Coronavirus Crime Chronicles: What you'd only expect from the "Florida man"
A few years back, there was a Florida man challenge circulating the internet.
Basically it went like this:
People Googled “Florida man “ followed by the month and date of their birthday. Then, you were to share the best, wild ‘Florida Man’ story that happened on your birthday.
The challenge was basically a big joke on all Florida’s crazy headlines.
We’ve decided to do something a bit similar - we’re going to catalog the Florida Coronavirus arrests that make the news. Some may be more serious than others.
In this blog, we’ll share the Coronavirus Crime Chronicles: What you’d only expect from the Florida man. We’ll update with new arrests every few days.
Miami Police officer punished for Trump Mask at polling place
Turns out... The Florida Man can even mess up following the rules that require masks at polling places... Near an early voting polling location for the 2020 presidential ellection, a Miami, Florida police officer wore a mask supporting President Donald Trump. It's unclear whether or not Officer Ubeda was on duty or not at the time, but he was in full uniform and was armed.
Thankfully, the Miami Polcie department has said: "This behavior is unacceptable, a violation of departmental policy and is being addressed immediately."
Florida law says that state employees cannot use offical authority to interfere in or influence elections.
On top of coronavirus, catfishing (romance scamming) seems to be another pandemic rinning rampant in South Florida
A recent study - which used FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center Data - was just released indicating that catfishing scams are on the rise in Florida during the coronavirus pandemic.
What is Catfishing in Florida?
Catfishing is a process someone uses to lure someone else into a relationship by using a fake online persona. This tactic is often used by adults to lure children into unsafe situations and relartionships - sometimes adults will pose as pre-teens and befriend other pre-teens online and arrange for meet ups, etc.
The idea is similar involving adults, and catfishing is usually a type of romance scam employed on a dating website - the person who is "catfishing" partakes in a deceptive activity by creating a fake identity online or on a social media site, and then targets someone (a victim) for abuse or fraud.
In all of 2019, Americans lost more than $200 million to romance scammers - and Florida had the second-most victims of catfishing and romance scams of all states. Americans lost more money to romance scams than any other scam in 2019. Florida had the second-highest number of catfishing romance scam victims as any state in the US with 1,363 reported romance scam victims. California had the most with about 2,200 victims and Texas was a close third with 1,287 victims.
The Palm Beach Post reported in February 2020 that the FBI reported Florida lost MILLIONS of dollars to romance scammers. More than $20 million was lost by Floridians.
Catfishing in South Florida: 5 tricks Romance Scammers are using during the coronavirus pandemic
- Saying they can't meet in person due to COVID-19: Most catfish scammers have excuses as to why they can't meet - sometimes popular excuses are the person pretends to be in the military or another country. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, all catfish romance scammers now have a built-in, less-suspicious reason they're unable to meet in person.
- Need Money for a COVID Emergency: Once a catfishes establishes an emotional connection with a victim (usually, a lonely person - but in COVID there's a lot more lonely people), they will say they are sick and need help with medical bills or other essentials like food. Don't fall for the lies - even if you have an emotional connection, it is NOT normal for someone you haven't met to ask you for money in an emergency - people would rely on closest friends and family for this kind of support.
- Overly Sweet, Quickly Confessing their Love: Especially if you're not seeing friends and family as much during the pandemic, someone's sweet words or confessions of undying love might seem even more attractive to you - beware of things that are too good to be true.
- Moving too fast: If you feel like an online or social media realtionship is moving too fast -- listen to that feeling and beware! Scammers have more time at home during the pandemic, too, and they have more time to try to chat with you to build trust and try to get into your bank account quickly. Go slow, ask lots of questions.
- Avoid Video Chatting: This is a very common excuse to avoid 'face to face' contact - Oftentimes people will say their video camera is broken, or they have a bad or slow wifi connection. This is a BIG red flag. People will not want to video chat is they are pretending to be someine else, and are not the person in the photos on their account.
