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.
SURRENDER ON WARRANT
It is unclear at this time why Ellison decided to surrender himself to Orange County Authorities. The jurisdiction of the Attorney General’s Office is vast. Ellison could be charged in any county in Florida as long as one piece of the criminal activity took place in that county. By voluntarily surrounding it does show accountability. It is hard to argue that Ellison is a flight risk when he immediately surrendered himself when he had an opportunity to flee the state or country. It is also unclear at the moment whether or not Ellison was required to overcome a “Nebbia” hearing. “Nebbias” are often placed on defendant’s when there is a likelihood or belief that the individual would use illegal funds or monies to post their bond. All that is required at a “Nebbia” hearing is for testimony under oath that the monies posted for bond are legitimate. It can be as simple as someone’s paycheck stubs, bank account records, re-mortgaging a home, or even placing the bond amount on a credit card. It is a very low standard to overcome and often times prosecutors even agree to lift a “Nebbia” before the hearing takes place. To have a “Nebbia” placed on you it is as simple as a prosecutor or law enforcement official simply asking the judge for one at the time the warrant is signed or a defendant appears in first appearance court.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FACE SIMILAR CHARGES
Should you, a friend or a family member have the above type of scenario at hand, consult with a Jacksonville (Duval), Nassau, Baker, Bradford, St. Johns and Clay County criminal defense attorney. The Jacksonville based Forbess Law Firm, has handled countless numbers of theft cases involving Grand Theft, Petit Theft, Employee Theft, Schemes to Defraud, Utterings, Worthless Checks, all the way from that simple pack of gum, soft drink or women’s blouse up to extremely complex White Collar Fraud cases. Further, if you learn you have an active warrant out for your arrest, regardless of the charges, remember it shows accountability on your part if you surrender. A criminal defense attorney is normally able to help the surrendering process to ensure your rights are protected. Often at the time of arrest detectives or patrol officers will attempt to get a statement from you. If your lawyer is present at the time you surrender, you will have protection to make sure your rights are not violated. The Forbess Law Firm has handled several hundred voluntary surrenders on warrants from serious felonies to simple failure to appears on traffic related offenses. In the event you or a family member are currently facing a “Nebbia” hold, a criminal defense attorney can meet with family members or whomever has the ability to bond the defendant out with legal funds, to speed the process up. At the same time of the “Nebbia” hearing a motion tor reduce bond is also heard at the same time. We always offer a free consultation and/or jail visit and can be reached at 904-634-0900.