Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

Issued by the Media Relations Office,
Public Information Officer Deputy Becky Herrin

Follow us on Twitter @mcsonews and on Facebook at MCSO – Florida Keys. All of our press releases can be found on our blog at floridakeyssheriff.blogspot.com

May 27, 2016

Hialeah man charged with multiple counts credit card fraud

An alert merchant in Key Largo quickly called the Sheriff’s Office after a Hialeah man attempted to use multiple fraudulent credit cards in his store to purchase high end merchandise. That call led to the arrest of the man who is now in jail on 60 felony counts related to the fraud.

The manager of West Marine in Key Largo said 41 year old Rogelio Rodriguez walked into the store at about noon and asked to see one of the most expensive models of Garmin GPS, which they did not have in stock. He then asked for the second  most expensive GPS and said he would take it without asking any questions about the device at all. He produced an Ohio driver’s license with the name Jesus Mardonado on it; he then swiped a credit card with the same name, which was declined. He tried six more cards, which were all declined. He then walked out of the store and drove away in a  black 2014 Nissan sport utility vehicle.

The manager called the Sheriff’s Office and reported the suspicious activity, giving a detailed description of the vehicle, which he said was traveling southbound. Sheriff’s deputies and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper spotted the vehicle at the 101 mile marker of the highway and stopped it.

Detectives Bob Dosh and Jacques Rozek responded to the scene to investigate. Rodriguez had a stack of credit cards in his pocket. He gave detectives permission to search his vehicle. Inside, they found more counterfeit credit cards. Rodriguez had a total of 25 counterfeit credit cards in his possession. He told detectives he did not want to talk to them about the cards; he said he is a two-time convicted felon and if they asked him any questions, he would just say he “didn’t know.”

He was arrested. He was charged with 32 counts of use of another person’s identification without their permission; 25 counts illegal use of credit cards; grand theft, trafficking in counterfeited credit cards, manufacturing counterfeit identification and illegal use of a credit card. He was booked into jail.

May 26, 2016

Woman charged with cruelty to a child

A Big Coppitt Key woman has been charged with cruelty toward a child. She is accused of hitting and stomping an 8 year old boy because he put dirty laundry in the dryer.

The Sheriff’s Office was notified of the case by the Department of Children and Families on April 21st. The boy told Major Crimes detectives 27 year old Marina Vega hit him in the face and on the side. He said he laid on the floor because it hurt and she stomped his stomach. He told detectives she was wearing flip flops on her feet and  “thank you God not normal shoes because it would have hurt more.”

After the investigation was completed a warrant was issued for her arrest and on Wednesday, she was booked into jail on child cruelty charges.

Man charged with burglary

A Homestead man was charged with vehicle burglary Wednesday after stolen property was found in the motorhome he was staying in.

Sgt. Jason Madnick responded to a  house on Gumbo Limbo Drive Wednesday morning after a man staying at the house discovered his car had been burglarized. He said he’d gone to sleep on the couch with his car keys on the table beside him. When he woke, the keys were gone and his belongings, which he kept in his car, were missing.

He told the sergeant one of the items in his car was a Playstation; he said he’d shown it to 36 year old Eric Lansford the day before in an attempt to sell it to him. He said Lansford was staying on a motorhome parked on the property.

Investigations revealed the stolen belongings – including the Playstation and the car keys – were in the motorhome, as was Lansford who was asleep inside. Lansford was arrested, charged with burglary and grand theft and he was booked into jail.

May 25, 2016

Man arrested for violent Upper Keys rape

A local man was arrested for violently raping and beating a Tavernier woman on March 13th. He is accused of grabbing her as she walked on a street near her home, dragging her into the bushes, beating her with some type of blunt object, threatening to kill her and then raping her.

The attack took place just after 9 p.m. on the southbound side of highway U.S. One, east of the Tavernier Creek Bridge. The victim was on her way to meet friends at a neighborhood bar. She said at first, she thought it was her friends playing a joke on her when someone grabbed her. She then realized she did not know the man who had grabbed her.

