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RSS Full Text Feed of Crime-public_Safety for Mobile.

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    SOUTHPORT -- A suspect in a credit card fraud case turned herself in to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday after the case was reported by local media.

    Angela Crumb, 39, called a BCSO investigator and said she was the unidentified suspect in media reports about stolen credit cards being used at local businesses. Crumb, according to BCSO, told the investigator she had found a wallet and used several of the cards inside for more than $700 in purchases.

    Crumb, of Southport, was charged with grand theft and fraudulent use of a credit card.


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    DAYTONA BEACH SHORES — A Volusia County sheriff's helicopter that made a forced landing on the beach Wednesday after the crew experienced a shudder in the engine is back at its hangar where it is being inspected, a sheriff's spokesman said.

    The helicopter has been taken out of service temporarily, said sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson.

    The helicopter, one of several in the fleet referred to as Air One by the Sheriff's Office, was on a routine flight when the crew felt a shudder in the engine and decided to make an emergency landing as a precaution, said Davidson.

    The crew, including pilot Budd Darling, picked a safe location to land on the beach, approximately 1 to 1½ miles north of Ponce Inlet. This was near the 4600 block of Atlantic Avenue, said sheriff's spokesman Brandon Haught.

    The crew brought the helicopter down about 10:24 a.m., with it landing normally and under power, resulting in no injury to the crew or damage to the craft, Davidson said.

    After everything checked out during a visual inspection and preliminary field testing while on the beach, the flight crew flew the helicopter to New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport. They landed shortly before 1 p.m. and additional inspections and tests were performed to ensure the helicopter was safe to fly back to the hangar in DeLand, Davidson said.

    Everything checked out during the stopover so the crew flew the chopper to DeLand, where it arrived about 1:40 p.m.

    “We still don't know what caused the shudder, but we're continuing to evaluate the helicopter and have temporarily taken it out of service while checking it out,” Davidson said. “This will in no way disrupt our aviation services since we have two other helicopters in the fleet.”

     


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    PANAMA CITY — Three leaders of a pair of failed banks pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday to a 12-count indictment alleging they conspired to bilk the government out of nearly $4 million.

    Attorneys for Terry Dubose, Elwood West and Frank Baker did the talking during their first court appearance since they were indicted last month.

    Magistrate Larry Bodiford set their bonds at $25,000 each and outlined the conditions of their pretrial supervision: no guns, drugs or excessive alcohol use; no law violations; no travel outside the Northern District of Florida without written permission; no passports; and no contact between the alleged conspirators except to discuss legal strategies with their attorneys present.

    Investigators worked for two years to build the case against Dubose, West and Baker, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gayle Littleton, who will prosecute the case. She described the allegations against them as “a pretty simple fraud scheme.”

    The men waived their right to a speedy trial. Bodiford set the case for trial in February, despite a push by Claire Rauscher, an attorney representing Dubose, to schedule it for April.

    Rauscher expressed concerns about being able to thoroughly sift through the evidence against the bankers, which she expected to be voluminous due to the length of the investigation. She also anticipated that witnesses in the case would have difficulties with their travel and lodging accommodations if the trial is held during Spring Break.

    Littleton pushed for the earlier trial date, arguing the April date falls during the heaviest period of Spring Break and there would be fewer spring breakers here in late February. The government, she said, is ready to try the case.

    “To push this case to April is not necessary and would cause this case to linger,” she said.

     

    Allegations

    Dubose was a director and chief executive officer for Coastal Community Holdings, which controlled Panama City Beach-based Coastal Community Bank and Port St. Joe-based Bayside Savings Bank. He also was its second largest shareholder.

    West was chief financial officer and Baker, Coastal’s largest shareholder, was a director and an attorney.

    The men put up their banks as collateral when they borrowed $3 million in 2007. A year later, the borrower was pressuring them to pay up when they conspired to defraud a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) program designed to help banks get loans, federal prosecutors charge.

