Articles Posted in Theft

BURGLARS UNIDENTIFIED AT PRESENT BUT A CLEAR VIDEO RECORDING EXISTS

A recent News4Jax story is attempting to help catch to car burglars who were captured on home security surveillance system.  The report states that the car burglaries took place on Jacksonville’s Northside.  As is often common in car burglary cases, the car doors were unlocked.  The two men were recorded pulling on car handles, and if unlocked, the two would enter the cars and start rummaging throughout the cars looking for anything of value.  The story stresses to homeowners the importance of removing valuables from your motor vehicles as well as to make sure your car door are locked.

Car burglaries are becoming an all too popular crime.  They can certainly be labeled as a crime of opportunity in that the individuals committing the crimes almost always try and seek cars that have unlocked doors.  The crime is often referred to as “Car Hopping.”  The suspects often times pick areas with lots of cars such as an apartment complex or hotel parking lot.  It only takes one car left unlocked that contains a laptop, I-Pad, or law enforcement’s biggest concern, a firearm. Thefts and Car Burglaries also tend to rise in the summer time.  Law Enforcement typically blames the correlation on the amount of juveniles out of school for the summer.  It is typically a crime committed by juveniles and it is almost always committed with several juveniles working together.

The News4Jax story posted still shots captured on the security cameras of the individuals in the recent car burglary story.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will likely receive tips as to the two individuals based on the still shots.  Once identified, the Sheriff’s Office will likely seek a warrant from the State Attorney’s Office for their arrest.  The Sheriff’s Office will also have spoken to the owner of the cars to determine what personal property was stolen.  A pawn search can be conducted once the specific items are determined missing to see if any of the stolen property was in fact pawned.  A serial number is normally the easiest way to prove an item belonging to the victim was pawned.

The charges the two individuals face in the event they are properly identified is Burglary to a Structure or Conveyance, a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000.00 fine.  To prove the crime of Burglary to a Conveyance the State of Florida is required to prove two elements beyond a reasonable doubt.  First the State must prove that the suspect entered a conveyance owned by or in the possession of the victim.  Second, the State must prove at the time of entering the conveyance, the suspect had the intent to commit a crime within that conveyance.What is important to point out regarding the elements of the crime is that for someone to be found guilty of a burglary the State must prove an individual had the intent to commit a crime within the car.  The State will rely on the security camera showing the individuals rummaging through the vehicles as well as the victim’s testimony regarding what items are now missing from the car.  Continue reading

RECENT NEWS REPORTS DETAIL THE RECENT ARREST OF WILLIAM SHEPARD ELLISON

Ellison who owns Shep’s Discount Furniture on Normandy Boulevard and Shep’s Chicken and Auction House on Beaver Street, was in the news last year upon his arrest for Trafficking in Hydrocodone and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  Those charges arose out of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement raid on Eillison’s home and business pursuant to a search warrant.  Those charges were later dropped by the State Attorney’s Office.

The recent arrest, per the reports, is out of a long term, two state, multi county, investigation by Florida’s Attorney General’s Office.  Ellison turned himself into Orange County law enforcement authorities on a $1.5 Million Dollar Warrant.  The details regarding the investigation are still coming into news outlets but what has been reported thus far is the Ellison’s two stores were utilized as  clearing houses for stolen merchandise.  Some of the items sold by Ellison were beer, power tools, appliances, and energy drinks.  The merchandise was stolen from semi-trucks and containers in Georgia and Florida and brought to Ellison for re-sale.  The total value of the merchandise is estimated at over one million dollars. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally held a news conference announcing the arrest of Ellison as well as two other men, Pedro Hernandez and Lewis Dominguez.  A fourth man, Juan Carlos Castaneda Quintana is currently at large according to authorities.  News4Jax and The Florida Times Union have both reported on the recent arrest of Ellison.

THE POTENTIAL CHARGES ELLISON FACES

Ellison certainly faces an uphill battle regarding his charges.  In any Racketeering (RICO) case the State of Florida will build in certain predicate acts to prove the RICO charge.  Each violation of Florida Law may be added as charges against Ellison as the additional charges show the ongoing criminal activity. In Florida Racketeering Activity means to commit, to attempt to commit, to conspire to commit, or to solicit, coerce, or intimidate another person to commit any crime that is chargeable by petition, indictment, or information under several of the Florida Statutes, to include theft, dealing in stolen property, and schemes to defraud.  The State of Florida is required to prove that the pattern of racketeering activity, happened on at least two incidents of racketeering conduct that have the same or similar intents, results, accomplices, victims, or methods of commission or that otherwise are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated incidents.