The victim fought her attacker and he began to hit her with some kind of weapon she could not identify. 53 year old Johnny Lee Hayes told her he would kill her, but would let her live if she stopped fighting. She said he choked her as well and she lost consciousness for a period of time. When she woke up, he was still on top of her raping her and hitting her. She said during the attack, Hayes told her she’d done this to six other women and had been to prison.

After the rape, he took her money, told her to wait 15 minutes and that he would be watching her. She tried to wave people down for help, but no one would stop. She walked to a nearby business where an employee called for help.

The victim was taken to the hospital where she was treated for her extensive injuries, including broken ribs, a broken bone in her face and numerous contusions. DNA believed to be from the suspect was collected and sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for possible identification. FDLE identified the DNA as belonging to Hayes, who has an extensive arrest history.

Detective Manny Cuervo was assigned as lead investigator on the case.

Detective Cuervo obtained a warrant for Hayes’ arrest and on Monday night, Hayes was located on Aviation Boulevard in Marathon just before 9 p.m. and he was arrested. He was charged with forcible sexual battery with a weapon, a life felony; He was also charged with kidnapping, aggravated battery and robbery with a weapon. He was booked into jail. Total bond on the charges is $525,000.

Hayes has been incarcerated in the Monroe County jail many times over the past two decades on charges which include arrests for drug trafficking, sales and possession, robbery, tampering with a witness, escape, burglary, driving with a suspended license, and violating probation. He has had various addresses during that time, including on Stock Island, Big Pine Key, Marathon and Miami.

May 23, 2016

Man charged with burglary, battery on ex-girlfriend

A Marathon man was arrested Saturday, charged with entering his ex-girlfriend’s house without permission and grabbing her.

The victim called the Sheriff’s Office as her ex-boyfriend, 30 year old Ruben Torres, was entering her home through the bedroom window at 5:30 a.m. She told arriving deputies she’d seen him at a bar earlier in the evening and he’d tried to talk to her. She said she went home with another man and Torres showed up there. She said he knocked on the door, then walked around the house knocking on the underside of the house with a stick.

Eventually, he managed to get a bedroom window open and climbed inside. She said he grabbed her, said “I got you,” then climbed back out the window and fled the scene before deputies arrived. The victim was on the phone with Sheriff’s dispatchers who overheard what he said to her.

Deputy Rosa DiGiovanni located Torres later in the morning at a home on Yellowtail Drive in Marathon. Torres was arrested. He was charged with burglary and battery and he was booked into jail.

May 20, 2016

Woman charged with vehicle burglary

Sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene of a vehicle burglary this morning at Sea Grape Apartments in Marathon.

When Deputies Rosa DiGiovanni and Vincent Torres arrived just after 7 a.m., they found the victim who said she’d parked her car in the parking lot the night before. Her neighbor woke her at 7 a.m. today to tell her there were a bunch of items scattered around her car and it looked like the car had been burglarized. Among the scattered belongings were a single black and white sandal and a single red “Croc” shoe, tools, perfume, red lipstick, tampons and loose change. The victim said the red shoe did not belong to her.

As the deputies were investigating, they saw a woman walk past; she was wearing one red “Croc” shoe and one black and white sandal, both of which matched the ones found at the scene of the burglary. She had red lipstick smeared on her hands and face and she had a small clear purse around her neck; inside were some tampons, a key ring with the victim’s first name on it and a red lipstick, all of which the victim identified as belonging to her. She said they had all been inside a purse in her car.

The woman – identified as 18 year old Jennifer Almeida-Ortiz of Marathon – appeared to be disoriented and has having difficulty standing. She was arrested and charged with burglary and theft and she was booked into jail.

May 18, 2016

Wedding planner charged with fraud

A local wedding planner was booked into jail yesterday, accused of defrauding two couples who paid her to plan their weddings.

According to offense reports, the couples found 36 year old Kathryn Bentley of Key West listed as a wedding planner on a web site for the Islander Resort in Islamorada and contacted her, one couple in August and one in September of last year,  to plan their weddings. Both couples made a down payment for Bentley to begin working on the events, which were supposed to take place at the Islander Resort.