    The FDIC was guaranteeing loans between banks provided the loans were not secured by collateral. The men falsely assured the FDIC that they had not put up collateral on the first loan to secure a second FDIC-guaranteed loan from CenterState Bank, which they then used to repay the initial loan and save their stock in the banks, the indictment says.

    The FDIC took over Bayside Savings and Coastal Community in July 2010, and CenterState filed a claim for the FDIC to pay the $3.8 million they were owed, which the FDIC did.

    Each of the men is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud against the FDIC and seven counts of wire fraud — the counts are each punishable by up to 30 years in prison — as well as three counts of making false statements to the FDIC and one count of aiding and abetting a false claim, each of which are punishable by up to five years in prison.

    “We deny the charges,” Rauscher said. Dubose’s attorney declined further comment, citing court rules that prohibit attorneys from commenting publicly about pending cases.


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    MARIANNA -- More than 30 dogs, four of them dead, were recovered from an abandoned mobile home in Marianna on Thursday.

    According to a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office press release, officials from Jackson County Animal Control, the Office of the State’s Attorney of the 14th Judicial Circuit and deputies from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of animal cruelty at 4381 Frances Drive. Upon arrival, deputies were advised that the homeowner had departed the residence several days ago, leaving a large number of dogs inside the house.

    A preliminary investigation revealed that approximately 30 dogs appeared to have been abandoned inside of a mobile home and an adjoining fenced yard. The dogs appeared to be emaciated and living in unacceptable conditions. Deputies also recovered the bodies of four dead dogs.

    Animal Control officers rescued the surviving dogs and transported them to a humane facility for assessment and treatment. This investigation remains active with charges pending.


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    SOUTH MIAMI, Fla. (AP) — The South Florida man who authorities say killed his wife then apparently posted a photo of his 26-year-old wife's dead body on Facebook possessed a concealed weapon permit and portrayed himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer at his townhouse complex, fellow residents said Friday.

    Derek Medina, 31, turned himself in to police on Thursday after Jennifer Alfonso was fatally shot inside the couple's home in South Miami, a suburb of Miami. When officers responded to the home, they found Alfonso's body, as well as her 10-year-old daughter, who was unharmed. Medina was charged with first-degree murder and will appear in court for the first time Friday.

    His final Facebook post was as chilling as the photograph that followed it.

    "Im going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife love you guys, miss you guys takecare Facebook people you will see me in the news," said the Thursday morning post on Medina's Facebook page.

    He then apparently posted a photo of his 26-year-old wife's body slumped on the floor.

    One neighbor said that Medina approached him more than a year ago while Dade was working out at the apartment complex. Medina told Yoshi Dade, 33, that he was the neighborhood watch patrol for the building. He also told Dade he had a concealed weapons permit. Medina's claims could not be confirmed immediately.

    "He would walk around here and kinda patrol the area. He was always telling me there was a lot of stuff going on around here," said Dade.

    Dade said he thought the incident was bizarre and had only a few other interactions with Medina after that.

    "He was just different," he said.

    Neighbors said Medina was very private and never said hello.

    Lori Wilkinson saw the couple and their daughter several times at the apartment's pool and mailbox and said they seemed like a nice family.

    A neighbor who only identified herself as Sylvia said she was shocked.

    "I couldn't sleep last night. I kept thinking of her," Sylvia said, although she said she did not know the couple.

    According to the affidavit, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Medina said the couple became involved in a heated argument in an upstairs bedroom when he armed himself with a gun and pointed it at her. He said Alfonso left the bedroom, returning later to say she was leaving him. He says he went downstairs and confronted her in the kitchen, when she began punching him. He claims he went back upstairs to get his gun and confronted her again, at which time she grabbed a knife. Medina said he was able to disarm her and put the knife in a drawer, but that when she began punching him again, he shot her several times, the affidavit says.

    The post about the slaying on a Facebook page identified as Medina's went out to friends at 11:11 .a.m. Thursday.

    The post claimed that his wife was punching him and that he wasn't going to stand any more abuse. YouTube videos linked to his Facebook page earlier this week, however, show him working out in a martial arts studio, punching and kicking a heavy bag.

