The Bizarre World of Florida

Family abducted by aliens. Need help to rent the space shuttle to rescue them! April 14, 2014

Filed under: Beautiful,Bizzarre,Florida Nut,Funny,Interesting,Silly,Unusual,Weird,WTF? — floridaduh @ 12:32 pm

 As the light turns from green to red at the intersection of Dale Mabry Highway and Kennedy Boulevard, it’s Jeff Stevens’ cue to go on.

Every light cycle, Stevens has a new audience. He smiles, he waves, he twirls and balances a cane. As many panhandlers on Sundays do, he holds a sign. His signs, though, are different.


“I used to hold a sign that was ‘Homeless’ and that didn’t really work for me,” Stevens said. He was homeless, but got off the streets and into an apartment in 2011. He got a full time job working at Denny’s. Still, it wasn’t enough to make ends meet.

So he got creative.

“I started coming up with comedy things and trying to make people laugh,” he said. “It just brightens their day.”

Today’s signs included: “Wife + pet tiger abducted. Need help w/ ransom to save my lovable tiger. They can have wife, so much quieter at home. Anything helps! L.O.L.”, “Geico Kidnapped my Pet Lizzard. Need Help w/ ransom to save the little guys life.”

This intersection is center ring. He engages his audience. Sometimes it’s a smile, sometimes it’s a dollar. His performance is nothing new, just the venue has changed.

“One day, I hope to actually get a better job to get back into doing what I used to do, which is travelling the circus and performing with wild cats,” he said.

He says he’s cousins with the famous Ron and Joy Holiday, the subjects of HBO’s documentary Cat Dancers – who gained notoriety when their partner Chuck Lizza was killed by one of their live-in white tigers. Stevens said tragedy after tragedy, from his parents’ death to run-ins with the law, brought him to Florida.

But the show must go on, and Stevens comes to this Tampa intersection every Sunday. He’s holding funny signs to pay his bills. He’s twirling a cane to put some money away in savings. He’s making people smile, like he did under the big top.

“It blesses my heart to see them laughing,” he said. “If I don’t make a dollar or anything, it feels good right here just to see somebody smile.”

The light turns green. This show is done. As the audience drives away, Stevens is still on. Smiling, waving, preparing for the next show – when the traffic stops.


Over sheriffs’ objections, Florida House approves bill to allow concealed weapons during emergencies April 12, 2014

Evacuations caused by hurricanes, toxic spills and riots could be grounds for people to conceal guns in public without a permit, according to a bill backed by the National Rifle Association that passed the Florida House 80-36 on Friday.

b4s_guns041214_12937447_8col“The bells of liberty are surely ringing throughout Florida today,” said Rep. Heather Fitz­enhagen, R-Fort Myers, the bill sponsor. “We are making sure that no Floridian in lawful possession of a firearm must leave it behind while evacuating in an officially declared state of emergency.”

HB 209 passed with six Democrats voting for it, including Rep. Amanda Murphy of New Port Richey and Rep. Carl Zimmermann of Palm Harbor, despite objections from his sheriff.

“The bill is crazy, it’s absurd,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Gualtieri and the Florida Sheriffs Association lobbied against the bill, calling it too vague. There is no way to know for how long, or in how large a geographic area, a gun owner might qualify to conceal a weapon after an evacuation order.

Also, the bill applies to those who are “in lawful possession” of guns. That’s not the same as a gun owner, and could apply to adult children or spouses of gun owners with clean criminal records who are found carrying guns.

A companion bill, SB 296, is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and awaits a hearing in the Appropriations Committee before a floor vote.

Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, had supported the bill but now opposes it because of its vagueness.

“At what point do we have control over knowing when someone is no longer evacuating?” asked Dean, a former sheriff of Citrus County. “In most of my experience, officers are there to help you in an emergency. I’m not really sure what advantage you have by sticking a gun in your belt.”

Rep. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, said it makes the job of law enforcement too risky during emergencies.

“You are introducing concealed firearms in an environment that is already teeming with tension,” said Torres, a former New York City transit cop. “If this bill passes, I hope that tragedy is not a byproduct of our decision here today, and if it is, I hope we are ready to accept responsibility.”

But gun-rights advocates like Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, said concerns were overblown.

“Every single time we’ve made changes to protect the Second Amendment rights of people, we hear about this wild, wild West,” Smith said. “It’s going to be more dangerous. Shootings everywhere. And yet, we have one of the lowest rates of crime we’ve ever been at.”

Another NRA-backed bill, HB 523, was approved by a wider margin, 94-22, minutes later. It authorizes county tax collectors to accept applications for licenses to carry concealed weapons and firearms in an effort to make the permits more accessible.