One couple, who were supposed to be married in November of 2016, began to suspect something was wrong when Bentley prematurely charged their credit card for a second payment in November; according to their contract with her, the payment wasn’t due until February of 2016. When they contacted her about it, she said she would return the money, but she didn’t. They continued to try to contact her, but she did not return their calls. When they contacted the resort about it, the resort reportedly told them Bentley does not work for the resort and there were no reservations made for their wedding.

The second couple made several payments to Bentley for a total of $23,000 for a wedding that was supposed to be scheduled for February of 2016. In January, they attempted to contact Bentley about the upcoming nuptials, but she did not respond. When they contacted the resort, they discovered no payments had been made to them for the wedding; they said they were able to get in touch with Bentley who assured them she would make a payment to the resort right away, but she never did.

Both couples called the Sheriff’s Office in January to report being defrauded by Bentley. Detective Ian Barnett was assigned as the lead investigator on the case.

Warrants were issued for the arrest of Bentley, who turned herself in to the Stock Island Detention Center on Tuesday. She was charged with two counts each of grand theft and fraud. Detectives are still investigating her activities and more charges may be pending.

May 16, 2016

Key West man charged with graffiti

A Key West man was arrested Thursday, charged with painting large amounts of graffiti on the Loop Road Bridge on Sugarloaf Key.

On May 3rd just before 5 p.m., Deputy Richard Wang responded to Sugarloaf Boulevard to a report of a group of men spray painting graffiti on the Loop Road Bridge. The caller said she saw a white male with long blonde hair painting the bridge with green spray paint. She said another white male was watching as he did it.

When Deputy Wang arrived at the entrance to the road that leads to the bridge, he found two men who fit the caller’s description. One of the men, 39 year old Terrance Delahanty, had fresh green spray paint on his chest and on his hands. When confronted by the deputy he admitted to painting the bridge. He told the deputy he only painted “a very small area” of the bridge. After documenting his conversation with Delahanty, Deputy Wang let him go until he could investigate the damage to the bridge in more detail.

When Deputy Wang was able to access the area of the bridge several days later, he found a very large area of the bridge painted with the same color paint that had been on Delahanty’s hands and chest. The damage to the bridge was estimated to be more than $500.

A warrant was issued for Delahanty for criminal mischief and he was picked up on the warrant on Thursday and was booked into jail.

May 14, 2016

Twins arrested for selling marijuana

Two Stock Island brothers were arrested Friday, charged with selling marijuana during an investigation by the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Unit.

25 year old Roger and Ryan Hernandez were arrested on outstanding warrants for sale of marijuana. Roger Hernandez is accused of selling 7 grams of marijuana to on March 28th; the sale took place outside the brother’s residence on Roberta Street, Stock Island. Then, on April 5th, arrangements were made to purchase an ounce of marijuana from the brothers. The sale was arranged on the phone with Roger Hernandez; Ryan Hernandez was the one who handed over the marijuana and took money in exchange. This sale also took place in front of the brother’s residence on Stock Island.

Both men were located on 64th Street in Marathon on Friday and were charged with the outstanding arrest warrants. Roger Hernandez was further charged with possession of a controlled substance after detectives found Oxycodone in his vehicle for which he had no prescription.

Key Largo woman arrested for burglary

A Key Largo woman is in jail, accused of vandalizing the home of her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend on May 5th.

Deputy Gil Gonzalez responded to a home on Collins Street in Key Largo on May 5th. The home owner told him 29 year old Christine Francisco damaged the surveillance camera by her front door. She said she returned home from a trip to Homestead and found the damage. She told the deputy when she watched the video recorded by the camera just prior to it being damaged, it showed Francisco walking around her property, then reaching up and tearing the camera from its mount on the front of the home.

She told the deputy Francisco is the current girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend and they have had some altercations in the recent past.

A warrant was issued for Francisco’s arrest. On Friday she was charged with burglary, grand theft and criminal mischief and she was booked into jail.