    The next and final post — also at 11:11 a.m. and titled "Rip Jennifer Alfonso" — was a gruesome photograph showing a woman in black leotards slumped on the floor. She looked like she had fallen backward from a kneeling position, with her legs bent to her sides and blood on her left arm and left cheek. The photo was up for more than five hours before Facebook removed the page late Thursday afternoon.

    A Facebook spokeswoman said in an email to The Associated Press that she could not comment on a law enforcement investigation but could provide a general comment from the company.

    "The content was reported to us," the spokeswoman wrote. "We took action on the profile — removing the content and disabling the profile, and we reached out to law enforcement. We take action on all content that violates our terms, which are clearly laid out on our site."

    Police declined comment on the Facebook posts.

    Public records show that Medina and Alfonso first married in January 2010, divorced in February 2012 and then remarried three months later. Medina bought the condominium unit where the couple lived in March 2012 for $107,000.

    On his Facebook page, Medina claimed to be a supervisor at a property management company and to have appeared in the Miami-based crime drama "Burn Notice," though his name doesn't appear in online credits for the show.

    On a personal blog to which the Miami Herald linked, someone named Derek Medina touted e-books of his on subjects ranging from saving marriage through communication to "humans who are gifted and can see the supernatural spirit ghost world we live in."

    "The author was with his wife in New York and his wife was attacked by a ghost," he writes, describing the e-book. "She was seeing a ghost and was being taunted and messed with. She informed her husband and he told her to go to sleep and he would watch over her. Minutes later he was attacked by a demon ghost and he was sick and throwing up."

    Photos posted by Medina on Wednesday show the family enjoying a meal alongside an unnamed marina and lounging beside a swimming pool.

    Police said in the arrest affidavit that Medina never called 911, only turning himself in to police after going to see family and confessing.

    Thursday night, police had taped off the area around the condo complex where the couple lived. The complex is made up of peach-colored townhouses with faded wood roofs.

    Several cars filled the parking area in front of the townhouses as police questioned neighbors and possibly friends of the victim. Some of those gathered were crying.

    Neighbor Phil Eby said he didn't know the couple very well but expressed surprise at the shooting.

    "I met him a couple of times. He seemed like a pretty nice guy," Eby said. "But I don't remember her at all."

    It wasn't immediately clear if Medina had an attorney.

    A company official for The Gables Club, a gated, upscale condominium complex in Coral Gables, said Friday that Medina worked there "briefly," but declined to elaborate on when or why he left the job.

    A maintenance worker, who would not give his name, said he had seen Medina working at the front desk, taking care of calls and the tenants. He said was "a very nice guy, polite."

    When he saw the news this morning and Medina's picture, the worker said, "It can't be. He's too nice."


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    PANAMA CITY — After they arrested Joseph Moody for allegedly shooting his ex-girlfriend, 24-year-old Megan Pettis, police searched Moody’s home and found a suicide note.

    Prosecutors declined to release the note, determining it was a confession and therefore exempt from public disclosure under state law, but March 19 was not the first time he had considered suicide, according to court testimony Friday.

    Jean Marie Downing and Rusty Shepard, attorneys defending Moody against a first-degree murder charge, have sought to have Moody declared incompetent to proceed and sent to a state hospital for treatment. They got what they wanted Friday when Judge Michael Overstreet declared the defendant incompetent after listening to testimony from doctors who evaluated Moody.

    Overstreet said it was “a bit of a close call,” but a doctor told him that Moody was responding to medications being administered at the Bay County Jail and additional treatment would improve the symptoms of Moody’s recurring major depression.

    Moody was an off-duty member of the Panama City Fire Department on March 19 when he allegedly ambushed Pettis in the bustling parking lot of a busy 23rd Street shopping center in broad daylight. He’s accused of firing nine shots at Moody, who was struck in the head and leg as she tried to flee before crashing her car.

    Moody had been on a leave of absence from the fire department in February after he was committed involuntarily to Emerald Coast Behavioral Hospital for nine days because he had been having suicidal thoughts and on-the-job anxiety attacks, according to testimony Friday.

