Dec 13
Holiday shopping safety tips offered

The holiday season can be distracting, with lots of glittering lights, holiday decorations and crowds of people. Make sure you pay attention to what is happening at all times. You don’t want to turn a happy holiday season into

  • Stay alert and aware of what is going on around you.
  • Deter pickpockets.  Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies when taking mass transit: report any unattended packages to security or staff.
  • ALWAYS leave yourself extra time. By giving yourself extra time, you’ll be able to remind yourself of these basic shopping safety tips.
  • If you see anything suspicious, call 911.

Vehicle safety

  • Park in a well lighted area and be sure to lock your car doors.
  • Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
  • NEVER leave doors unlocked or windows open.
  • Hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk so they aren’t visible to those passing by your car.

Be smart about your  purchases

  • Avoid carrying cash if at all possible. Use credit cards instead. This makes you less vulnerable to thieves, and many cards offer increased warranties, and other protections for your purchases.
  • Double check that you have your credit cards and wallet after you pay for your items.
  • Check receipts to see whether your full credit card number appears. If a receipt has your full number on it, take a pen and thoroughly scratch it out.
  • Save all receipts.  Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases.   Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.

Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Don’t put your purse down, and carry your purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put your wallet in an inside pocket or in a front pants pocket. This will deter pickpockets and purse snatchers.

Shopping with children

  • If you are shopping with your children, talk to them ahead of time about what to do if they get lost in the crowd. Have a central meeting place or teach them to go immediately to a store clerk or a security guard and ask for help.
  • If they are old enough, make sure they know your home phone number, your cell phone number and that your name is not just “Mommy” or “Daddy”.
  • Ensure that any children with you know your cell phone number. Give cards with contact information to any who don’t.

Shopping Online

  • Before surfing the Internet, secure your personal computers by updating your security software. Everyone’s computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall installed.
  • Keep your personal information private and your passwords secure. Do not respond to requests to “verify” your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner.
  • Beware of “bargains” from companies with whom you are unfamiliar—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.
  • Shop with companies you know and trust.
Dec 13
Stabbing sends three to the hospital; one to jail

A stabbing at an outreach mission facility on Stock Island sent three people to the hospital last Friday night. One of them was then taken to jail.

Deputies Spencer Curry and Aaron Coller responded to the Star of the Sea Outreach Mission on Maloney Avenue at 10:40 p.m. to reports of a stabbing. When they arrived, they found a man and a woman sitting on a bench in back of the property. They were both covered in blood. The woman had been cut on the arm and the man had a number of wounds, including one to his upper right chest.

Both of them said they’d been at the woman’s living quarters on the property, watching movies and drinking together with another man, 53 year old Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan got mad because the other two kissed. He pulled out a box cutter and stabbed the other man. The woman intervened and was cut as well. Sullivan then fled the area.

Sullivan was found hiding in a small space behind a shed on the property. He complained of neck pain when he was taken into custody, so all three were  taken to the hospital for treatment. Sullivan was subsequently charged with aggravated battery and he was booked into jail.

Dec 06
Big Pine man arrested for battering girlfriend

A Big Pine Key man was arrested last Wednesday after he allegedly battered his girlfriend in front of witnesses at the Circle K store on Big Coppitt Key.

Witnesses called the Sheriff’s Office when they saw 28 year old Kainun Thorson beating his 28 year old girlfriend outside the store. When Deputy Freddy Rodriguez and Detective Dave Chavka arrived, Thorson was on his motorcycle trying to leave the area. Two people – a man and a woman – were holding him and not allowing him to leave.

The officers ordered him to get off the bike, but he refused, instead trying to flee. Deputy Rodriguez used his Taser to stun Thorson, who then dropped his bike. Thorson was able to flee on foot, however, and jumped into the water in an attempt to get away. He finally exited the water and was taken into custody.

Witnesses at the scene said they saw Thorson hitting the victim. They said she fell to the ground and he kicked her, screaming at her to get up. They said he dragged her across the parking lot continuing to yell at her. The witnesses saw him force her onto the back of the motorcycle. They said when he started to ride away, she jumped off and ran away from him. He reportedly chased her on the motorcycle.

Thorson gave the officers several false names before correctly identifying himself. A check on his name revealed outstanding warrants in Minnesota, and that he had no driver’s license.

Thorson was charged with domestic battery, fleeing and eluding police, resisting arrest, giving a false name to the officers and failing to register as a convicted felon. He was booked into jail.

