The Bizarre World of Florida

Possession of a fraudulent dog will soon be a second degree misdemeanor March 17, 2015

A Florida House bill that could land dog owners in jail for passing off their pet as a service dog won another unanimous vote and is now headed to its final committee stop.

HB 71 is now in the House State Affairs Committee after passing through the House Government Operations Subcommittee and House Judiciary Committee with unanimous votes.

tmp3ilgQG-mdly-photoThe bill the definition of  “individual with a disability” to add an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activities,  such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

The bill defines a”physical or mental impairment” as a physiological disorder or condition that affects at least one bodily function or a mental or psychological disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Service animals are limited to dogs and miniature horses and can be removed from a business or other public place if the animal is not under the handler’s control, is not housebroken, or poses a serious threat to others. Service animal owners cannot be asked about their disability, but may be asked if the animal is a service animal and what tasks it performs to assist its owner.

Finally, interfering with the disabled and their service animals and pet owners who lie about having a disability and falsely claim that their pet is a service animal are guilty of a second degree misdemeanor and can be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail, fined up to $500 and must perform 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities or another entity, at the discretion of a judge.

A similar bill in the Senate, SB 414, has not made it out of its first committee stop.


Goldilocks burglar claimed to own home with Mariah Carey

A Manatee man charged with breaking into an unoccupied dwelling on Sunday told police that he co-owned the home with Mariah Carey, according to the Holmes Beach Police Department.

Police responded to calls from neighbors in the 100 block of White Avenue at 9:02 a.m. Sunday, who said there was a strange car in the driveway and loud music coming from the home, according to a report.

MSN-JasonJamesPolice discovered a broken window and Jason James, 35, inside and drinking a Bud Light while dancing to loud music, police said. When confronted, James claimed he co-owned the home with Mariah Carey and had lived there for the past 17 years.

Police said they were unsure if the songs playing were by Mariah Carey.

James caused about $2,150 in damages to windows, doors and hardwood floors, according to a report.

The beachfront home is actually owned by ATEM partnership and is valued at $1.9 million. Neighbors told police that ATEM representatives said no one should be at the property.

James is charged with burglary to an unoccupied dwelling and grand theft or damage of an amount greater than $1,000. He is being held at the Manatee County jail on $27,500 bond.


Woman faked cancer; collected money for her care

A 36-year-old woman is accused of pretending to have late-stage breast cancer and asking for money, leading to a fundraising effort that collected more than $4,400 for her care.
Kelly Johanneson, who lives in the town of Hernando in Citrus County, has been charged with organized fraud, a third-degree felony.
The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office says the case is a first for its agency.
Johanneson disappeared for about a month in late 2013, deputies said, returning to tell people close to her that she had Stage IV breast cancer and had been at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa for testing.
She asked relatives to help pay for doctor appointments, deputies said, specifically requesting cash. She received hundreds in donations from friends and family. A Go Fund Me webpage, KellysHope, raised at least $4,400 for her.
Among other events, the Citrus County Airboat Alliance held a large fundraiser for her, deputies said.
Deputies received a complaint about her in September and learned that no one close to Johanneson had been to the doctor with her or had proof that her claims of having cancer were true.
Deputies found that Moffitt Cancer Center had never treated her, and that she had fraudulent paperwork from the center.
An arrest warrant was issued for Johanneson after the case was brought to the State Attorney’s Office.

Man tired to swipe 27 cases of suds from Wal-Mart March 15, 2015

George Lainez has a thirst for theft, according to his arrest report.

beerThe 58-year-old man loaded 27 cases of beer into a shopping cart and walked out the door of the Wal-Mart at 7900 W. McNab Rd. in North Lauderdale on Tuesday, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said.

A loss prevention officer spotted Lainez filling up the cart just before 11 a.m. and then watched as he walked past the checkout lines and into the parking lot, officials said.

Lainez, of North Lauderdale, was caught in the parking lot with $485.15 worth of beer and was arrested on a charge of retail theft, court records showed.

Bond was set at $1,500 at his first appearance in court Wednesday.

He was convicted of petit theft in 2012, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


Girls softball treasurer swiped nearly $45,000 March 13, 2015

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office today arrested the treasurer of Miss Sarasota Softball for allegedly misappropriating nearly $45,000 of the nonprofit sports organization’s funds.