    He checked out after he got a letter from his boss saying he had been cleared to return to work, but he later told a doctor he still was having suicidal thoughts.

    Chief Wayne Watts, who wrote the letter urging Moody to report to his next scheduled shift, said Friday he was not aware at the time that Moody was seeking mental health treatment and a letter like that would be sent to anyone who wasn’t reporting to work as scheduled.

    Moody also had been diagnosed in 2001 or 2002 with delusional disorder, but he was not delusional when one of the doctors who testified examined Moody.

    Prosecutor Bob Sombathy said every member of the jail staff who dealt with Moody described him as disrespectful, aggressive and condescending, and suggested Moody was trying to game the system.

    “Is it fair to say this defendant can adjust his demeanor and attitude if he feels it’s in his self-interest?” Sombathy asked Dr. David Smith.

    Smith admitted he had not seen the traits in Moody that jail staff members reported.

    Overstreet asked one doctor if Moody was manipulative; the doctor didn’t answer the question directly, but he said Moody’s symptoms were genuine. Overstreet concluded he was confident treatment would improve Moody’s condition.

    Pettis, whose estate has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Moody, had been afraid of Moody before she was killed. She told friends and family he had threatened her and would find her.

    Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty for Moody if he’s convicted, Sombathy said.

    Moody tentatively had been scheduled to stand trial in September. The trial will be scheduled after he has undergone competency restoration at the hospital.


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    PANAMA CITY BEACH — A 90-year-old Alabama woman and her 67-year-old daughter who purported to be affiliated with the president were arrested after they refused to leave a condo they stayed in without permission, police reported.

    Ruth Luker and daughter Pamela Luker Mitchell, of Talladega, Ala., were caught by carpet cleaners who showed up to clean a unit in the Aqua Vista Condominiums on Front Beach Road, according to police records. The carpet cleaners called management and management called the unit’s owners.

    The owners had sent the cleaners because they expected the unit would be vacant; after all, they hadn’t rented it to anyone during the four days the women had been staying. The owners told police they wanted the women charged if they didn’t immediately cough up $210 per day plus $115 for cleaning services.

    Police arrived at the room and asked the women if they had permission to be there. Mitchell began immediately to yell at police, and then she started dropping names, investigators reported.

    They had permission all right; the United States attorney general had authorized their stay, Mitchell told police.

    Police said they tried to reason with the women, reminding them they could avoid criminal charges if they simply paid. Mitchell told them she had “the golden key” that allowed her stay in whatever unit she wanted; her uncle owned the whole building, she said.

    Police again threatened to arrest them, but they weren’t going anywhere.

    Police arrested the women, who allegedly continued to resist leaving the room. They also refused to provide any information that would identify them or allow police to contact their family, but Mitchell hinted at her possible employer, investigators reported.

    “Ms. Mitchell stated to me President Obama will not be happy with me for arresting her since she is employed by him directly,” an officer wrote in a report.

    The women had stayed in the unit in May, and they made a duplicate key they used to open the room when they returned, police said.

    The relationship between the women and the federal government is unknown at this time. The White House and the U.S. Attorney General’s Office didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment Friday.


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    PANAMA CITY — The attorney for Jackson County is still a member in good standing of the Florida Bar despite being indicted by a federal grand jury on a dozen felony charges.

    In addition to his role as an attorney for Coastal Community Investments, a holding company that owned two Panhandle banks that failed in 2010, Frank Alfred Baker, of Marianna, has been the attorney for the Jackson County Board of County Commissioners since the 1980s, according to County Administrator Ted Lakey.

    Lakey said the County Commission directly hires two positions: his, the county administrator and Baker’s. Since the commission hired Baker, it would take an act of the commission to alter the contract between the county and Baker, Lakey said.

    The commission meets Tuesday. The meeting agenda doesn’t have any items referring to Baker’s indictment.

    “I don’t know if the topic will come up,” Lakey said. “It’s up to” the commissioners.

