Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Daily Crime and Information Report

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


January 17, 2003

Marathon deputies make drug arrest

Marathon - Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man for possessing a large amount of powdered cocaine Wednesday in Marathon.

Deputies Chuck Kellenberger and Louis Rivera were on bike patrol in the area of 15th street. They were conducting the special patrol in response to citizen complaints of drug sales in the area. Deputies Kellenberger and Rivera observed 24 year old Victor Hugo Diaz outside on the street, consuming alcohol with another man.

Diaz identified himself as the tenant of a nearby trailer.  The deputies asked for consent to search the trailer and Diaz agreed. Just inside the trailer door they found 31 bags of a white powdery substance that field tested positive for cocaine.

Diaz was charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, and was booked at the Marathon corrections facility.

Special Investigations detectives arrest two more in Operation Bogart

Monroe County – Sheriff’s detectives with the Special Investigations Division, working with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, arrested two more high level drug dealers in an ongoing investigation into crack cocaine sales in the upper Keys and Homestead areas.

The ongoing investigation has been dubbed “Operation Bogart” because of the many crack cocaine sales which have taken place in the parking lot of the Caribbean Club in Key Largo. That location, along with other locations in Key Largo and Homestead, have been targeted during the course of the operation. Detectives say the Caribbean Club parking lot is a major meeting place for drug dealers and purchasers in the upper Keys. Sheriff’s detectives have been working together with the DEA and Homestead Police to arrest those dealers, hoping to slow the traffic of crack cocaine into Homestead and the Keys.

On Thursday, two more high level dealers were arrested at a gas station in Homestead. The two dealers met with undercover operatives with the intention of selling them $4,000.00 of crack cocaine. When they showed up to make the sale at 11 a.m., they were arrested immediately.

28 year old Marshell Cooper and 24 year old Chalonda Williams were both federally charged with conspiracy sale of cocaine. Those charges are all inclusive, and cover numerous cocaine sales from both of them over the past few months, as well as Cooper’s possession of 15 grams of crack at the time of the arrest.

According to detectives, they were charged federally because of the high level and large extent of the criminal enterprise they are involved in. The criminal enterprise being investigated during Operation Bogart involves numerous high level dealers responsible for large amounts of cocaine sales, both in the upper Keys and in the Homestead, Florida City and South Miami-Dade County areas.

The investigation is continuing. Assisting in the two arrests were K-9 teams from the Florida Highway Patrol and officers from the Homestead Police Department.


January 13, 2003

Drug Dealer arrested

(Stock Island) A tip from a citizen helped Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputies arrest a suspected drug dealer and confiscate cocaine and cash. The incident started Saturday afternoon when a citizen flagged down a Deputy to report drug dealing in a vacant lot at the corner of Macdonald Avenue and Second Street on Stock Island. Deputies Mark Long and James Williams located 53-year old Gerardo Garcia near the vacant lot. After a pat down to check for weapons, they asked Garcia what was in his right pocket. He produced a small bottle and gave it to the officer. The bottle contained what appeared to be crack cocaine rocks. A field test confirmed the presence of the illegal drug. The Deputies searched Garcia, locating a second bottle filled with crack rocks and a small amount of powdered cocaine. In all, the Deputies search of Garcia yielded 80 crack rocks and one-point five grams of powdered cocaine plus 425 dollars in cash. Garcia told the Deputies he was selling the cocaine for ten dollars a rock. Garcia was taken to the county jail after he was arrested on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to sell.


January 10, 2003

Two teens charged with mailbox damage on Big Pine

Big Pine Key – Two 18 year old boys were arrested Thursday and charged with damaging at least 16 mailboxes on Big Pine Key over night.

According to Sgt. Daryl Hull and Detective John McGee, the two boys allegedly drove through various subdivisions on Big Pine Key in a pickup truck between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. They both used a wooden dowel about four feet long to hit the mailboxes. They damaged boxes in Port Pine Heights, Tropical Bay Estates, Eden Pines and Palm Villa as well as on Watson Boulevard and South Streets.

18 year old Charles Severance and 18 year old Jesse Reed were both charged with 16 counts of criminal mischief. They were released on their own recognizance after giving full written confessions to the crimes.

More charges may be pending.


January 3, 2003

Man arrested for stealing credit card, using it for cash

Marathon – A Marathon man was arrested Thursday for stealing a credit card in June, then using it to withdraw money from an ATM machine.

The victim called the Sheriff’s Office after he got a statement showing that $108.00 in cash had been charged to a Capitol One card issued in his name. He told detectives he’d applied for the card, but never received it.