The State of Florida will rely on each individual illegal act committed by Ellison.  The largest charge jumping out at the reading of the news stories is the charge of dealing in stolen property under Florida State Statute 812.019.  Dealing in stolen property is defined as “Any person who traffic in, or endeavors to traffic in, property that he or she knows or should know was stolen shall be guilty of a felony of the second degree.”  For Ellison and the others mentioned earlier, each time stolen merchandise was brought to Ellison for Ellison too in turn sell through his stores, a separate dealing in stolen property charge can be added.  Every time Ellison knowingly purchased stolen property he committed a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in Florida State Prison.  Further each time Ellison sold the stolen merchandise he committed an additional dealing in stolen property.  The State of Florida will take each of the sales of merchandise among the individuals charges as predicate offenses to the racketeering.

Although Ellison appears to be the clearing house for all of the stolen merchandise, if the State of Florida has evidence that Ellison orchestrated the stealing of the merchandise to begin with, Ellison may further be charged with Grand Theft under 812.014 of the Florida Statutes.  A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently deprive the other person or a right to the property or a benefit from the property.  Even if Ellison himself did not physically steal the trucks, if he orchestrated it, encouraged it, or enticed others to do it, the principal theory under Florida law would allow Ellison to also be charged with the Grand Theft charges.  Ellison may face a first degree felony punishable by up to thirty years in prison based on the amount of stolen property being greater than $100,000.00.

Racketeering in and of itself is set up in a manner to take down an entire criminal enterprise.  The initial cases against the Mafia utilized at the time the new Racketeering laws.  The heads of the Mafia families, although personally not committing the crimes themselves, benefited from the illegal activity.  In the case of Ellison, it appears he was also a willing participant in the criminal activity. Ellison, although arrested on very serious charges on what is setting itself up to be a high profile prosecution by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, is entitled to the presumption of innocence and to have his attorneys confront his accusers by taking the case to a jury trial.  Continue reading

Several Car Burglaries Reported in St. Johns County

Recent news stories detail the arrest of a 14 year old boy in regards to several car burglaries in St. Johns County.  The 14 year old can’t be named because juvenile names are not allowed to be disclosed under Florida law.  The 14 year old has been charged with armed burglary to a conveyance and grand theft.  The 14 year old currently remains in the custody of the Juvenile Justice Department.  A 17 year old co-defendant is currently on the run at this time. The News4Jax story states that the 4-5 vehicles broken into were all unlocked, and firearms along with other personal items were stolen.  It is often known by car burglars that people keep firearms, laptops, tablets, and other high end electronics in addition to cash and change inside of their vehicles. A separate news story published by the Florida Times Union details the concerns of law enforcement in regards to car burglaries.  The title of the Times Union Story says it at, “Sheriff: Guns stolen from unlocked cars may be contributing to violent crime.”  It is quite often that law enforcement officials blame car burglars for supplying guns to criminals on the street.

Crime of Opportunity

Most Car Burglaries are very similar in nature.  They are often committed by juveniles, often times with more than one juvenile at a time, in upper scale neighborhoods or apartment complexes, with the vehicles being found unlocked.  When these type of cases come into play, a group of juveniles get together and walk a neighborhood, going car to car, checking door handles to see if the vehicle is in fact unlocked.  Once an unlocked vehicle is located, the juveniles will “toss” the vehicle to take anything of value.  It is common that in a single neighborhood, the juveniles will locate several cars during the night to break into.  The tough question for law enforcement and state attorneys is proving which vehicle was broken into by which juvenile.  This can be proven by which property if found on which juvenile, where the juvenile is taken into custody, and what the juvenile tells law enforcement when caught.  The simplicity and low cost of surveillance cameras have also assisted law enforcement in the arresting of people breaking into cars.  The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office has even given images to several news outlets in an attempt to help locate the 17 year old still on the run. Continue reading

Teens Steal Purses in Coordinated Theft

A recent report by News4Jax states that nearly $18,000 of high end purses were stolen from a Kate Spade store at the St. Augustine Outlet Mall.  The theft happened during normal business hours.  The police report states that between seven or eight teens “burst” into the store, spread out, and grabbed 46 handbags/purses and ran out of the store.  A store employee attempted to block the door, but was unable to stop the thieves.  The teens were observed getting into a vehicle and the tag number was forwarded to law enforcement.

