News Cast 10/7

News Cast for October 7th:

Pool project turns into scam 

An Okeechobee man was one of more than 150 victims in an organized scheme to defraud. 

Amore Pools of Vero Beach victimized people from six Florida counties, FDLE said. 

The local victim lost over $32,000. 

FDLE said the scam company received more than $2 million from these victims. 

FDLE Agent Michael Bartus said the company was big on social media and promised they would be less expensive than the competition. 

“They would be 20-40% lower in cost.  They promised the ability to get supplies at really low costs and that they did everything in house.  Hard working taxpayers were hoodwinked and fell victim” 

None of the pool projects were ever completed.  The company did not have a contractor’s license. 

FDLE urges consumers to check with the Better Business Bureau or a county Building Department of Builder’s Association before giving a contractor any money. 

Local builder involved in OHS project 

The Okeechobee school board selected Morganti Abney as the contractor for the new Okeechobee High School. 

Two of the bidders on the project combined efforts. 

Morganti is big on the Treasure Coast with over 25 school projects on their resume. 

Abney and Abney has built more than 100 public projects in Okeechobee County over many years. 

School Board member Jill Holcomb endorsed the work done by the selection committee. 

“I thought the committee did a really good job overall.  The transparency was very nice.  We had a very diverse committee with different backgrounds.  That is what we wanted and they did their job.” 

The state has provided over $65 million for the project. 

Okeechobee city police announced some promotions. 

Belen Reyna was promoted to lieutenant and Chad Troutman to sergeant. 

Fire Rescue Chief Ralph Franklin reported 249 calls for service in the city since they took over.  85% of the calls were for ambulance service. 

He noted two of the fire firemen who were hired by the county have since resigned. 

Buckhead Ridge will still have a representative on the OUA Board. 

Okeechobee County Commissioner David Hazellief wanted the fifth member of the board to be from the old Okeechobee Beach Water boundaries.  That includes areas from Treasure Island west to Indian Prairie Canal. 

He noted the vast majority of OUA customers are Okeechobee residents. 

He said if the OUA were to go under it would be Okeechobee County and not Glades County that would be liable. 

“I don’t think it should be a requirement to be a Glades County resident to be the fifth member.   I don’t have a problem if you live there because we need people to apply but I think anyone should be able to apply for the board.” 

In the courts, Nicholas Cardenas of Moore Haven received 15 months in jail for pouring gasoline on his ex-girlfriend and her home threatening to light them on fire. 

Cardenas also received two years probation for charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and attempted arson. 

Glades County Deputies showed up in time to stop him from lighting the home on fire. 

The arrest report said alcohol was a factor in the incident. 

Royteria Smikle received three years in prison and two years probation for a drug bust in January in Moore Haven that included large quantities of pills, marijuana and methamphetamine. 

Sheriff deputies said they seized 28 grams of oxycodone, 390 grams of methamphetamine, and 173 grams of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a church. 

The Village of Indiantown upset with people giving false information on permit applications. 

Community Service Director Althea Jefferson said many of the event permits contain lies. 

“Small neighborhood events, block parties, and carnival applications are received by the village.  Often times we get information that are incomplete or untrue.” 

She noted the village should have a time limit to give staff ample time to review these applications. 

The village also requires residents to get permits for yard sales. 

Two fatal wrecks involving Okeechobee in the past 24 hours. 

The Florida highway patrol said a 42 year old Okeechobee woman lost her life when she pulled into traffic at 441 south and Northlake Plaza Wednesday at 5:45 pm. 

She was t-boned in the south bound lanes by a south bound sedan as she attempted to make a left turn out of the plaza onto the north bound lanes. 

A nine year old passenger in the second vehicle was seriously injured.  The vehicle was driven by a 45 year old Okeechobee woman.  She suffered minor injury. 

Thursday morning an 18 year old Port St. Lucie teen was killed after being hit by behind on route 70 at Sneed Road in St. Lucie County. 

The highway patrol said a pickup truck driven by a 23 year old Okeechobee man caused the crash as the front of the truck collided with the rear of the second pickup. 

The victim’s vehicle flipped over.  He died at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Ft. Pierce this morning. 

The investigation into both crashes continues.