Detectives Lionel Vargas and Rick Martin worked together with the victim, with TIB bank in Marathon and with a fraud investigator from Capitol One to investigate the case. They discovered by viewing video printouts from tapes taken at an ATM machine at TIB Bank that Herberth Guzman was the one to withdraw the cash from the machine, charging it to the victim’s Capitol One account. The victim recognized Guzman as one of his tenants, a man who lived at the same location the victim receives his mail.

When detectives reviewed the card’s history, it showed someone activated it by phone in June, then attempted to use it a number of times between then and September. It was during one of those attempts that Guzman was able to obtain the cash.

Detectives Vargas and Martin, using as interpreter Deputy William Guerra, confronted Guzman. Guzman admitted to taking the credit card from the victim’s mail, activating it and using it numerous times.

Guzman was arrested Thursday and charged with theft. He was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center with his bond set at $5,000.00.


January 2, 2003

Vehicle burglaries on the rise with tourist season

Monroe County – Vehicle burglaries are on the rise in the county with the increase in visitors and winter residents. Once again, the Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone to lock your vehicle’s doors and put valuables out of site.

The Sheriff’s Office has responded to 24 vehicle burglary reports since December 20th. Eleven of those were in the upper Keys, 7 in the middle Keys and 6 in the lower Keys. The vehicle break-ins are taking place in various locations and under all different types of circumstances. Seven of the burglaries took place at bridges and beaches in the Keys. People park their cars to go fishing, sightseeing or to take pictures and don’t take the time to lock the doors, or secure the valuables before leaving the vicinity of the vehicle. Twelve of the break-ins took place while the vehicles were parked at Keys businesses. Break-ins are also taking place in residential neighborhoods, while vehicles are parked overnight in driveways or on the street. When you park your car at your home, remember to remove the keys and any valuables, and lock the doors. Items commonly being stolen include purses and bags, cash, cameras and camcorders, cellular phones, jewelry and credit cards.

Most vehicle burglaries are crimes of opportunity. If you don’t present a criminal with an easy opportunity, most of the time you will avoid becoming a victim of such a crime.

Crime Stoppers tip results in bad check arrest

Key West – A Crime Stoppers tipster was instrumental in the arrest of a man passing bad checks in the Keys over the holidays.

42 year old Jeffrey Howard was arrested New Year’s Eve and charged with grand theft and uttering a forged instrument. He is accused of writing a stolen check to Marathon Jewelry on December 14th for almost $2,000.00 worth of jewelry. The check he wrote was stolen from an Exxon gas station in Cocoa Beach, Florida in September of 2000. Howard is reportedly from that area. A number of other businesses in the Keys have also reported receiving payment on goods with these stolen checks.

Detective Rick Martin was assigned to investigate the case. The owner of Marathon Jewelry was able to give the detective a description of the suspect, and said he produced a Washington State driver’s license with the name “Ronald Stinson” on it. An alert was issued by the Sheriff’s Office asking that anyone who knew a person resembling the description contact Crime Stoppers or the Sheriff’s Office immediately.

Over the next few days, the Crime Stoppers hot line received 20 calls identifying the suspect as Jeffrey Howard. The tips gave his home address as being on Grinnell Street in Key West. Detective Martin pulled a copy of Howard’s Florida driver’s license photo and did a photo line up with the owner of Marathon Jewelry. He positively identified Howard as the man who bought jewelry from his store with the stolen check.

Howard was arrested and was booked into the Monroe County Detention center Tuesday, charged with grand theft and uttering a forged instrument. More charges are pending against him.

Debt over football bet leads to burglary arrest

Islamorada – A Tavernier man was arrested Tuesday afternoon after he broke into an Islamorada home demanding to be paid for a bet made on a football game.

40 year old Robert Lacerra allegedly broke down the door at a residence on Coral Road in Islamorada Tuesday at 1:45 p.m. A man sleeping inside heard the door breaking and called 911 for help. He was on the phone with Sheriff’s dispatchers as Lacerra burst into his room demanding that he hang up the phone or he’d kill him. Lacerra told the man his roommate, Brian Anderson, owed him money from a bet they made over a football game.

Deputies en route to the call spotted a white Mustang convertible speeding away from the home and pulled it over. Lacerra and a woman were inside the car. Lacerra was brought back to the residence as the investigation progressed. At that point, Anderson returned to the residence. He said he’d been at the bank getting money to pay Lacerra for the bet.

Lacerra was arrested and charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling and he was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center.