This style of theft is commonly referred to as a “Flash Mob.”  The goal is to get enough people involved knowing that a small store will not have the man power loss prevention people in place to stop everyone involved.  Here the seven to eight teens were able to storm the store and take 46 handbags/purses, and the employees of Kate Spade were not able to stop a single teen.  Across the country these types of thefts have occurred on a larger scale at larger retailers like WalMart and Target.

INVESTIGATION LEADS TO ARREST AND RESIGNATION

According to a report, a Jacksonville firefighter has resigned his employment following his arrest for petit theft.  Firefighter Joshua Williams was arrested on November 22, 2016, subsequent to an investigation by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Integrity Unit. Williams was assigned to a “tactical support unit” keeping himself busy delivering supplies to various fire stations around town.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had received a complaint regarding several thefts of money at different fire stations throughout town.  It was determined that Williams had been present at the various stations where the money came up missing.  Police set up a sting operation by placing cash inside a fire station’s kitchen area.  The kitchen area was placed under video surveillance.  Williams made a delivery to this station and upon his departure it was determined that $167.00 of cash placed in the kitchen by the police integrity unit was missing.  Police detained Williams at a nearby gas pump and located the missing $167.00.

MARKED MONEY

A common tactic used by Law Enforcement is to “Mark the Bills” or record the serial numbers on cash used in sting operations.  It is especially common in narcotics related investigations where law enforcement purchases illegal narcotics from a drug dealer.  When the drug dealer is arrested the goal is to catch him or her with the same dollar bills handed over by law enforcement.  In the case of Williams, the integrity unit photocopied the bills’ serial numbers before placing them inside of the station’s kitchen.   Since serial numbers are unique, the integrity unit can now show that Williams possessed the stolen money from within the Station’s Kitchen.

AMOUNT OR ITEM STOLEN TYPICALLY DICTATES THE CHARGE

There are several different types of theft charges in the State of Florida governed by Florida State Statute Chapter 812.  The most common are Petit Theft and Grand Theft.  Often times the difference between the charge being a Felony Theft Charge or Misdemeanor Theft Charge is the amount of money the item is valued at or what particular item was stolen.    In Florida if the amount stolen is valued at more than $300.00 the charge involved is Grand Theft, a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison.  If the amount is valued at $100.00 or more but less than $300.00 the charge involved is a Petit Theft, a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the County Jail.  If the amount involved is less than $100.00 the charge is Petit Theft, a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in the County Jail. Certain items stolen are automatically considered Grand Theft regardless of the amount the item is worth.  For example if someone were to steal a firearm, regardless of the value, the individual could face a felony Grand Theft charge.In the case of Williams, he faces a first degree misdemeanor Petit Theft based on the amount of cash stolen totaling $167.00.  It is not known if the Integrity Unit placed more cash inside of the kitchen in an attempt to have Williams steal a felony amount which would be $300.00 or more. Continue reading

“Car Hopping” Becomes More Prevalent in Early Summer

According to an article in News4Jax.com, the crime of auto burglary, or as Florida law labels it, “burglary to a conveyance”, has picked up in Northern St. John’s county.  The article stated  the lasted rash of burglaries to conveyances has occurred at strip centers and even in high end gated communities.  The Florida statute that covers all of this is S810.02(b).  The term “conveyance” according to Florida Law, “means any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad vehicle or car, trailer, aircraft, or sleeping car.”  The crime of burglary is as old as time.  If one enters a dwelling, structure or conveyance with the intent to commit an offense once inside, that is a burglary. Many of the criminally accused are shocked when they find out that actual entry of the dwelling, structure or conveyance is not required to prove the crime of burglary. As an example, a criminal that goes beneath an off grade  building to cut out copper wiring and plumbing commits a burglary when he touches the building.  Going on a rooftop and kicking the air-conditioner down to the ground so one’s buddies can haul off the metal guts to the unit is a similar example of burglary.  In auto burglaries, the burglary starts when a person touches the car with the intent of getting inside of it and committing and offense.  Sticking one’s arm into a open car window can be a burglary to a conveyance.

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Veteran Police Sergeant Falsified Work Records

St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar terminated a veteran police sergeant after a month long investigation into falsified police records.  Sgt. Monroe West, a 17 year veteran and leader of other officers in the department was arrested for two felony counts of schemes to defraud and a public servant falsifying official documents.  He was booked into the same jail he has taken others to for 17 years.  At this point in time he is presumed innocent and is afforded the same rights as any other person arrested and charged with a criminal offense.

