MIAMI (AP) — A South Florida police officer has been charged with fraudulently applying for a COVID-19 relief advance grant and low-interest loan.
A federal grand jury in Miami returned an indictment Wednesday against the 44-year-old Coral Springs police officer, according to court records. The officer faces one count of wire fraud, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
The officer’s attorney said the government has been investigating for over a year, and he questions the strength of the prosecution’s case.
According to the indictment, the officer submitted a fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loan application and loan agreement to the U.S. Small Business Administration on behalf of his personal business. The application falsely and fraudulently certified that the business had gross revenues of $100,000 during the year prior to January 31, 2020, investigators said.
The indictment also charges the officer with falsely and fraudulently certifying that he would use the funds only for business expenses to alleviate economic injury that the COVID-19 pandemic caused to the business. Officials said the officer spent more than $21,000 of the loan money at a car repair and detailing company for luxury vehicles and high-end auto parts.
State Reps. Eskamani, Smith, Morales Score A on Progress Florida 2022 Report Card on Key Votes
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Progress Florida, in partnership with Florida Watch, released their People First Report Card in which they graded each Florida lawmaker “based on their voting record on issues that matter to everyday Floridians: health, the economy, public schools, housing affordability, clean energy and water, reproductive freedom, equality, safeguarding democracy, and more.”
Here’s how the Orange County Legislative Delegation fared based on their voting records.
Orange County State Legislative Delegation Members:
Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith | District 49: A – 100%
Representative Anna V. Eskamani | District 47: A – 100%
Representative Daisy Morales | District 48: A – 97%
Representative Travaris L. McCurdy | District 46: A- 97%
Representative Geraldine F. Thompson | District 44: A – 97%
Representative Joy Goff-Marcil | District 30: A – 97%
Senator Victor M. Torres, Jr. | District 15: A – 94%
Representative Kamia L. Brown | District 45: B – 88%
Senator Randolph Bracy | District 11: B – 83%
Senator Linda Stewart | District 13: B – 81%
Representative Keith Truenow | District 31: F – 36%
FloridaReportCard.com not only shows each lawmaker’s grades, but upon clicking each lawmaker’s photo, it also lists the slate of bills that Florida Watch and Progress Florida prioritized as important (“Good for Floridians” or “Bad for Floridians”) and the lawmaker’s vote on each of those bills using three simple criteria:
- Vote did not count for or against putting people first.
- Voted to put people first.
- Voted against putting people first.
The organizations highlight some of the most polarizing legislation, labeled to match their interpretation of the bills (i.e. “Don’t Say Gay”, “Fleecing Renters”, “Gerrymandered Congressional Representation”, etc.) and, along the right side of a lawmaker’s page, lists the key bills important to them overall, with an option to visit report cards from previous years.
Among the Orange County delegation, State Reps. Carlos G. Smith and Anna Eskamani tied for the top spot with 100 percent scores. Four state lawmakers occupied second place at 97 percent, including Reps. Daisy Morales, Travaris McCurdy, Geraldine Thompson, and Joy Goff-Marcil.
“This legislature will be remembered as one of the most extreme and divisive in Florida history,” said Josh Weierbach, Florida Watch Executive Director.
“While Gov. (Ron) DeSantis and his legislative allies were busy attacking reproductive freedom, the LGBTQ community, workers, and the freedom to vote, they failed to meaningfully address critical needs including housing affordability, access to health care, common sense gun violence reforms, and the climate crisis.”
“We encourage all Floridians to use the ‘People First’ Report Card as a resource to find out who in Tallahassee truly has their backs.”
Crime Stoppers USA Takes Attorney General Moody’s Crime Reporting Line Nationwide
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—When looking for great ideas to fight crime, organizations need to look no further than Florida. That is what Crime Stoppers USA did, and today the national organization joined Attorney General Ashley Moody to announce that Florida’s statewide crime reporting tip line will be used nationwide. Attorney General Moody launched **TIPS in October of 2020 to bring uniformity and ease to anonymous crime reporting—an effort to better engage the community in solving crime.
Now, anyone from anywhere in the country, can report crime tips anonymously by dialing **TIPS (8477). When dialing **TIPS from any cellphone in the United States, the caller will automatically be routed to the Crime Stoppers office in the region where the call is generated.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “As Attorney General, I am always looking for ways to better protect Floridians and engage citizens to help enhance public safety. The fact that the national Crime Stoppers program is adopting our statewide initiative is just another example of how Florida leads the nation in common-sense, innovative approaches to fighting crime. We all play a role in the success of our state and nation. Our tool, **TIPS, will now allow communities across the country to assist law enforcement in fighting back against crime.”
