin Shane King, on the nine hundred block of NE 12th Street a little after 1:30 for not stopping at a stop sign. As deputies were gathering King’s license and registration, they noticed he looked very nervous and he avoided eye contact with the deputies. A check with dispatch revealed King’s license was suspended and a K-9 unit was then brought in to search his car. The search revealed three syringes in a Ziploc bag that contained methamphetamine. King was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and driving on a suspended license. He was released after posting a five thousand dollar bond.

Okeechobee County firefighters had a grass fire to contend with Thursday afternoon. Crews were called to the 67 hundred block of Route 70 West a little after 2:30 and found an acre of open pasture on fire. Crews needed about 15 minutes to get the fire extinguished, while using about 250 gallons of water to put it out. Subsequent mop-up required another 12 hundred gallons of water. Firefighters say the blaze did about fifty dollars in damage to some fence post but the fire did not damage any buildings. No one was hurt. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

A Port St. Lucie tax preparer will be doing some time in prison in connection with the filing of false tax returns. A US Federal judge in the southern district of Florida sentenced 43 year old Richard Maurival to seven years in prison early last week after he was found guilty on ten counts of filing false income tax returns on behalf of his clients and failing to report his true income on his own returns. According to court documents and evidence presented at the trial last November, from 2012 thru 2015 Maurival prepared income tax returns for clients that claimed false education credits, business expenses and other deductions to inflate tax refunds by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by thousands of dollars. Maurival also underreported the fees he earned in his tax preparing business between 2012 and 2014. After he serves his prison sentence, Maurival will then serve a year of supervised release and must pay nearly $268 thousand dollars in restitution to the IRS.

On the arrest report:

42 year old Ernie Paul Higginbotham of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for failing to register as a sex offender. His bond is set at ten thousand dollars.

57 year old Jeffrey Scott Hultman of Okeechobee was arrested for burglary with assault and battery. His bond is set at twenty thousand dollars.

37 year old Randy Ryan Ramirez of Okeechobee was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and battery on a person over 65 years old during a domestic dispute with his grandmother. His bond has not been set.

37 year old Crystal Gayle Elliott of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license for the second time after a traffic stop. She was released after posting a $25 hundred dollar bond.

48 year old Nestor Betanzos of Okeechobee was arrested for battery on his girlfriend during a domestic dispute. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.

71 year old Maria Jesus Ochoa of Okeechobee was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. She was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

64 year old James Henry Comtois of Okeechobee was arrested for trespassing and breach of peace at someone’s home. His bond is set at two hundred dollars.

42 year old Eva Hofer Blackwood of Okeechobee was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. She was released after posting bond.

38 year old Lawrence Wendell Wolf of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on past charges of petit theft and giving false information to a pawnbroker. He’s being held without bond.

37 year old Carlos Salazar Manzano Junior of Okeechobee was arrested for public intoxication. He was released after posting a five hundred dollar bond.

29 year old Ajusta Sataye Williams of Port St. Lucie was arrested for driving on a suspended license after a traffic stop. He was released after posting a $250 dollar bond.