    When an attorney is charged with a felony, they are required to report it to the Florida Bar, which will open a case file and monitor the case, according to spokeswoman Zannah Lyle. Under certain circumstances, the bar will suspend the attorney before they have been convicted, Lyle said.

    “In cases where there’s known to be harm to the public, the bar will seek an emergency suspension,” Lyle said.

    Lyle said “harm to the public,” in most cases, involves an attorney who holds a client’s money in trust and misuses the money. She did not say whether Baker’s case would warrant an emergency suspension.

    Baker was also Coastal Community Investments’ largest shareholder. He was indicted along with former chief executive officer Terry Dubose of Panama City Beach and former chief financial officer Elwood West of Monroeville, Ala.

    They have pleaded not guilty to charges they cheated the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) out of $3.8 million.

    The 19-page indictment charges them with conspiracy to defraud the FDIC, seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of making false statements to the FDIC and a count of aiding and abetting a false claim against the United States.


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  • 08/09/13--20:03: Woman injured in crash
  • WEST BAY -- A Marianna woman was seriously injured in a one-vehicle crash on County 388 in western Bay County early Friday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

    FHP said Jody Lee Gunter, 29, was driving a 2004 Ford Ranger when she lost control and ran off the road. The truck overturned and came to rest on the south shoulder of the road.

    She was taken to Gulf Coast Medical Center. An 8-year-old passenger, Kieran Gunter, had minor injuries and was also treated at the hospital.

    The crash remains under investigation and charges had not been filed as of Friday night.


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    PANAMA CITY BEACH -- Panama City Beach police were searching Saturday night for a swimmer who witnesses said disappeared beneath the Gulf behind the Grand Panama Beach Resort.

    The missing person was reportedly with a group of swimmers who were having trouble in the water. When the group made it back to shore, one was unaccounted for, prompting the search.

    More details were unavailable Saturday night.


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    PANAMA CITY BEACH - Panama City Beach police said Sunday they recovered the body of a 27-year-old man who drowned while trying to save distressed swimmers Saturday night.

    Deputies from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office air unit spotted the body of Jamarcus Bell, of Hephzibah, Ga., in the water behind Beach Tower Resort Motel at 12001 Front Beach Road Beach and surf units with Panama City Beach police recovered Bell’s body about 150 yards from shore.

    Bell went missing in the water behind the Grand Panama Beach Resort at 11807 Front Beach Road. Panama City Beach police Corp. Michael Gailfoil said Bell and a friend were attempting to help two women who had become distressed in the water, but became endangered themselves soon afterward.

    “Apparently two females had gotten into trouble out there in the water and (Bell) and a friend of his went in to help them,” Gailfoil said. “Then the friend got into trouble and (Bell) helped him … at some point (Bell) went under.”

    After the group made it back to shore, Bell was unaccounted for and a search began. Yellow flags, indicating moderate surf or current hazards, were on flying during the incident.

    Bell worked at a Pepsi warehouse in Hephzibah and had two children, according to his Facebook page.

    Gailfoil said that such a rescue attempt should not be tried by someone without proper training. But if someone does enter the water to rescue someone, he said, it’s always safer with a flotation device.


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    The Panama City Beach Police Department is investigating a motorcycle traffic crash that occurred on Panama City Beach Parkway just west of Beth Street. at approximately 7:36 pm. Saturday night.

    While eastbound on Panama City Beach Parkway, Donald Clary, of Sylacauga, Alabama, was operating his 2001 Harley Davidson motorcycle, in the outside lane, officials wrote in a news release. While attempting to change over to the inside lane, Mr. Clary lost control of his vehicle, ejecting both occupants, officials added.

    The passenger, Shelia Clary was not seriously injured. Mr. Clary is presently listed in stable condition at Bay Medical Sacred Heart. This crash is still under investigation.


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    CLERMONT — As glass broke, the ground shook and lights went out, vacationers evacuated a central Florida resort building before a sinkhole caused a section of the villa to partially collapse early Monday.

