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Crimes and Courts

Governor Ron DeSantis Joins Brevard County Sheriff’s Office for Announcement of County’s Largest Drug Sting Operation

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Cocoa, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis, First Lady Casey DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody joined Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey as he announced the issuance of over 100 arrest warrants in a culmination of the county’s largest single drug investigation to date.

Governor DeSantis has been clear in his support of law enforcement agencies throughout the state to combat the opioid addiction epidemic that is a menace to our communities. Governor DeSantis has also re-established the Office of Drug Control within the Executive Office of the Governor and announced the creation of a Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

“The Office of Drug Control was discontinued several years ago, but the importance of restoring its functions could not be more obvious,” said Governor DeSantis. “We cannot allow these drugs and the criminals who pedal them to poison our communities and destroy lives. We must have strict enforcement for these dealers and treatment for those who have become addicted.”

“There are 17 opioid-related deaths per day in Florida, but the good news is that we believe in hope and know that Floridians are stronger and more resilient than these drugs will ever be,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “We have got to fight for our kids who are the most vulnerable in this crisis. Nearly half of all children removed from a home has something to do with substance misuse. One of my top goals as Chair of the Children and Youth Cabinet is to support our law enforcement and tackle this crisis head on for our future generations.”

“Heroin and fentanyl are killing Floridians, and we must do everything we can to keep these drugs off our streets,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody. “I’m proud to stand with Governor Ron DeSantis and Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey to announce the takedown of this massive drug trafficking ring. Seizing these drugs will save lives, and operations like these are an important component of our fight to end the opioid crisis.”

“I would like to thank our Governor and First Lady for their amazing support as our team has dismantled one of the largest and most significant drug investigations ever conducted in Brevard County,” said Sheriff Wayne Ivey. “This epidemic is not just impacting our community, it’s impacting every community in our state and country. Today we removed over 100 predators from our community who chose to create and then prey upon the addictions of others for their own greed.”

The Florida Legislature has appropriated over $100 million to address the opioid epidemic plaguing the state. Florida was also awarded $26 million in federal funding for Florida’s State Opioid Response Project, which is designed to address the opioid crisis by reducing opioid deaths, preventing opioid abuse among our young people, and increasing recovery services and access to treatment.

In recent years, drug overdoses from opioids, methadone and other drugs have become the nation’s leading cause of accidental deaths. In 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, with 30,000 being from fentanyl. Of that number, 3,245 of those deaths occurred in Florida.

Crimes and Courts

Fake nursing diploma scheme in Florida; 25 arrested

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MIAMI (AP) — Federal authorities in Florida have charged 25 people with participating in a wire fraud scheme that created an illegal shortcut for aspiring nurses to get licensed and find employment.

Recently unsealed federal grand jury indictments allege the defendants took part in a scam that sold more than 7,600 fraudulent nursing degree diplomas from three Florida-based nursing schools, federal officials said during a news conference in Miami on Wednesday afternoon. Prosecutors said the scheme also involved transcripts from the nursing schools for people seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses and licensed practical/vocational nurses. The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison.

“Not only is this a public safety concern, it also tarnishes the reputation of nurses who actually complete the demanding clinical and course work required to obtain their professional licenses and employment,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe.

Lapointe added that “a fraud scheme like this erodes public trust in our health care system.”

The fake diplomas and transcripts qualified those who purchased them to sit for the national nursing board exam. If they passed, they were able to obtain licenses and jobs in various states, prosecutors said.

The schools involved — Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing and Sacred Heart International Institute — are now closed.

Some of those who purchased degrees were from South Florida’s Haitian-American community, including some with legitimate LPN licenses who wanted to become registered nurses, the Miami Herald reported.

“Health care fraud is nothing new to South Florida, as many scammers see this as a way to earn easy, though illegal, money,“ acting Special Agent in Charge Chad Yarbrough said Wednesday.

He said it’s particularly disturbing that more than 7,600 people around the country obtained fake credentials and were potentially in critical health care roles treating patients.

The selling and purchasing of nursing diplomas and transcripts to “willing but unqualified individuals” is a crime that “potentially endangers the health and safety of patients and insults the honorable profession of nursing,” said Special Agent in Charge Omar Pérez Aybar. Pérez said investigators have not found, however, that any of the nurses caused harm to patients.

The students paid a total of $114 million for the fake degrees between 2016 and 2021, the newspaper reported. About 2,400 of the 7,600 students eventually passed their licensing exams — mainly in New York, federal officials said. Nurses certified in New York are allowed to practice in Florida and many other states.

Many of those people may lose their certification but likely won’t be criminally charged, federal officials said.

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Crimes and Courts

Statement from Andrew Warren Following Ruling

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TAMPA, FL (January 20, 2023) – Andrew Warren gave the statement below to reporters following today’s ruling where a federal judge said Governor Ron DeSantis’ suspension of Warren “violated the Florida Constitution” and was “a violation of the First Amendment.”