May 13, 2016

Big Pine Key drug arrest

A search warrant served at a Big Pine Key residence Thursday afternoon resulted in the arrest of a man on drug charges.

The Monroe County Sherriff’s Office HIDTA Unit,assisted by other state and federal agencies, served a narcotics search warrant and three arrest warrants at 31011 Avenue I, Big Pine Key at 2:30 p.m. Joseph Anthony PILOTTI , 49, was  arrested. He was the subject of a lengthy narcotics investigation following complaints from the community and Crime Stoppers tips.

During the course of the investigation, the Monroe County HIDTA Unit conducted a series of cocaine purchases from Pilotti which resulted in the three warrants for the sale and delivery of cocaine.

During the search of Pilotti’s residence Thursday, agents and detectives discovered cocaine in Pilotti’s pants pocket along with cash.  Further search of the residence revealed more cocaine, marijuana, pills, drug paraphernalia, ammunition and $4,795 in cash.

Pilotti was charged with sale of cocaine, possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana under 20 grams, possession of controlled substance without a prescription, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.

The operation was conducted with assistance from Sheriff’s Special Operations Unit, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), United States Border Patrol (USBP), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Customs and Border Protection –Air & Marine Operations (CBP-AMO), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Inmate charged with lewd acts

An inmate at the Monroe County Detention Center was charged Thursday night with committing a lewd act in front of a detention deputy working at the facility.

35 year old inmate Randy Jones is accused of masturbating in front of the female detention deputy as she was sitting at the officer’s desk in one of the facility’s inmate dorms. She told Deputy Spencer Curry the incident took place just before 4 a.m. on Thursday. She said she looked up from working at the desk and saw him lying in his bunk about 10 feet away from her.

Jones was charged with lewd and lascivious acts in the presence of a corrections employee, He was in jail, arrested February 2nd, for driving with his license suspended, battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence.

May 10, 2016

Key Largo man also charged with fraud

A Key Largo man arrested Saturday for a business burglary in the Upper Keys was also charged with an outstanding warrant for forging three checks he stole from an elderly woman and cashing them.

The 75 year old Key Largo victim told Deputy Christopher Kilmurray she wrote a check to 28 year old Scott Prior for $400 to help him out on April 8th. On April 18th, she got a call from her bank. They were concerned because Prior had come in to the bank four times in the past 10 days, each time cashing a check for $400. The victim told them she’d only written one check to him; she subsequently discovered three checks missing from her checkbook.

A warrant was issued for Prior’s arrest and when he was arrested for a business burglary in Key Largo on Saturday, he was subsequently charged with three counts of grand theft from a person over 65 years of age and three counts of forgery.

May 9, 2016

Key Largo man charged with business burglary

A Key Largo man was arrested Saturday, charged with attempting to pry a change machine off the wall in the laundry room at Largo RV Park Friday night.

28 year old Scott Prior rode a bike to the RV Park from a nearby wooded area where he was staying. He was caught on surveillance video using some type of pry bar to pry the change machine in the laundry room off of the wall. During the process, he caused extensive damage to both the machine and the concrete wall.

When he was unsuccessful at removing or opening the machine, he rode the bike away from the scene.

Deputy Ben Elmore and Sgt. Jason Madnick responded to a report by an employee who found the damage Saturday morning. They knew about a homeless camp in the nearby wooded area and went there to see if they could identify any possible suspects. They found it unoccupied, but found a bike that looked exactly like the one ridden by the suspect in the video.

They returned later and found a man at the camp who said Prior had borrowed the bike Friday night at about the same time the burglary took place. A booking photo of Prior from a previous arrest, along with photos of his tattoos, matched the man depicted in the surveillance video committing the crime at the RV Park.

Detective Bob Dosh was assigned to investigate the case and located Prior on Saturday. Prior admitted to attempting to pry the change machine off the wall. He was arrested and charged with criminal mischief and burglary and he was booked into jail.

May 7, 2016

Businesses burglarized in Key Largo

Seven businesses at a flea market in Key Largo were burglarized between Thursday night and Friday morning.