Remember: You can't trust what you see online. People can lie about their gender, sexual identity and preference, age, where they live - and so much more. You can present yourself as anything you want online regardless of who you really are. Be very careful.
Catfishing in South Florida: 6 ways to avoid being a victim of Catfishing romance scams
- Never give money: No matter what -- don't give money to anyone you meet online. Period. Just. Don't. Do. It.
- Don't give personal information: Scammers can use VERY basic information to commit identity fraud and get access to your bank accounts -- for example - where you live, your mom's maiden name, the street you live on, where you went to school, your first car, your favorite color, etc - while these things may seem simple there are many "simple" pieces of information that are security question answers on your sensity accounts.
- Take things slow: If you like someone online, great! Just don't let them push you. Romance scammers will usually be pushy about falling in love immediately. If that's the case, know that something isn't right.
- Meet or video chat: If the person will not video chat or meet in person -- DON'T form a relationship with them. They cannot be trusted to be who they say they are.
- Compare with Nigerian Scam Playbook: You can actually find playbooks on how to romance scam people -- if you're worried someone may be trying to scam you - look up a play book. If what they say to you is similar or the same as something you find online, it is a MAJOR RED FLAG. They are likely jsut copying and pasting everything they're telling you. All for the purpose of trying to steal your money.
- Research: Look up the person's name and photo to see if it's been used online elsewhere.
Catfishing in South Florida: How to report Catfishing in Florida
If you suspect that an online relationship is a scam, stop contact with the person immediately. If you suspect someine is trying to scam you, or if you have been the victim of a romance scam - file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Unfortunately, the IRS and FBI have some legal attaches in foreign countries, but if you've been the victim of a romance scam by someone in another country, there is very little ability to prosecute the criminal. The best thing to do is to notice and report catfishing before you are a victim. Here is another Florida FBI resource on how to be aware of romance scammers online.
Florida Man with Machete dies in police shooting
A Florida man with a machete was fatally shot by Florida police in October after a fight with his sister in Polk County, according to FOX news.
His sister, at the scne, told deputies that her 28-year-old brother was paranoid and likely schizophrenic. She allgedly tolf deputies that her brother said police would ahve to shoot him because he had the machete.
When police arrived, the man ran into a bathroom in the apartment - when inside, the man told police he poured gasoline everywhere. And the police could smell it. The deputies - worries the man had a lighter - used a chemical agent to get him out of the bathroom. After about 45 minutes of engaging - the man put the machete over his head and charged the deputies. The duputies fired at the man.
The deputies attempted life-saving measures until Fire Rescue arrived to continue them -- but the Florida Man died at the scene.
While the deputies did everything they could do de-escalate and bring a peaceful conclusion to the situation, the Sheriff said the man put them in a position where they were forced to protect themselves and others around them. Deputies are on paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated.
Unfortunately, mental health crises can lead to criminal cases more often than one might think. To learn more about mental health and the law, and how lawyers and mental health professionals can better work togther in Florida check out our blog: South Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys and Therapists Need to work Together.
South Florida Man - a rapper - allegedly used COVID-19 relief money to buy - wait for it - A FERRARI
South Florida rapper and reality star Diamond Blue Smith has been charged with taking more than $1 Million from a federal coronavirus relief loan program and some of it using it to buy a nearly $100,000 Ferrari.
The Miami Herald is calling it one of the country's larges coronavirus relief scemes.
Smith and another person were arrestd the week of Oct. 5 for their roles in a $24 Million Covid-19 relief fraud sceme. They face charges including Wire Fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
11 other defendants are being charged in connection with the fraudulant use of the CARES Act program benefits.
"Federal prosecutors in Miami allege that Smith, also known as “Baby Blue,” obtained $427,000 in a PPP loan through his company, Throwbackjersey.com, by falsifying documents for the SBA loan. A bank approved the loan, which is guaranteed by the SBA. He also allegedly obtain another loan of $708,00 through another company, Blue Star Records LLC," according to an article. "The FBI’s investigation revealed Smith was allegedly part of a broader scheme involving others who helped filed for the coronavirus relief funds while taking kickbacks."