The Sheriff Says the Sgt. Falsified His Time Card

Sgt. West brought attention to himself and was reported by other officers who noticed inaccuracies in his documentation.  In many police departments officers are allowed to work secondary employment for citizens and businesses.  The hours worked for secondary employment must be turned in to the officer’s department.  Here, West turned in paperwork showing he was working an off duty detail for pay ,as it turned out, during the same hours he was on the taxpayer’s clock as a supervising sergeant.  Apparently, this happened on several occasions according to Commander Chuck Mulligan of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office with the amount of double-dipping going into the thousands.  As in most fraud and deception cases, once a paper trail is established, the charges are hard to deny.  Here, the Sgt. was easily caught.

Jacksonville Officer Arrested for Official Misconduct, Falsifying Records and Grand Theft Jacksonville also had an officer arrested for the same type of false reporting in October of 2013, who resigned after being arrested for what started out as suspicious overtime submissions  investigated by the integrity unit.  Career Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer Dan Hamlin was arrested on 27 felony counts including grand theft, official misconduct and falsifying official records.  Most charges were dropped but he still faces five felony charges.  Hamlin stands accused of  turning in bogus overtime requests claiming hours he spent working on cases  with prosecutors preparing cases for trial.  The problem for Hamlin is  the integrity unit discovered that Hamlin was reporting hours on cases closed months before. He also stated he met to prepare for trial with certain prosecutors who have stated they never met with him, therefore, couldn’t have worked a case with him.  Investigators even recovered an eatery receipt from across town, on Hamlin’s bankcard, with his signature, for the exact time he was reportedly meeting with a prosecutor at the state attorney’s office.   According to the affidavit for the arrest warrant,  Hamlin’s fellow officers, as well as the judge who signed the warrant, believed  probable cause existed for 26 false submissions by Hamlin, each submission a felony charge.  The amount of money at issue was shockingly low, $4425.02 per records, compared to what this officer has lost and could face in the future.  Sgt. West was caught because he falsified records stating he was in two different places but at the same time.  Hamlin was caught because he falsified records stating he was working overtime prepping cases(which had been closed for months) for trial with certain state attorneys(who never met him).

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Just last week, a couple from Tampa Bay was apprehended and charged in federal court for charges stemming from the couple’s year-long bank robbery spree. According to a report by WPTV.com, the couple was arrested for robbing banks in both Florida and Alabama.

money-series-7-909246-m.jpgAccording to the federal government’s charging documents, the couple began robbing banks back in December of 2012 when they robbed a Chase Bank in the Westshore area of Tampa. From there, the couple allegedly robbed banks on and off over the course of the following year; sometimes robbing two banks in one day.

The police agencies investigating the robberies were able to piece together a “modus operandi” of the couple. In all but one of the robberies, the male would carry out the actual robbery with the female playing a supporting role. While weapons were shown in some of the robberies, the couple often relied on note cards with demands written on them to inform the bank tellers that they were being robbed.

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Eight people from Broward County, including three siblings, are accused of stealing identities to get illegal tax refunds in order to buy thousands of dollars in gift cards from South Florida retailers.

Identity theft is a common problem in Florida, as many elderly individuals are preyed upon in communities all across Florida. However, organized identity theft and fraud from charities and other databases of potential victims are becoming the concern for law enforcement. indexidtheft.jpg

Identity theft is the criminal act of taking another person’s identity, stepping into their shoes for the purpose of obtaining some sort of benefit, either from loan applications, credit cards from banks or retailers, stealing money from a person’s existing accounts, creating accounts with utility companies, leasing automobiles and residences, filing for bankruptcy, or even obtaining employment.

Most who steal other’s identities have one goal in mind: money. Most unfortunately do not keep a watchful eye on their records, leaving many to sometimes catastrophically suffer by a few keystrokes. The intent behind a single person may be present, however, many others may be blamed in the process of finding the actual perpetrator.

