December 17, 2014

Sobriety checkpoint leads to two DUI arrests

A sobriety checkpoint on Stock Island Friday night into Saturday morning led to the arrest of two drunk drivers.  Officers working the stopped a total of 621 vehicles during the course of the checkpoint. Numerous traffic related citations were issued as well as warnings for minor safety violations.

29 year old Hugh Wells of Spring Hill, Florida pulled into the checkpoint in his blue pickup truck at 9:20 p.m. The vehicle smelled of alcohol, and there were numerous open containers of alcoholic beverages inside. Wells’ father and mother were also in the vehicle. Wells admitted to drinking alcohol prior to driving. After field sobriety exercises were administered, eh was arrested and booked into jail for driving under the influence of alcohol. His truck was towed because the other two occupants had also been drinking and were not able to drive it.

An FHP K-9 team was on scene at the checkpoint and alerted on the pickup truck indicating the possible presence of illegal drugs. Inside the truck a search turned up a small amount of marijuana on the front passenger side. Wells’ mother, Jill Wells claimed ownership of the marijuana and a smoking pipe also found. Jill Wells was issued a notice to appear in court for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

A white Avalanche pulled into the checkpoint just after midnight and had window tint which appeared to be darker than allowed by law, so deputies asked the driver to pull over so they could check the tint. When the driver, 24 year old Bradley Wells of Summerland Key, lowered his driver’s side window, deputies could smell the odor of alcohol. He was asked to exit his vehicle and, while he was walking he showed clear signs of being impaired. After field sobriety exercises were administered, Wells was arrested. He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. He was also cited for having window tint darker than the allowable limit by law.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office organized the checkpoint, with assistance from the Key West Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

December 16, 2014

Two charged in connection with Stock Island burglary

Two Stock Island residents were arrested Monday, charged with dealing in stolen property. The two are accused of pawning jewelry stolen in a burglary that took place on November 20th.

Two women who live in an apartment on 12th Avenue, Stock Island called to report their residence was burglarized. They returned home from a trip to Miami and found jewelry and prescription medication missing from their apartment. Several days later, Detective David Cruz, who was assigned to investigate, was checking recent pawn records. He found a piece of jewelry from the burglary had been pawned at Southernmost Pawn Shop in Key West.

Records showed the jewelry had been pawned by 26 year old Erin Russo of Stock Island. The owner of the pawn shop told Detective Cruz a man had come into the shop with her to pawn the property. He identified the man as 32 year old Ruben Hernandez of Stock Island.

Detective Cruz obtained warrants for Russo and Hernandez and they were picked up Monday. Russo was charged with fraud and dealing in stolen property. Hernandez was charged with dealing in stolen property. Both were booked into jail.

December 15, 2014

More marine related thefts in Marathon, Lower Keys

Sheriff’s detectives in the middle and lower Keys are investigating marine related thefts over the weekend.

On Sunday morning, deputies took two reports of items stolen from Knight’s Key Campground in Marathon. Two Mercury 250 HP engines on a boat had the lower units stolen and a second boat was missing a GPS. Both boats were parked in a boat storage lot on the property. Also, a man who parked his boat at a friend’s house on Copa de Ora in Marathon called Sunday to report lower units taken from his two Yamaha 250 HP engines.

Sunday afternoon, a man who lives on Constitution Avenue on Big Pine Key called to report it looked like someone had stolen items from his neighbor’s boat. When deputies arrived, they discovered two GPS units and stereo equipment had been taken from the boat; the bottom floor of the residence had also been entered and a large amount of dive equipment had been taken.

Anyone with information about these crimes should contact the Sheriff’s Office. Callers may also contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Tipsters can remain anonymous and, if a tip leads to an arrest in the case, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line at or via a text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.

December 12, 2014

Drug investigation results in two arrests, one person still wanted

Two people have been arrested on drug charges and one is still at large in connection with a search warrant served last week on Big Coppitt Key.