Florida Man threatened a shooting at Publix due to not enough people wearing face masks
A Florida man was arrested for threatening a mass shooting at a Florida Publix store because enough people were not wearing masks to prevent and slow the spread of Coronavirus.
The 62-year-old man- Robert Kovner - was arrested by Highlands County Sheriff's Office after Kovner published the threat on Facebook, according to the Miami Herald. Kovner was arrested, booked at jail with felony charges related to making a written threat of a mass shooting. His bond was set at $30,000.
Florida Man threatened to spread coronavirus during arrest
A Florida man threatened to give police officers COVID-19 during a domestic violence arrest.
Brent Smith,46, returned home drunk one evening and got into a fight with his mother, whom he allegedly threatened with a butter knife, according to NY Daily News. He shoved her several times, then grabbed a butter knife and screamed 'I will kill you!' according to the Volusia County sheriff's department.
While coughing on police during the arrest, Smith is reported to have said: "I hope you die ... I hope you catch corona. I hope the coronavirus, I hope it latches on to you." Smith's COVID-19 status was unknown.
Due to a past criminal history, smith is being held in jail without bond.
Florida Man, an Inmate released due to coronavirus, now Faces Murder Charges
A Florida man, who was an inmate released from prison due to coronavirus concerns, is already back in prison. Now, he's facing murder charges.
This comes as a disappointment in many ways, as there are many eligible inmates who do not pose a threat to the community who are trying to get out of prison on "compassionate release" due to the coronavirus conditions in prison.
Joseph Williams, 26, was released from custody March 19 - he was awaiting trial for possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia, according to The Hill. He was arrested for allegedly participating in a Tampa homicide March 20. He's facing a second-degree murder charge. He's also charged with violently resisting a police officer, possessing heroin and drug paraphernalia, and with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.
"Hillsbrough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said Williams 'took advantage of this health emergency to commit crimes'," according to The Hill.
Florida Man Arrested after Claiming his Wife Died from Coronavirus (photo at top of article)
He claimed his wife died from coronavirus. Days later, he was arrested in New Mexico and charged with second-degree murder and kidnapping for allegedly killing his wife.
The Florida man, 43-year-old David Anthony, and his wife, 51-year-old Gretchen Anthony, lived in Jupiter, Florida - not too far north of Fort Lauderdale. According to 10 News, Jupiter Police Department began investigating Gretchen’s disappearance on March 26 after family reported her missing.
A witness allegedly told police they received a text from Gretchen March 23 “saying she had the coronavirus and was being held by the ‘CDC’ at Jupiter Medical Center,” according to the article.
Officers went to Gretchen’s home, no one answered. The medical center said she hadn’t been there since 2008. Then, police found her Mini Cooper sitting empty in the medical center’s parking lot.
Others also received suspicious texts mentioning treatment of COVID-19 and being sedated for treatment.
When police revisited the house on March 26, a neighbor asked if they were investigating “the attack” that occurred over the weekend. The neighbor said they heard a woman scream and say “No! No, it hurts.”
Others said they say David’s truck with tarps and an unknown mix of liquids seeping out from under the garage door. When searching the home, police found rags, cleaners, blood and bleach stains and broken door frames. A cadaver dog alerted both in the home and David’s car.
He was arrested in New Mexico March 31. He’ll be extradited back to Palm Beach County.
For more information, read the full news report here.
More information is also on the Jupiter Police Department’s Facebook Page
From police: We are urging anyone with information about this case to call the Jupiter Police Department at 561-741-2235.
Update!! Missing Person/Homicide Arrest The Jupiter Police Department is asking for your help with any information...Posted by The Jupiter Police Department on Tuesday, April 7, 2020