Some people have the ability to think incredibly analytically, giving them the opportunity to pull off large thefts unnoticed. However, in theft cases, that ability is sometimes used to frame others for the crime, either from leaving a trail of accessibility to one’s position at work , or leaving a trail of evidence on one’s computer of the fraud. Crimes like these may seem like major problems for not only one’s self, but for many other people.
Some common identity theft crimes include:

– Hacking into computer databases or private computers to gain financial information
– Phishing (posing as a reputable company to gain personal and financial information)
– Mail theft or dumpster-diving to obtain financial applications or information
Tax fraud identity theft cases usually stem from an accusation of intentional concealment or misrepresentation of one’s financial situation in an effort to reduce the taxes one either has or increases the amount one gets back on a return. Sometimes the crime involves simply falsifying deductions, stating an incorrect income in order to fit in a certain tax bracket, under-reporting or not reporting one’s monetary gains; however, some of these crimes are as complicated as forging federal tax forms.

Both charges are different from other theft crimes in Jacksonville, as these charges, are considered by most to be a white collar crime and is investigated by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). The Criminal Investigative Division (“CID”), the IRS’s specialized investigative unit, composed of individuals with strong accounting and financial backgrounds, is responsible for combating tax fraud.

If one has been accused of a crime such as this, one should obtain an experienced attorney to fight the case. Remember, in the case of Jacksonville and other areas in and around North Florida, hundreds of people at local charity organizations had access to a database with personal information of tens of thousands of the region’s needy population a smart treasure for crafty identity thieves.

Remember, in cases involving multiple identity theft victims, after more than a few fraudulent transactions and tax returns later, the serial offender, or individual who gathers masses of information for use or sale, will be prosecuted on a much higher level than an individual that uses a person’s credit card once at a department store and gets caught.

One has one choice of relief in a situation like this. One charged with a crime of this nature should contact an experienced Jacksonville identity theft and tax fraud crimes defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights and defenses are known and protected. One can either sit back and wait for the Judge to render a decision against one, or one can take charge of one’s defense and win one’s cause for freedom.

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This year was much better for jewelry thieves than five-finger petit, car, and property thieves. . In 2012, theft victims lost fewer cars ($3.8 billion worth, down from $5.6 billion in 2008), TVs and stereos ($756 million, down from $966 million in 2008) and livestock ($15.6 million, down from $22.8 million in 2008). Despite this drop, thieves made off with $300 million more in jewelry and precious metals than they did last year.

The suspects have planned out every last detail. These types of thefts are much more sophisticated than the standard smash and grab robberies of before. Jewelry thieves, using all black gloves, masks, and other jet-black clothing, as well as a number of potentially dangerous supplies, including gas tanks and blowtorches. These thieves cut through thick concrete and steel to get into the back of safes, vaults, and lockboxes filled with jewelry just waiting to be sold to a black market buyer. Because jewelry thieves wear masks and gloves, police do not typically have DNA or fingerprint evidence to investigate. In the meantime, all police can do is release whatever surveillance video of the robbery is available in hopes of catching the thieves.
Many small time jewelry thieves take advantage of one’s poor choice in storing one’s jewelry in a non-secure location in one’s home, or take something that has clearly not been worn regularly that has not been put away in a secure location, such as a safe deposit box. Many suffer the consequences of both the thief and the insurance adjuster after a theft, as many expensive items increase or decrease in value from year to year, meaning that the value of one’s endorsement may change as well. goldjewelry.jpg

Most robberies that are not normally considered high-stakes robberies tend to be the more risky crimes in practice. Many carjackings, wallet thefts, and other smaller value theft crimes tend to have a more spontaneous beginning and, for many, abrupt end when arrested by police. Most of these crimes involve damaging car windows and threatening victims at knife or gun-point. Witnesses sometimes remember faces, and sometimes they don’t. However, it is much more likely that one will be apprehended if the victim saw one’s face or any identifying marks that would make one susceptible to being identified.

If private institutions do not have one on video, a government owned camera might. The Department of Homeland Security awards billions of dollars per year in Homeland Security grants for local, state, and federal agencies to install modern video surveillance equipment. For example, the city of Chicago, Illinois, recently used a $5.1 million Homeland Security grant to install an additional 250 surveillance cameras, and connect them to a centralized monitoring center, along with its preexisting network of over 2000 cameras, in a program known as Operation Virtual Shield. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced that using the aid of the federal government, Chicago would have a surveillance camera on every street corner by the year 2016.

This high amount of government surveillance now in place in most major cities makes getting away with a crime in a public place extremely difficult if not impossible.

When one is charged with a criminal offense of this nature, the choices one makes at the beginning of one’s case can greatly impact the direction of one’s case, especially one’s choice of an experienced Jacksonville theft defense attorney.

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