The search warrant was the result of an ongoing investigation by Monroe County Sheriff's Office HIDTA detectives, Homeland Security investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

On December 3rd at 6 a.m. the search warrant was served at 728 Prado Circle on Big Coppitt Key. The search turned up a large amount of marijuana – 479 grams – in the bedroom of 47 year old Michael Graziano, who was not at home at the time the search warrant was served. A small amount of marijuana was found in the bedroom of 54 year old Joseph Clements, who was at home. His girlfriend, 24 year old Taylor Krumenacker, was also on the premises. Clements told investigators cocaine, a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia found in the adjoining bathroom belonged to her. One roommate who was home at the time was not charged in connection with this case.

Clements, who is also known as “Joe Weed”, was found to have numerous ledgers. The ledgers implicate numerous local individuals who are allegedly involved in a large gambling operation.  He said he is the person who takes the bets, manages the accounts and collects the debts. He said he is paid a percentage for his work.

The large amount of marijuana found in Graziano’s bedroom was packaged as if for sale. Clements told investigators Graziano travels to Miami on a weekly basis and picks up Marijuana, which he brings back to the Keys for resale.  Graziano was arrested on Monday and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Clements was arrested today for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.  At the time of his arrest he was found holding additional ledgers with names and amounts of recent bets.

Investigators currently hold an active warrant for Krumenaker regarding possession of cocaine, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. She is still at large.

The investigation is continuing into the narcotics and gambling operation and more charges are expected.

Career presentation, Coral Shores High School

Career presentation, Coral Shores High School: Lieutenants Al Ramirez, Lee Ann Holroyd, Patrick Major and Charlene Sprinkle-Huff along with Sergeant Lisa Lawson, Communications Officers Ben Fox and Liz Steele worked with SRO Deputies Larry O’Neill and Dave Stark to provide information on law enforcement careers to a group of Coral Shores High School students. The presentation, held at the high school, allowed presentations from patrol, special investigations, corrections and communications.  The students participated in a question and answer session following the presentations.

Donation for Bike Drive

 Members of the Sheriff's Office Finance Division pitched in and bought two bicycles to donate for the Leadership Monroe / Wesley House Bike Drive. The bikes will go to kids in need in Monroe County this Christmas. The drive continues through December 17th.

Toys for kids

Holiday helpers workers Eric, Alex and Linda Mixon received hundreds of dollars in toys from Holiday Inn Express in Marathon at the Chamber After Hours event this week. Toys can be turned in before 12/19. Or call Sgt. Mixon for pick up 305-731-8139.

Christmas with MARC - Upper Keys

 The Upper Keys Districts enjoyed some pre-Christmas holiday cheer with clients at the MARC House. Santa and Mrs. Claus were there and Key Largo Middle School students attended to provide some holiday music.

MARC House Christmas trees

 The Sheriff’s Office continues to help the MARC House unload and sell Christmas trees this season. Trees are on sale through Christmas so if you don’t already have one, now is the time!

Flight to the North Pole

 The Sheriff's Office recently participated in the annual Silverliner's Flight to the North Pole at the Key West Airport. Here are a few pictures!

Man arrested for tattooing minor

The owner of a Stock Island tattoo parlor was arrested Thursday, charged with tattooing a minor without her parent’s permission.

33 year old Benjamin Morales, the owner of Benny’s Tattoo shop on Stock Island, is accused of tattooing the 16 year old girl without her parent’s permission. Her parents reported the incident to the Sheriff’s Office on December 5th after they found out about the illegal tattoo.

Morales told Detective Sheila Seago the girl told him she had just had a birthday and that her parents didn’t care if she got a tattoo. State law requires proof someone is age 18 or older, or proof of parental consent if a person is younger than 18. Morales admitted he never asked for any identification which would have confirmed she was of legal age for the tattoo.

 During the course of the investigation, it was also revealed that Morales did not have the required business licenses to operate his business. He is required to have a State of Florida Establishment License and a State of Florida Artist License. His licenses both expired in September of this year. He was charged with operating without those two licenses and with tattooing a minor without the parent’s permission. He was booked into jail.

December 10, 2014

Woman reports occupied burglary

A Marathon woman reported to the Sheriff’s Office a man broke into her house while she was sleeping.