Suspects pried off locks and forced open doors on trailers to access the businesses, which included Kris Watercraft Sales, Dolores Food Truck, Keys Vapors LLLC, We Be Smokin’ Barbecue, The Island Café, Florida Keys Fresh Catch and a fruit stand. All the businesses are located at the 101 mile marker of Highway U.S. One.

A few of the businesses were ransacked. Some cash was taken from a couple of the locations; most of the businesses said they didn’t notice anything substantial missing. One cash register that records the time it is opened showed it was last accessed just before 4 a.m. on Friday morning.

Detectives will be investigating.

May 5, 2016

Hialeah man faces multiple charges in connection with car burglaries

Sheriff’s detectives worked together to solve a string of car burglaries that took place in June and July of 2015 in several locations in the Keys. One suspect, a Hialeah man, was arrested Wednesday and faces numerous related charges.

The multiple vehicle burglaries took place in Marathon, on Big Coppitt Key and in the Stock Island neighborhood of Key Haven. In late June and early to mid-July, 29 year old Williams Alonso traveled multiple times to the Keys to commit the crimes. He entered unlocked vehicles and primarily stole wallets and purses; he then used credit cards from the wallets and purses to purchase merchandise from stores, gas stations, restaurants and on-line. In one instance, he used a debit card to remove cash from an ATM after figuring out the access code was the victim’s last four digits of his social security number – which was also in his wallet.

Detectives Dave Chavka, David Cruz and Scott Ward worked together and, using video from numerous sources, they identified Alonso as their suspect. They obtained video of him committing some of the burglaries as well as multiple videos from the locations where he used the stolen cards.

Warrants were issued for Alonso and on Wednesday, he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center. He faces 20 counts of fraudulent use of credit cards; 9 counts of using another person’s identification without their consent. He also faces two counts of vehicle burglary, theft, grand theft, possessing another person’s identification without their consent and fraudulent use of credit cards.

Lake Worth man charged with exposing himself on the beach

A Lake Worth man was booked into jail Wednesday, charged with exposing himself at Bahia Honda State Park.

The incident took place on March 16th. Deputy Austin Hopp responded to Bahia Honda State Park to a report that a man had exposed himself to two women on the beach. The two 24 year old victims from Georgia told Deputy Hopp they were sitting on the beach when 33 year old John Udovich sat down near them. He was wearing a t-shirt and had a towel wrapped around his waist.

The women said he turned to face them, and opened his legs exposing himself to them. The got up and left the area.

Later, they were walking in another area of the park when he began walking behind them. He was naked from the waist down. The victims said they became afraid and hid in some bushes. As they were hiding, they called 911 to report the incident. Udovich approached them in the bushes and asked them “if they saw anything.” They told him “no” and left, walking to their car.

As Deputy Hopp was talking with the victims, a man wearing a t-shirt and a towel wrapped around his waist approached them. The women identified him as the man who exposed himself to them. Udovich told the deputy he had been experimenting with an “alternative lifestyle” and that was why he was walking nude on the beach.

Udovich was charged Wednesday with an outstanding warrant for indecent exposure.

Search warrant on Stock Island

A Stock Island man was arrested after a search warrant turned up a large amount of marijuana.

Detectives served a search warrant just before 8 a.m. Wednesday at B11 8th Avenue on Stock Island. On the property, there was a downstairs enclosure occupied by Jose Mesa Chacon. In the room, under the bed, detectives found a bag containing 1.96 pounds of marijuana.

Chacon was arrested. He was charged with possessing a felony amount of marijuana and he was booked into jail. Assisting with service of the search warrant was the Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit, Homeland Security Investigations, Monroe And Key West HIDTA groups and Key West Police Department’s Special Operations Unit.

May 4, 201

Teen charged with auto burglary

A 15 year old Key Largo boy was arrested after a vehicle owner caught him inside her vehicle, burglarizing it.