    About 30 percent of the three-story structure collapsed around 3 a.m. Monday, Lake County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Tony Cuellar said, and another section was sinking.

    Witnesses told The Associated Press they could hear a cracking sound as the villa began sinking. A large crack was visible at the building's base.

    Luis Perez, who was staying at a villa near the sinking one, said he was in his room when the lights went off around 11:30 p.m. He said he was on his way to the front desk to report the outage when he saw firefighters and police outside.

    "I started walking toward where they were at and you could see the building leaning and you could see a big crack at the base of the building," said Perez, 54, of Berona, N.J.

    Maggie Ghamry, a guest at the resort, said that when she first heard shaking and glass breaking, she thought it might be kids running down the hall.

    "Next thing I know, people are yelling 'get out of the building, get out of the building,'" she said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

    Paul Caldwell, the development's president, said 48 three-story units are a total loss. The resort has about 900 units spread over a large area about 10 miles west of Walt Disney World.

    He said a window popped in one of the rooms about 10:30 p.m. Sunday. A woman ran outside and flagged down a security guard, who notified management. Another window then popped and a decision was made to immediately evacuate the building, Caldwell said. The process took 10 to 15 minutes, he said.

    He said that the resort was built about 15 years ago and had undergone geologic testing at the time, showing the ground to be stable. He said that before Sunday, there were no signs that a sinkhole was developing. He said all the affected guests had been given other rooms.

    The sinkhole comes five months after one elsewhere in Florida killed a man.

    Monday's sinkhole, which is in the middle of the villa, is about 40 to 50 feet in diameter, Cuellar said. He said authorities think it was getting deeper but couldn't tell early Monday if it was growing outward. A nearby villa was also evacuated as a precaution and that there had been a sign of a gas leak, but the gas had been shut off.

    Summer Bay is described on its website as a luxury resort with condominiums, two-bedroom villas and vacation houses in addition to standard rooms. The site touts a clubhouse, atrium and poolside bar, and says the resort is on a secluded 64-acre lake.

    Florida has a long, ongoing problem with sinkholes, which cause millions of dollars in damage in the state annually. On March 1, a sinkhole underneath a house in Seffner, about 60 miles southwest of the Summer Bay Resort, swallowed a man who was in his bed. His body was never recovered.

    But such fatalities and injuries are rare, and most sinkholes are small. Sinkholes can develop quickly or slowly over time.

    They are caused by Florida's geology — the state sits on limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water, with a layer of clay on top. The clay is thicker in some locations making them even more prone to sinkholes.

    Other states sit atop limestone in a similar way, but Florida has additional factors like extreme weather, development, aquifer pumping and construction.


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    PANAMA CITY — A grand jury has indicted a man suspected of kidnapping a Panama City Beach woman from her home and driving her to a brothel in Mississippi with plans to put her to work as a prostitute for a multistate sex-trafficking organization.

    Jacobo Feliciano-Francisco, who also is known as Uriel Castillo-Ochoa and Kiko, is charged with kidnapping, retaliating against a witness and transporting and coercing an individual for prostitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Feliciano-Francisco, 30, was arrested by Hattiesburg, Miss., police after the victim escaped from a home where she was being held.

    The News Herald does not identify victims of sex crimes.

    According to the indictment:

    The victim had been forced to work as a prostitute for about three years between 2009 and 2011 for a network of brothels and pimps in Tennessee and Kentucky before she cooperated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Her testimony against the defendants, who forced undocumented aliens from Spanish-speaking counties to work as prostitutes, resulted in 13 convictions.

    The victim still was living in Tennessee in fall 2012 when she was confronted by an unnamed individual about her cooperation with the government. She and her family were relocated to Panama City Beach out of fear for their safety, though she was not part of the witness protection program.

    Feliciano-Francisco and other unnamed individuals conspired to kidnap the victim, take her to Louisiana and put her back to work as a prostitute in retaliation for testifying against the organization.

    Just before noon June 27, Feliciano-Francisco and another man pulled up outside the victim’s home and ordered her into their car. One of the men put his hand near his waistband, intimating he had a gun, and threatened the victim’s uncle and her children as a warning against contacting police.