The victim, who lives on 74th Street in Marathon, told Deputy Ben Elmore the incident took place in the early morning hours on Saturday. She said she woke up at 5:40 a.m. and found a man standing beside her bed. She said he was whispering things she could not understand and that he climbed in bed with her. She said they struggled and she managed to get away, and went into the bathroom adjoining her bedroom. When she came back out she said he appeared to be gone. A few minutes later, he reappeared and she grabbed her phone, telling him she was going to call police. That is when he fled from the house. She left the house and went to a friend’s house, but did not call the Sheriff’s Office.

The victim went to work that day, but decided to call the Sheriff’s Office to report the incident after several friends told her she should. She gave Deputy Elmore a piece of rope she said was left behind by the suspect. She describes the suspect as a white male with a heavy Hispanic accent. He was in his 30s, about 5 ‘ 7” tall with a muscular upper body, dark short hair, no facial hair and he was wearing a blue and white striped polo shirt.

Sheriff Rick Ramsay would like to remind people that even though the weather is cooler and some residents like to open windows and doors to let the cool air inside, it is important to make sure your home is secure before you go to bed, or before you leave the house. While we all like to think we live in a safe place, and for the most part we do, we still have to make sure we take pro-active steps to keep ourselves and our families safe.

Homeless man dead in resort pool

Sheriff’s detectives say it appears a homeless man may have drowned in the pool of a Marathon resort Tuesday.

Deputy Greg LaRochelle responded to Banana Bay Resort at noon on Tuesday after an employee of the resort spotted his body at the bottom of the deep end of the pool. He and two others pulled 51 year old Michael Cosgrove from the water and began CPR which was continued when deputies and then paramedics arrived. Cosgove was pronounced dead at Fishermen’s Hospital.

Cosgrove’s van, which he reportedly lived in, was found in the parking lot of the resort. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of his death. Major Crimes Detective Vince Weiner is assigned to investigate the case.

December 8, 2014

Key Colony Beach man arrested for illegal dumping

A man from Key Colony Beach was arrested after he was caught dumping a large amount of yard waste at the end of Pescayo Avenue in Marathon.

The Sheriff’s Office was patrolling in the area of Coco Plum Drive on Friday just before 11 a.m. because of numerous complaints from residents in the area of illegal dumping. While on patrol, Sgt. Joel Slough saw a black Lincoln truck parked at the end of Pescayo Avenue. As he approached in his patrol car, the truck left the area. At that point, Sgt. Slough saw several piles of yard waste dumped in the area the truck had just left. One large pile appeared to be fresh tree trimmings.

Sgt. Slough followed the truck and pulled it over at the intersection of Coco Plum Drive and highway U.S. One. The driver was identified as 64 year old Lawrence Blessinger. There was also a female passenger in the truck. Blessinger told the sergeant he’d been looking at homes in the area to rent for a special occasion. There were fresh tree trimmings in the back of the truck which matched that dumped on Pescayo Avenue.

The passenger was interviewed. She told officers Blessinger hired her to do landscaping work for him at his Key Colony Beach home. She said he had driven them to Pescayo Avenue on several occasions to dump yard waste. She was taken back to Pescayo Avenue where she identified the waste they had dumped.

The waste was in excess of 500 pounds, making the crime of illegal dumping a felony. Blessinger was arrested and taken to jail. His truck was seized for possible forfeiture.

Man charged with unlawful conveyance of fuel

A Miami man was arrested Saturday morning after deputies found he had two illegal 55 gallon fuel tanks in his sport utility vehicle.

Deputies James Jenkins and Edward Askins responded to the Velaro gas station at the 99.6 mile marker of the highway just before 9 a.m. after Sheriff’s dispatchers received a report of a man with large gas containers in his vehicle. When the deputies arrived, they found 53 year old Ricardo Latorre at the rear of a red Cadillac Escalade. Latorre was filling the second of two 55 gallon drums mounted in the back of the SUV with gasoline. The first drum was already full of fuel.

The clear plastic drums were mounted on a metal pan installed on the rear floor of the vehicle. The drums had been modified and had makeshift spouts made from PVC on the top and the bottom, one to add fuel and one to dispense the fuel from the drums. Latorre told the deputies he used the fuel for his boat, docked at his second residence on Laguna Avenue. Latorre’s primary residence is in Miami.