The victim’s car was parked at her home on Bahia Avenue in Key Largo. The victim called at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday to report finding a teenage male in the car. She gave Sheriff’s dispatchers a description – a young, tall, slim black male wearing a baseball hat and dark colored shirt. She said he took off running when she confronted him.

Arriving Deputy Luis Sanchez spotted a young man fitting the description in the area and stopped him. The victim identified the 15 year old as the person who had been in her car. The teen admitted to looking for unlocked cars to burglarize because, he said, he’d lost all his money playing pool at Skipper’s Restaurant.

The 15 year old was arrested. He was charged with vehicle burglary and trespassing and he was turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice for processing.

French woman dies after snorkeling

A 55 year old woman from Paris, France died after snorkeling with her tour group at Grecian Rocks offshore of Key Largo. Her group was on board the vessel “Dolphin” out of John Pennekamp State Park. Deputies responded to the park at 4:45 p.m. after the incident was reported to the Sheriff’s Office.

The vessel came into the park with the victim, Catherine Gray Molay, on board. Someone was performing CPR on her. She was subsequently transported to Mariner’s Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The vessel’s captain told Deputy Benjamin Elmore the group was snorkeling in about 15 feet of water when the victim came back to the vessel with no mask on; she said she was short of breath. The crew gave her oxygen, but moments later the victim became unresponsive and they began to perform CPR. They loaded their passengers back on board and headed in to the dock, calling on the radio for assistance.

An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of the victim’s death.

Two more scams reported

The Sheriff’s Office had two more different types of scams reported Tuesday and would like to make everyone aware so they do not fall victim to these fraudsters.

An Islamorada woman called the Sheriff’s Office Tuesday night to report being scammed by someone she believed worked for a legitimate loan company.

The 60 year old victim said she was trying to obtain a loan from a company called “Easy Loans”. She said a representative called and agreed to give her a $3,000 loan. He told her he deposited money into her bank account and asked her, in return, to purchase Apple ITunes cards and send him the card numbers, which she did. He called her again and told her in order to get the rest of the loan, she needed to send him more of the ITunes cards. She agreed and sent him part of what he was asking for; but when she started to ask questions about the legitimacy of the deal he was offering her, he began to threaten her. He said he would put her bank account in a negative balance, call her employer and have her arrested.

She realized she had been scammed at that point, and called to report it.

An elderly man in Marathon called the Sheriff’s Office to report receiving information he believed was a scam in the mail. Fortunately, he brought the information to the Sheriff’s Office before being victimized.

He received a “Mystery Shopper” letter in the mail, along with a check for almost $2,000 that appeared to be real. The letter instructed him to deposit the check into his bank account, then to email a copy of the deposit slip afterward. His mission: to “evaluate MoneyGram Services” at a local outlet.

The letter instructs him to go to a local MoneyGram store and make two cash transfers to two separate addresses. The letter very specifically tells him not to tell anyone what he is doing. If this man had complied with the all the instructions in the letter he received, the scammers would have had all of his personal bank account information and they would have had access to all of his funds.

If you receive information in the mail, via email or if someone calls you and you have any question about the validity of the information, take a few minutes to call a relative, a friend, or the Sheriff’s Office. Scammers will often use personal information about you to convince you they are legitimate – they might have your address, phone number, names and addresses of relatives. They will try to rush you into action – they don’t want you to have time to consult anyone. They use high pressure tactics and, if you are on the phone with you they will try to keep you on the phone until the scam is complete. Like the Mystery Shopper scam, they will give you all kinds of reasons why you should not talk to anyone about the situation.

Many scams incorporate some type of cash cards – green dot cards, gift cards – because that is a quick way for you to send them cash and, once they have the card number, the money is theirs and is virtually untraceable.  Many scammers will tell you they are sending you a check for a large amount and want you to send money in the form of gift cards or a money gram back to them after you deposit the check. They know a check takes a few days to clear at a bank and by the time you find out their check is fake, they will be gone with your money.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone is approving a loan you know you probably don’t qualify for, ask yourself why they are doing it? If they are rushing you to do something, ask yourself “Why are they in a hurry?” and take the time to stop and think.