    By 6:30 p.m., the victim called her husband crying to say she was safe at the Hattiesburg Police Department. She led police to the house she had escaped, where police arrested Feliciano-Francisco, who allegedly had raped her at some point during the kidnapping. She was being held there until another unnamed person brought her to Louisiana.

    Feliciano-Francisco pleaded not guilty to the five-count indictment during his first appearance in court Monday. His trial is scheduled for Dec. 9, and he faces a maximum sentence of life behind bars if he’s convicted.

    The case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Risinger. The indictment was the result of an investigation by the FBI and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

     

    Below is an earlier version of this report

    PANAMA CITY – A case against an alleged kidnapper with ties to a prostitution ring has moved forward, officials wrote Monday.

    A federal grand jury indicted 30-year-old Jacobo Feliciano-Francisco, a/k/a “Uriel Castillo-Ochoa”, a/k/a “Kiko”, on charges of kidnapping, retaliating against a witness, and transporting an individual in interstate commerce for prostitution, officials wrote in a news release.

    According to the indictment a witness, referred to in the indictment as “F.T.” cooperated with authorities to bring down a prostitution ring located in Tennessee and Kentucky. The ring, which operated between 2006 and 2011, created a network of brothels and prostitution delivery services using undocumented aliens from Spanish-speaking countries.

    F.T., cooperated with the FBI in its investigation into these individuals after she was “forced and coerced” into working as a prostitute for approximately three years, the indictment states. Due to her cooperation, a total of 13 individuals were convicted in Tennessee and Kentucky of various federal sex-trafficking and prostitution criminal charges, officials wrote.

    “In the fall of 2012, following her cooperation with law enforcement, F.T. was approached at her Tennessee residence by another individual and confronted about her cooperation,” they added. “Out of concern for the safety of F.T. and her family, she and her family were relocated to Panama City Beach, Florida.”

    After she relocated Feliciano-Francisco and others worked together to find and kidnap her and during the kidnapping F.T. was sexually assaulted by Feliciano-Francisco, and he and others repeatedly threatened the physical safety of both her and her family.

    Feliciano-Francisco plead not guilty to the charges. He faces life in prison if convicted. His trial is scheduled for December. 


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    PANAMA CITY — A grand jury has indicted a man suspected of kidnapping a Panama City Beach woman from her home and driving her to a brothel in Mississippi with plans to put her to work as a prostitute for a multistate sex-trafficking organization.

    Jacobo Feliciano-Francisco, who also is known as Uriel Castillo-Ochoa and Kiko, is charged with kidnapping, retaliating against a witness and transporting and coercing an individual for prostitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Feliciano-Francisco, 30, was arrested by Hattiesburg, Miss., police after the victim escaped from a home where she was being held.

    The News Herald does not identify victims of sex crimes.

    According to the indictment:

    The victim had been forced to work as a prostitute for about three years between 2009 and 2011 for a network of brothels and pimps in Tennessee and Kentucky before she cooperated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Her testimony against the defendants, who forced undocumented aliens from Spanish-speaking counties to work as prostitutes, resulted in 13 convictions.

    The victim still was living in Tennessee in fall 2012 when she was confronted by an unnamed individual about her cooperation with the government. She and her family were relocated to Panama City Beach out of fear for their safety, though she was not part of the witness protection program.

    Feliciano-Francisco and other unnamed individuals conspired to kidnap the victim, take her to Louisiana and put her back to work as a prostitute in retaliation for testifying against the organization.

    Just before noon June 27, Feliciano-Francisco and another man pulled up outside the victim’s home and ordered her into their car. One of the men put his hand near his waistband, intimating he had a gun, and threatened the victim’s uncle and her children as a warning against contacting police.

    By 6:30 p.m., the victim called her husband crying to say she was safe at the Hattiesburg Police Department. She led police to the house she had escaped, where police arrested Feliciano-Francisco, who allegedly had raped her at some point during the kidnapping. She was being held there until another unnamed person brought her to Louisiana.