“This bill is to ensure that Floridians do not have to wait six months to drive multiple hours to have their concealed weapons permit, at the time perhaps a natural disaster occurs,” said its sponsor, Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa.


Here’s a recipe for disaster: Posing as a cop to get stuff to cook meth April 11, 2014

Filed under: Bizzarre,Drugs,Dumb,Interesting,Stupid,Unusual,WTF? — floridaduh @ 1:25 pm

sfl-flduh-posed-cop-methmaking-20140410-001A man who impersonated a law enforcement officer to buy products to manufacturer methamphetamine is arrested on multiple charges.

According to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, the Vice/Narcotics Unit along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were investigating John Travis Clark of Chat Holley Road.

As a result of the investigation, a search uncovered 1,500 grams of suspected meth oil and paraphernalia used to manufacturer methamphetamine. The investigation identified Clark as a suspect after he had identified himself as an undercover law enforcement officer to purchase pseudoephedrine, a chemical used in making meth.

Clark was charged with multiple charges and booked into the Walton County Jail.


Here is the press release from the Walton County Sheriff’s Office

On Thursday, April 3, 2014, members of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office Vice/ Narcotics Unit along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) conducted an investigation targeting John Travis Clark, of 3222 Chat Holley Road, Santa Rosa Beach, who was suspected of manufacturing methamphetamine.  As a result of the investigation, agents searched Clark’s residence and located approximately 1500 grams of suspected methamphetamine oil and paraphernalia used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.  The investigation identified Clark as a suspect after Clark had identified himself as an undercover law enforcement officer to facilitate the purchase of pseudoephedrine, which is a precursor chemical used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

John Travis Clark was charged with manufacturing and trafficking in methamphetamine and impersonating a Law


Lost wallet returned missing $40, but with a heartwarming note April 10, 2014

Filed under: Amazing,Beautiful,Interesting,Unusual,WTF? — floridaduh @ 7:25 pm

Miami Senior High School student Cristhian Reyes had his lost wallet returned by a total stranger with conditions attached, but not the kind of conditions Reyes was expecting.

Instead of asking for money in exchange for the wallet, the anonymous finder filled Reyes’ wallet with $20 apparently added and a note that read, in part: “I added $20 to it so you know the world is a great place. Do me a favor and when you get the chance, do something nice for someone else.”


The act of kindness was committed by the stranger last Friday, two days after Reyes, a high school senior, lost his wallet while attending opening day for the Florida Marlins.

Reyes had his high school ID, along with his driver’s license and $60 cash, tucked inside his wallet. When the man found the wallet, the $60 apparently was gone but Reyes’ high school ID was there – so the man brought the wallet, in an envelope along with the note, to Miami Senior High on Friday morning.

“I was passing by the office at the time and the secretary said, ‘Zabala, look at this,’” said Miami Senior High School Vice Principal Felix Zabala. “I was in awe.”

Zabala took a photo of the letter and emailed it to the entire staff, and broadcast the story to the entire student body as a lesson in kindness.

“I hope the students learn that you have to do good deeds in life, that it’s important,” Zabala said.

Reyes, who was in class and not available for comment, has already learned that lesson, according to Zabala, and plans to “pay it forward” as his anonymous benefactor requested.

“I imagine he would,” Zabala said. “How can you not? How can anybody, if you’re in the story, not want to do something like that?”

The man who found Reyes’ wallet and brought it to the high school left without leaving his name and just, “rode off into the sunset,” according to Zabala.

“A big thank you to this individual that’s out there,” Zabala said.


Fake nuns raising money for fake charities? In Florida? It’s more likely than you think April 9, 2014

Filed under: Controversy,Interesting,Unusual,WTF? — floridaduh @ 7:08 pm

53445792f1ec1_preview-300Business owners on St. Armands Circle say they’ve had enough with a woman dressed as a nun soliciting donations for people in Haiti.

At Tuesday morning’s Business Improvement District meeting, the association voiced their concerns in hopes of getting answers about who this mystery woman is.

The St. Armands BID says that for months the nun has been standing out on the sidewalks of St. Armands circle, multiple times a week, asking for money to feed children and families in Haiti.

“A lot of the things that this nun has been able to do, our businesses would get fined for,” says Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association.

She says a primary problem is that according the circle’s code, merchants cannot have signage outside of their business. But the nun is holding hand-made signs and setting up a sandwich board.

5344578fce58e_preview-300Corrigan also fears more people may start soliciting on the circle. “Part of the problem is that it’s setting a precedent that we’re very concerned could multiply.”

Businesses ABC 7 spoke with say they even question her legitimacy and do not know what parish or organization she belongs to. “Her signage doesn’t…it’s handwritten, it doesn’t indicate any affiliation. So it gives pause for concern and question,” says Michael Ballantyne of Café L’Europe.