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The trial was a search for the truth, and over the past five months the truth has come out. The truth is that Gov. DeSantis abused his power and suspended me not in the pursuit of justice but in the pursuit of politics. The truth is that this suspension was never about the job that I did. As the judge wrote, quote, “The actual facts, whether Mr. Warren actually had any blanket non-prosecution policies, did not matter.’’

The suspension was always a political stunt, a cheap trick to add one more misleading line to the governor’s stump speech. The truth is, for the past six years I’ve been a pragmatic, forward-looking state attorney, both tough and smart on crime, representing my own vision of criminal justice and the purple county that I so proudly serve. But DeSantis and his enablers didn’t care about the truth. They didn’t care about our office’s success. They didn’t care about the safety of our community, and they didn’t care about the will of the voters. They cared about scoring political points through a political stunt. Period.

From the day I was suspended, I’ve said that the suspension was illegal. And although a judge said he couldn’t put me back into the office to which I was twice elected, a federal judge confirmed that the suspension was illegal. The judge concluded that the governor violated federal law and state law. He violated my First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution by suspending me for speaking out on issues of public importance. He violated my First Amendment rights by suspending me because I am a Democrat. He violated the Florida Constitution by suspending me not because I had done anything wrong but because my vision as state attorney doesn’t fit with his political agenda. As the judge wrote, and I quote, “The record includes not a hint of misconduct by Mr. Warren. The assertion that Mr. Warren neglected his duty or was incompetent is incorrect. This factual issue is not close.’’

From the beginning, I have said that this case was bigger than just me. The idea that a governor can break federal and state law to suspend an elected official should send shivers down the spine of anyone who cares about free speech, the integrity of our elections or the rule of law, three core principles on which our democracy is built. When the governor announced the suspension, he stood up and proclaimed that our government is a government of laws, not a government of men. I couldn’t agree more. The judge wrote, quote, “If the facts matter. the governor can simply rescind the suspension.’’

Let’s see if the governor actually believes in the rule of law. Let’s see if the governor actually is a man of his word. Let’s see what kind of man the governor actually is. The governor is supposed to represent all Floridians. And if he wants to represent all Americans, then this is a golden opportunity for him to show our country what kind of man he truly is. This is not over. Thank you.

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Crimes and Courts

FAMU Commencement Speaker John Morgan Inspires Graduates With Humor & Wisdom

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Florida A&M University Commencement Speaker Attorney John Morgan exhorted fall 2022 graduates with a mixture of humor and wisdom.

 

Addressing approximately 600 graduates from the University’s dozen colleges and schools in the Al Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center on Friday evening, the founder of Morgan & Morgan shared time-honored aphorisms he hoped graduates would use as they made their way in the world.

 

“There’s a big difference in dreaming and living your dreams. My hope is that you get to live your dreams. Visionaries are a dime a dozen. The vision maker is the rarity; that is the person who lives their dreams,” said Morgan. “Living your dream is very hard. There are vision blockers who try to keep you still for many reasons. Some of our friends and relatives would rather a total stranger win the lottery than you.”

 

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Morgan moved with his parents and siblings to Orlando, Florida, where he attended high school. After graduating, Morgan enrolled in the University of Florida (UF). He graduated from the UF College of Law in 1983. Five years later, he founded Morgan& Morgan with the mission to represent the people, not the powerful.

 

Without question, John Morgan has established himself as a preeminent legal leader and a friend of FAMU,” said President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., who awarded Morgan the President’s Award.

During his 20-minute speech, Morgan regaled the audience with the story about the 1975 Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier heavyweight championship boxing match, “the Thrilla in Manila” and the lessons each fighter learned.

 

“When things get tough along the way and you don’t think you can go another step, remember that story and answer the bell,” Morgan said referring to Ali’s historic victory. Having led a successful national law firm for more than three decades, Morgan reminded graduates of the need to set their priorities straight.

 

“Your future is whatever you decide to make it,” Morgan said. “When money guides you, you make less money. Greed is not good. Be driven by purpose and passion. If you love what you do, the work the hours will just breeze by.”

Failure can be helpful, Morgan reminded graduates. He cited the experience of failing to get a medical marijuana constitutional amendment on the first try with 58 percent of the vote, which was less than the two-thirds majority required for adoption. On the subsequent attempt, the measure garnered 72 percent of the vote. Morgan said he was inspired to push to legalize medical marijuana by the fate of his brother who was quadriplegic following an accident and endured years of debilitating pain.

 

“The lessons in a failed attempt are building blocks in your next adventure. In life, you need to accomplish success, but you must also seek significance. At the same time, failure can be your friend,” Morgan continued. “Go change the world; dare to be great; do good and do well; dream it and do it. Show up; be early; be great. Find purpose in your passion. And always answer the bell.”

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