Latorre was arrested and charged with unlawful conveyance of fuel. His SUV was seized and he was booked into jail.

Marine related thefts in Marathon

Sheriff’s deputies took reports of more lower unit thefts in the Marathon area over the weekend.

All the boats were on trailers, most of which were parked in residential neighborhoods. Detectives are investigating the following cases:

Aviation Boulevard - lower unit taken from a 140 HP Suzuki engine sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday at noon. The boat was also vandalized.
Avenue G, Fat Deer Key – lower unit from a 200 HP Mercury engine taken. Reported on Saturday, but last seen by the owner on November 16th.
Avenue E, Fat Deer Key – while canvassing the area, deputies found lower units taken from two 225HP Yamaha engines.
Bruce Court – lower unit from a 250 HP Yamaha engine taken, along with a propeller, GPS and fishing gear. Taken sometime between Friday at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday at 8:20 a.m.
Bruce Court – while canvassing the area on 12/6, deputies found a lower unit missing from a 200 HP Yamaha engine. Boat was also missing a depth finder. Owner last saw his property two weeks ago.
Brian Road – while canvassing the area on 12/6, deputies found lower units missing from two 225 HP Yamaha engines. Owner last saw his property on 12/5 at 5 p.m.
Mockingbird Lane – deputies canvassing the area found a lower unit taken from a 225 HP Suzuki engine.
Avenue G, Fat Deer Key – the lower unit from a 250 HP Yamaha engine reported missing 12/6 at 12:20 p.m. Also missing was a GPS, a radio and a steering wheel.

Boat owners should take steps to secure their property using locking devices or by backing up their boat as close as possible to a wall or other solid object and lowing the engine so thieves cannot access the lower units. Residents of Marathon should check their own boats and any boats on neighboring properties whose owners are not home to see if lower units or other marine property has been stolen. If a crime is discovered, call the Sheriff’s Office immediately to report it.

Detectives have processed all the crime scenes for possible evidence and are checking all the locations for possible surveillance video of suspects and/or vehicles. Anyone who has information which might be pertinent to any of these cases should contact the Sheriff’s Office immediately at 305-289-2430. Callers may also contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. Tipsters can remain anonymous and, if a tip leads to an arrest in the case, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is 1-800-346-TIPS. Tips may also be submitted on line at or via a text message to 274637 using the keyword TIP136.

December 5, 2014

Search warrant results in one arrest on drug charges

A search warrant was served this morning on a Tavernier residence.  Detectives from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit, along with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration served the warrant at 162 Jo Jean Way.  Inside the residence detectives found 35 year old Richard Edward Thibeault.

The search turned up over 25 grams of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, over $1,100 - suspected proceeds from drug sales. Also found were over 12 grams of morphine (83 Pills), over five grams of Alprazolam (22 Pills), and two grams of Oxycodone (5 Pills).  Thibeault was charged with possession of marijuana over 20 grams, possession of drug paraphernalia, trafficking of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.

Cadets serve needy families

School Resource Officers and Cadet Advisors Larry O’Neill and Dave Stark took Cadets Chris Dotschay and Tyler Callahan to Island Community School last week to help prepare and deliver Thanksgiving meals to the needy.

Fire at Marathon apartment complex

A fire at an apartment complex in Marathon overnight send one deputy to the hospital for smoke inhalation and caused an entire building at the complex to be evacuated.

When Deputies Orlando Alvarez, Ryan Aper and Tyler Blanton arrived on the scene at 240 Sombrero Road in Marathon at 2:40 a.m. people outside the apartments told them a child was still inside one of the two apartments that was on fire.

The three deputies, along with FHP Trooper Perlman found the bottom portion of apartment 10C in flames with heavy smoke in the area and the door to the apartment locked. As they were using a pry bar to try to open the door, a man carrying a child ran out of the door. The officers and firefighters then evacuated the rest of the building – which included a total of eight units - and City of Marathon firefighters began fighting the fire, which was reported as extinguished at 3:23 a.m.

All the deputies were treated on the scene for smoke inhalation and Deputy Aper was transported to Fishermen’s Hospital for more extensive evaluation. The county and state Fire Marshals were notified and will be investigating the cause of the blaze.