The board voiced that same concern to law enforcement. “We should look at the validity of this to make sure that this is an official entity, and that it’s going to a worthy cause.”

ABC 7 reached out to the Diocese of Venice, who says they have heard of the woman’s solicitation for donations in various locations around Sarasota, and says she is not a part of the diocese.

More recently, merchants say the woman’s presence on the circle is starting to affect them and patrons more directly. “You want to be hospitable and charitable, but she’s coming on a regular basis asking for ice and water. Again, what do those cost? However, during business it’s not appropriate,” says Ballantyne.

Merchants say the woman is now asking patrons to purchase food and drinks for her, and using their restrooms.

According to the Sarasota Police Department, the woman is not breaking any codes or laws and they cannot open an investigation since they have not received any criminal complaints regarding the woman.


Three words sure to send any hipster’s blood pressure to dangerous levels: Craft Beer Tariff

Filed under: Alcohol,Bizzarre,Controversy,Dumb,OK Then .....,Stupid,Unusual,WTF? — floridaduh @ 7:06 pm

Sen. Jack Latvala blasted a beer-growler bill Tuesday as a “tariff” imposed by Tallahassee and a mob-like shakedown of microbrewers by requiring them to pay distributors to sell their own bottled beer in their stores.

The bill, SB 1714 sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, has been heavily influenced by beer distributors and retailers to crack down on Florida’s exploding craft breweries which want to expand and sell their own craft brews on premises and also in bottles or jugs known as growlers.

And Tuesday, the most controversial provisions got a hearing in the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

While the bill would legalize the 64-ounce growlers popular in most of the rest of the country, it would also impose new mandates on brewers to force them to operate through the states’ complicated “three-tier” regulation system on booze that separates manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican with several microbreweries in his district, peppered Stargel with questions about changes made at the bill’s last stop which require brewers to pay distributors for the right to sell their own bottled beer — and doesn’t even require the distributors to transport the beer off the site.

“Those bottles brewed in a facility would have to be sold to a distributor bought back from a distributor and sold at a markup in their own store,” Latvala railed.

“All you would have to do is pay them a markup for the privilege of selling your beer in your own place,” he went on. “They have to buy their own product back and it never leaves the floor of their facility.”

He then offered an amendment to require the distributors at least transport the beer back to their storage facilities, which current law requires.

“If they’re going to have to pay this tariff, if they’re going to have to pay this sort of protection to Venny, they at least should have to pick up the goods,” Latvala said.

Stargel argued the change was meant to help craft brewers, even though a lobbyist for the Florida Brewers Guild support Latvala’s amendment.

The amendment failed, and the bill passed. But then, Latvala made a “motion to re-consider” requiring the bill be voted on again at the next meeting (which would have killed the bill since the committee isn’t meeting again). Then, Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher one-upped him with a higher-order rule requiring the bill to be voted on again. It still passed. This time, Latvala voted no.


Cops: Hialeah city official caught with meth pipe ….. in his butt

A high-ranking Hialeah official inserted a glass pipe in his rectum shortly before he was arrested on drug charges in December in Fort Lauderdale, according to police records.

sfl-flduh-meth-pipe-butt-20140408-001Carlos López, 45, who at the time was the city’s purchasing director, was arrested on Dec. 29 for using methamphetamine while driving through downtown Fort Lauderdale.

“López appeared visually shaken and sweating. López’s face was flushed from an apparent rise in body temperature and pupils were dilated,” said the arrest report, signed by an office identified as R. Goderstad. “As López searched for his license I observed involuntary muscle spasms in López’s face as well as slurred repetitive speech. These symptoms are consistent with being under the influence of methamphetamine.”

López declined to comment on the case Monday. The arrest report says he was taken to a hospital to have the pipe removed.

The arrest in Fort Lauderdale is not López’s first incident since he began working for the city of Hialeah in April 1997. In October 2005 he was suspended for nearly a month, also for drug use. At that time he agreed to enter a drug program, according to his record at the city’s Department of Human Resources.

In November 1997, according to that same record, López was suspended for 30 days, but no reason was given. A year later he was suspended for two days.

Mayor Carlos Hernández did not respond to a request for an interview with el Nuevo Herald to explain whether he knew López’s record before promoting him in September 2011 to director of the Purchasing Department.

Arnie Alonso, Hernández’s chief of staff, said Monday that the city of Hialeah had taken “appropriate management measures” in López’s case and that they were awaiting court procedures in the Fort Lauderdale case.

The Fort Lauderdale arrest report says Officer Goderstad saw López’s 2008 Hyundai driving slowly on Northwest Fourth Avenue when several men approached the vehicle. The men ran away when they saw the patrol car. López then accelerated to 50 mph in a residential zone where the speed limit is 25. Goderstad stopped him.