Crime Stoppers USA Executive Project Director Barb Bergin said, “The opportunity to have **TIPS available across the United States gives all citizens quick and easy access to local Crime Stoppers. Anonymous tips help law enforcement solve and prevent crimes 24 hours a day in our country, with **TIPS the process will now be easier for all.”
Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said, “We are proud of our partnership with CrimStoppers and our local office, CrimeLine. With the debut of the new national **TIPS number, criminal justice organizations have the opportunity to gain additional anonymous tips like never before. We know how beneficial these tips are to building and solving cases and providing information to our agencies. This is simply another tool that we have to keep our communities safer.”
Orange County Sheriff John Mina said, “We rely on members of the public to be our eyes and ears in their communities. We continue to see crime decrease in Orange County, and we cannot do that ourselves – we need everyone to be vigilant and report any suspicious activities or knowledge of crime.”
Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said, “Crimestoppers USA undoubtedly provides the additional support for law enforcement that we need to bring justice for families and to keep our communities safe.”
In October 2020, Attorney General Moody and the Florida Association of Crime Stoppers announced the first-of-its-kind, statewide tip line. Before, any Floridian who wanted to give an anonymous report would have to research which of the 27 Florida Crime Stoppers regions they were in, and then dial a separate number.
To learn more, click here.
To report tips anonymously about unsolved crimes, simply dial **TIPS.
For emergencies, always dial 911.
Florida gov asks if Black House Rep district constitutional
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — On the first day of Black History Month, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis asked the Florida Supreme Court if a Black congressman’s district was unconstitutional. Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson responded that the governor is race baiting to build political points with his base.
The north Florida district runs from Jacksonville to Gadsden County. The Republican dominated Senate recently approved a map that largely keeps it intact. The Republican dominated House also has proposed maps that do the same. The Supreme Court last decade also approved the map as constitutional.
But now DeSantis is questioning whether the district meets the state and U.S. constitutions. The state requires that districts be compact, contiguous and not drawn to benefit or hurt a political party or candidate.
“I ask for your opinion to help me be sufficiently conscious of race to comply with the Florida Constitution’s anti-diminishment provision but avoid being so conscious of race that my actions could violate the U.S. and Florida Constitutions,” wrote DeSantis, who is seeking reelection in 2022 and could be a presidential candidate in 2024.
On the night before Martin Luther King Day, DeSantis proposed new congressional maps — a highly unusual move for a governor. The map included a redrawing of Lawson’s district so that it would contain more Republican voters and be more difficult for him to win re-election.
Lawson questioned the governor’s motives.
“He has a Napoleon complex,” Lawson said. “This is the first time we’ve ever seen the governor really drop a map before the Senate and the House, and especially when he dropped it on MLK week. It’s obvious that there’s some problem with the governor as related to communities of interest and I think that’s something he has to resolve himself.”
Asked to respond, DeSantis’ communications office cited a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that said North Carolina unconstitutionally used race too heavily in approving congressional districts.
“Representative Al Lawson’s seat poses legal concerns,” said DeSantis spokesman Taryn Fenske.
In his letter to the Supreme Court, DeSantis pointed out that the district spans about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from east to west to connect Black voters, but at one point is only three miles (about 5 kilometers) from north to south along the Georgia border.
DeSantis has stacked the state Supreme Court with conservatives, replacing three liberal justices who were forced to leave the bench because of age limits in the state constitution.
The governor’s request to the Supreme Court had an immediate effect on the legislative process. A House committee cancelled a meeting to discuss congressional maps.
“It is not in our interest to proceed until such a time that the court indicates whether it will provide additional guidance,” Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois and chairman of the Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee wrote to members.
The issue comes as the Legislature is considering another DeSantis priority related to race: A bill that would outlaw public schools and businesses from making white people feel uncomfortable for racist policies in the United States’ past, such as slavery and refusing Blacks the right to vote.
A state House committee voted on political lines — all Republicans in favor, and all Democrats opposed — to support the legislation on Monday.
“It’s more race baiting for election, because none of this is being taught in schools,” said Lawson, who spent nearly three decades in the state Legislature. “To put fear into citizens — white citizens — is more race baiting.”