Dec 06
Holiday shopping safety tips offered

The holiday season can be distracting, with lots of glittering lights, holiday decorations and crowds of people. Make sure you pay attention to what is happening at all times. You don’t want to turn a happy holiday season into

  • Stay alert and aware of what is going on around you.
  • Deter pickpockets.  Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies when taking mass transit: report any unattended packages to security or staff.
  • ALWAYS leave yourself extra time. By giving yourself extra time, you’ll be able to remind yourself of these basic shopping safety tips.
  • If you see anything suspicious, call 911.

Vehicle safety

  • Park in a well lighted area and be sure to lock your car doors.
  • Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
  • NEVER leave doors unlocked or windows open.
  • Hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk so they aren’t visible to those passing by your car.

Be smart about your  purchases

  • Avoid carrying cash if at all possible. Use credit cards instead. This makes you less vulnerable to thieves, and many cards offer increased warranties, and other protections for your purchases.
  • Double check that you have your credit cards and wallet after you pay for your items.
  • Check receipts to see whether your full credit card number appears. If a receipt has your full number on it, take a pen and thoroughly scratch it out.
  • Save all receipts.  Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases.   Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.

Be extra careful with purses and wallets. Don’t put your purse down, and carry your purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put your wallet in an inside pocket or in a front pants pocket. This will deter pickpockets and purse snatchers.

Shopping with children

  • If you are shopping with your children, talk to them ahead of time about what to do if they get lost in the crowd. Have a central meeting place or teach them to go immediately to a store clerk or a security guard and ask for help.
  • If they are old enough, make sure they know your home phone number, your cell phone number and that your name is not just “Mommy” or “Daddy”.
  • Ensure that any children with you know your cell phone number. Give cards with contact information to any who don’t.

Shopping Online

  • Before surfing the Internet, secure your personal computers by updating your security software. Everyone’s computer should have anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software, as well as a good firewall installed.
  • Keep your personal information private and your passwords secure. Do not respond to requests to “verify” your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses will not contact you in this manner.
  • Beware of “bargains” from companies with whom you are unfamiliar—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or “https” in the URL address.
  • Shop with companies you know and trust.
Nov 29
Woman arrested for fraudulent credit card use

A Stock Island woman is in jail, charged with using a business’s credit card to make purchases without permission.

24 year old Paij Ellender told Detective Dave Chavka she found the credit card in a driveway on 6th Avenue on Stock Island. She admitted to using the card at a number of local businesses. Records show she used it 14 times on November 19 to charge over $1,200 at various local businesses and at ATM machines.

On November 20, the owner of the business noticed the fraudulent activity on his account and reported it to the Sheriff’s Office. Detective Chavka was able to obtain video from one of the businesses where the card was used. The video showed Ellender using the card. The video also showed another woman with her who the detective was also familiar with.

When he confronted Ellender’s friend, she said she was not aware the card was stolen. She said Ellender was the one who had the card. When Detective Chavka spoke with Ellender, she admitted to using the card. On Tuesday she was arrested. Ellender was charged with fraudulent use of a credit card, using the identification of a person without consent and grand theft. She was booked into jail.

Nov 29
Deaths appear to be murder/suicide

Detectives say they have confirmed the identities of two people found dead in a car on Big Pine Key Monday. They say the circumstances of the deaths appear to be a murder-suicide.

The bodies of 49 year old Jim Ovecka and 54 year old Michelle Chapman were discovered by an employee of the Mosquito Control District at 8:15 a.m. Monday. They were inside of a 2004 Honda Element, parked in a wooded area past the end of 5th Avenue on Big Pine Key. The car was running. A hose was taped to the tailpipe and run into a back window of the car.

It appears from initial investigations that Ovecka used a handgun to first shoot Chapman in the head, then shoot himself.

Ovecka and Chapman were identified from Arizona driverís licenses found in the car, and by fingerprints which were compared to a set of fingerprints from Corpus Christi, Texas. The couple were past owners of a restaurant in that town and were arrested for stealing a large amount of money from credit cards belonging to customers. According to news reports from Texas,  the two were given 10 years probation recently for stealing $200,000 and were required by the courts to pay back a large portion of the stolen money.

The vehicle was parked at the end of Fifth Avenue in a wooded area on Big Pine Key. Sheriffís dispatchers received a report there were two people inside the car who appeared to be unconscious. When deputies arrived on the scene, they found the car running.

Nov 29
Semi-Annual Crime Stats show decrease

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement yesterday released crime statistics for counties and cities, showing an impressive decrease for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office for the first half of 2013.

Between January and June of this year, areas of the county patrolled by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office showed a decrease in major crimes of 7.8% over the same time period in 2012. Most of that decrease was in “Larceny” crimes also known as theft or grand theft. Larcenies went from 694 in 2012 to 592 this year.