Goderstad’s report said he suspected López was under the influence of drugs and called a canine unit. A unit officer found a small metal container with methamphetamine.

During the inspection, Goderstad noticed that López had his pants unbuttoned and asked him if he was hiding something, the report said. López initially denied it.

The canine officer “began speaking with López at which time López admitted to have a methamphetamine glass pipe inside his anal cavity,” the police report said. “López then stated he placed it in his rectum as he was being pulled over so I wouldn’t find it if I searched his vehicle.”

A couple of weeks after the arrest, López was transferred from purchasing director to a leadership post in Public Works.

In the middle of February, when an el Nuevo Herald reporter asked Hernández the reasons for the transfer, the mayor said it was part of a restructuring.

However, documents signed in early February reveal that López signed a “Last Chance” agreement because of the arrest in Fort Lauderdale.



Making an long illegal drug run? Then consider minding the code of the road April 8, 2014

 A 22-year-old man was arrested and charged April 1 after a traffic stop in Marion County resulted in deputies finding thousands of pills.

Around 11:35 a.m., deputies spotted Janzel Luis Vega-Cartas driving a black Acura northbound on Interstate 75, near mile-marker 362. Vega-Cartas was not wearing a seat belt, was driving too close to other vehicles, illegally switching lanes and speeded, according to a report.

Once stopped, deputies learned that Vega-Cartas had a suspended driver’s license.

A Marion County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit and another deputy were given permission to search the vehicle, finding 87 hydrocodone pills with a raw weight of 37.1 grams, as well as 2,534 alprazolam pills, according to deputies.

Vega-Cartas admitted to transporting the pills and planned to take the pills from Miami to Kentucky, deputies said.

Vega-Cartas was arrested and charged with trafficking in a schedule II narcotic, possession of schedule IV narcotic with intent to distribute and driving with a suspended or revoked license.

His bond was set at $510,500 on the charges.


Brothers’ app blocks texting while driving April 7, 2014

Filed under: Interesting,OK Then .....,That's Nice,Unusual,WTF? — floridaduh @ 1:51 pm

One of the latest tools targeting the growing problem of texting while driving didn’t come out of Apple, Google or Microsoft. It was the brainchild of two Orlando-area entrepreneurs who recently launched a new mobile app called Txt Shield.

imagesThe idea behind Txt Shield, which runs on Android phones, is to short-circuit any texting capability when people are cruising down the highway, according to brothers Philip and Geoffrey Stiles, co-founders and partners in Txt Shield LLC.

Parents can install it on their teens’ phones; employers can put it on company-issued phones; and individuals can download it to help resist the urge to text behind the wheel, the owners said.

They launched two versions last week on Google Play: a customizable one called Txt Shield Gold that can be downloaded for $3.99; and a scaled-down version called Txt Shield Lite for $1.99 — both introductory prices.

Based on software that uses GPS signals and wireless location-based services, the system is designed to kick in when the driver’s vehicle reaches a minimum speed, as low as 10 miles per hour. At that point, it cuts off access to texting and sends an automatic outgoing message telling anyone who sends a text that the driver is on the road and unavailable.

Once installed and set up by an administrator, Txt Shield is password-secured to prevent anyone from altering it, according to the company.

If somehow the system is hacked, the app is uninstalled or the GPS is disabled, it will text the administrator an alert.

It is the first mobile app venture for the Stiles brothers. Philip, a lawyer in Lake Mary, has been involved in software sales in the past. Geoffrey is a former president of Ruth’s Chris Steak House and former chief executive officer the Stonewood Grill chain.

While they are not the first to market with anti-texting software, Txt Shield’s founders believe they have come up with better, more effective technology than the competition.

“Driving while texting has become a real crisis,” Philip Stiles said. “We created this app as a way to address this crisis and save more lives.”


Brazen robber tricks Bradenton clerk out of $50 bill

Filed under: Amazing,Bizzarre,Dumb,Fraud,Funny,OK Then .....,Robbers,Unusual,Weird,WTF? — floridaduh @ 1:46 pm

Police are looking for a man who came up with a creative way to steal cash from a liquor store clerk.

533f0a36cfa47_preview-300It happened around 2pm Friday at the Winn Dixie Liquor store on Cortez Road West at 26th Street in Bradenton.

According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the suspect approached the clerk and explained that he and a friend had a disagreement about the new $50 bills and needed a picture of one.

He asked the clerk to hold on up while he took a photo.  The suspect pretended to take a picture but then snatched the bills from the clerk’s hand and ran from the store.

The suspect was last seen fleeing into the Orange Grove Mobile Home Park across the street.

He is described as a Hispanic male approximately 28-32 years old, 5″ 11″ tall, 160-170 pounds, with black hair and a medium build.



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