    Feliciano-Francisco pleaded not guilty to the five-count indictment during his first appearance in court Monday. His trial is scheduled for Dec. 9, and he faces a maximum sentence of life behind bars if he’s convicted.

    The case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Risinger. The indictment was the result of an investigation by the FBI and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.  


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    ATLANTA — The mother of a man who died after falling from the upper deck of Turner Field in Atlanta was a life-long Braves fan.

    Connie Homer of Conyers, Ga., tells The Associated Press her only son, 30-year-old Ronald Lee Homer Jr., told her in a cell phone call from the Monday night game that rain was starting to let up and he was preparing to go back in the stadium. She says he ended the call in his typical way, telling his mother he loved her.

    She says her son did landscape work outside Atlanta.

    Homer fell during Monday night's game between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. Atlanta police spokesman John Chafee says there's no indication of foul play, and the fall appears to have been an accident.

     


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    LYNN HAVEN - An Estonian selling children's books was sent to jail for failing to have the proper license, Bay County Sheriff’s officials wrote in a news release.

    Investigators said they received numerous calls about door-to-door peddlers but most of them have the proper licenses and are operating legally. However, on Monday investigators arrested Lauri Luden, 20. Luden was charged with violation of peddlers ordinance, officials wrote in a news release.

    “Luden approached a woman in the Derby Woods area to sell books and she was concerned when he began asking many questions about her children,” a news release states. Luden's approach may have set off an "alert" on social media. 

    "An "alert" going around within the social media community informing people that there is a scam in the US involving Russian people going door-to-door purporting to sell children's books, when in reality they are trying to get information on the children in the home," wrote BCSO Spokeswoman Ruth Corley in an email to The News Herald. "We have not been able to corroborate the information in this "alert" with anything we have investigated here in Bay County."

    Bay County Ordinance requires peddlers solicit only between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and one-half hour before sunset, officials added.

    "Deputies and investigators are reminding peddlers of this ordinance and will take enforcement action if it becomes necessary,” the news release states. “Residents are encouraged to contact local law enforcement should they have any concerns or complaints about door-to-door peddlers.”


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    PANAMA CITY BEACH -- Deputies with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office are asking the public to help them identify a suspect in the theft of more than $200 in scratch-off lottery tickets.

    Around 11 a.m. on Sunday, a white man came in to the Edgewater Food Mart on Thomas Drive and took more than 70 scratch-offs, which cost $3 a piece, and took off in a dark-colored SUV. The Florida Lottery said the tickets were cashed the next morning at various locations in Bay County.

    The BCSO has released images of the suspect. Anyone with information about the individual is asked to contact the BCSO at 747-4700 or CrimeStoppers at 785-TIPS (8477). 


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    PANAMA CITY BEACH -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation is asking for help identifying a man wanted for questioning in connection with the kidnapping of a Panama City Beach woman in June.

    The FBI released a sketch of the man. He is considered armed and dangerous, and anyone with information about his identity or location is asked to contact the bureau’s Jacksonville office at 904-248-7000.

    On Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Panama City announced a five-count indictment of a Jacobo Feliciano-Francisco. The indictment alleges Feliciano-Francisco and another man abducted a woman from outside her home and took her to Hattiesburg, Miss., with plans to put her to work as a prostitute in retaliation for her cooperation with the FBI in a sex-trafficking prosecution.

    The victim was able to escape her captors and lead police to Feliciano-Francisco.


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    PANAMA CITY -- A 48-year-old man who brought Viagra, handcuffs, a knife and a first aid kit from Mobile to Bay County to have sex with someone he thought was a 13-year-old he met online faces up to life in prison after he was convicted in U.S. District Court, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

    Jeffery Roy was found guilty after a two-day trial of using the Internet to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity and travelling to meet a minor for sex. He faces a minimum of 10 years when he is sentenced in November.

    Roy was one of a dozen men arrested last year in a multi-agency sting operation called Operation Riptide, in which law enforcement officers posed as children in order to lure potential predators.


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