And the Sheriff’s Office saw a significant increase in the number of cases cleared. In 2012, the clearance rate for crimes was 23.4%. During the first half of this year the number jumped to 27.4%. Statistics published on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement web site going back to 1991 show this to be the highest clearance rate ever for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

There are two ways to clear a case: by arrest or “Cleared by Exception”, which means an offender has been identified but there is something beyond the agency’s control which keeps that offender from being arrested. An example would be that the offender is dead, extradition from another jurisdiction is denied, or the case involves a juvenile offender who cannot be charged for some reason.

“I am very happy to see such positive numbers in the first six months of my term as Sheriff,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “I am also happy to say our agency is clearing more cases than we ever have. Our efforts at cleaning up our community  and making it more safe is having a visible affect on our crime and clearance numbers,” he said.

Nov 22
Miami man charged with fraud, grand theft

A Miami man was arrested Wednesday on outstanding warrants for multiple charges. He is accused of stealing property from a friend, purchasing items with bad checks, then pawning all the items for cash, giving false ownership information to the pawn shops.

In January, 50 year old John Golden purchased a large amount of fishing equipment from Jig’s Bait and Tackle and from Underseas, Inc. on Big Pine Key. He wrote checks for all the items he was purchasing. He then pawned the items at various pawn shops in the Keys.

he owner of one of the pawn shops called the owner of Jig’s Bait and Tackle and asked him if he was missing any fishing equipment. He said someone had just pawned a number of items, new and still in the box. The owner of Jig’s recognized the items as the one’s he had just sold to Golden and became suspicious. He called the Sheriff’s Office.

Detective Diane Mimosa confirmed the checks written to both stores were written on a closed account.

While she was investigating these cases, she discovered other items which had been pawned by Golden. When she checked on them, she found they belonged to a Miami man who has a house in the Keys. The man said Golden had helped him move some property from Miami to his house on Little Torch Key. He said he gave Golden a key to his home and let him stay there. While staying there, Golden had taken property belonging to him and had pawned it, telling the pawn shops it was his own property.

Warrants were obtained for Golden’s arrest. He was arrested in Miami-Dade County on the warrants and returned to the Keys Wednesday to face the charges, which include five counts of grand theft, two counts of theft and four counts of fraud.

Nov 22
Key West man charged with burglary, battery

A friendly visit turned violent Friday with a man cut by a machete and arrested for burglary and criminal mischief.

Deputy Ian Cooper responded to Sawyer Drive on Cudjoe Key at 9:20 p.m.  Saturday night to reports of a disturbance. When he arrived he found a man standing in the yard of the home bleeding from a cut on his arm and screaming at three others standing on a balcony. The bleeding man was 46 year old Douglas Ney of Key West.

The other three said Ney was at their  house visiting when he became drunk and angry. An argument ensued. Ney grabbed a bottle of liquor, took it outside and threw it at the windshield of a van parked outside, breaking the windshield. He then left.

Ney returned a short time later. The others described him as “in a rage”. He began to push and shove one of the victims, who grabbed a machete in defense and struck Ney on the arm with it. Ney continued to go after the other man until all of the others finally fled the residence and went to a neighbor’s house for help. That is when Deputy Cooper arrived.

Ney was arrested. A bag of marijuana was found in his pocket. He was taken to Lower Keys Hospital where his arm was stapled. He was then booked into jail on charges of burglary with battery on the occupant, criminal mischief and possession of marijuana.

Nov 15
Man charged with burglary of Marathon Deli

A Miami man was caught by the employees of a Marathon deli entering the business through a back door and stealing a steak from inside Saturday.

The employees of Lauri’s Deli were working in the front of the business at 1 p.m. when they heard a door close in the rear. Since no one was supposed to be in the back, one of the employees went to check and found 49 year old Jeffery Hunter running out the back door with a large frozen steak and a loaf of bread in his hands.

The employee caught him by the back of his shirt and pulled him back inside. He then told other employees to call the Sheriff’s Office.

Deputy Anthony O’Dea responded. He took Hunter into custody. The employees said a second man had come into the deli at the same time and tried to sell them fake gold chains. They told Deputy O’Dea they thought the second man might have been trying to distract them.

The second man was found nearby. Investigations revealed he was, indeed, with Hunter. He said he and Hunter came to the Keys to sell the fake gold chains. He denied knowing Hunter was going to steal from the deli.

Hunter was arrested. He was charged with burglary and theft and he was booked into jail.

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