54fa2554c187d.imageTarree House served as the volunteer treasurer from 2005 until she was asked to resign in 2014. She was sole signatory on the Miss Sarasota Softball bank account and controlled data entry for the group’s accounting software.

Detectives allege that from 2011 to 2013, House made ATM cash withdrawals, bank withdrawals and issued checks that were not authorized and did not benefit Miss Sarasota Softball. The transactions totaled approximately $44,775

House is charged with one felony count of Scheme to Defraud. She is currently being held on $7,500 bond.


Sarasota woman accused of posing as nurse, giving shots March 10, 2015

shotsPolice say 30-year-old Kristina Balen lied to her administrators, didn’t have any formal training, and yet was able to administer medicine.

She now faces felony charges.

On Feb. 26, an office manager at the Sarasota Arthritis Center discovered that $1,800 worth of medicine and syringes was stolen.

During the course of an internal investigation, the office manager made another shocking discovery- one of the clinic’s registered nurses, Kristina Balen, was a fake.

Sarasota Police Department spokesperson Genevieve Judge said, “It’s very scary, it’s very bold.”

Balen had worked at the clinic for a little more than a year, giving flu vaccines and medication.

“This is an extremely severe crime because this woman was not only saying she was a nurse when she wasn’t but she was lying to patients, she was giving medical advice and administering medication that she knew nothing about,” Judge said. “She hadn’t gone through the practice of going to school or actually going through the steps to become a registered nurse.”

Police confirmed she never went to college, and did not have a license. When interviewed by detectives, she admitted that she lied.

“Her goal was she wanted to be a registered nurse, and that when she found out people would believe it, she just went with it,” Judge said.

Balen was arrested March 6.

On Balen’s LinkedIn page, she lists a wealth of experience, and there’s also a bit of irony: she’s a member of a medical ethics group.

8 On Your Side briefly spoke with Balen on the phone. She said this was a mix up in license paperwork. When asked for clarification, Balen hung up.

8 On Your Side later went to the clinic for answers, but the office management kicked us off the property. Police say the current office manager was not the one that hired Balen, and all the employees genuinely believed she was a registered nurse.

“She just kind of went with it, once that everybody believed that she was an RN, she just kinda kept going with it,” explained Judge.

Sarasota Police detectives are still investigating. On Monday afternoon, detectives began interviews with the former managers who originally hired Balen.

Balen faces two felony charges.

It is also unclear at this time if Balen is connected to the stolen medicine.


Postal carrier hoarded, destroyed mail

A Dunnellon woman has been indicted on suspicion of hoarding, opening and destroying mail she was supposed to deliver in the Lecanto area.

mar-mail-not_delivered-tranIn a federal indictment filed on Feb. 25, Christine Rovelto is charged with four counts relating to four periods between May 7 and Dec. 23.

Kenny Smith, a special agent for the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General, said Thursday that, while the case is pending, Rovelto is on no-duty status. Her route was Route H28 out of the Lecanto Post Office.

In an email, Smith said that “all the mail found in this case was forwarded on to the intended customer.”

Rovelto worked as a contract mail carrier. She could not be reached for comment at her home on a narrow dirt road, or by telephone.

An affidavit for the criminal complaint against her lays out probable cause in the case:

On Jan. 15, Dunnellon Postmaster Wyatt Blankenship told an agent with the USPS Inspector General’s Office that someone, who wished to remain anonymous, had seen trays of mail on Rovelto’s front porch at 19170 Southwest 108th Lane in Dunnellon. Blankenship had recovered the mail, which Rovelto should have delivered on her route.

The agent, James B. Podolak, interviewed Rovelto, who reportedly admitted to having trays of mail on her porch and, according to the affidavit, said “she knew it was wrong not to deliver the mail, but she failed to deliver the items because of the volume of mail she had to deliver.”

Beginning in May or June 2014, Rovelto reportedly told him, she began carrying home mail that she didn’t deliver and opening some of it. According to the agent’s affidavit, Rovelto acknowledged opening several greeting cards and keeping $20 found in one of them.

Searching her Toyota RAV4, the agent found first class and other mail that had not been delivered. In her home, he reported, were “remnants of mail in a burn pile, mail laying outside on the ground, and empty postal equipment used in the processing and transportation of mail.”



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