cynthia_oconnell_3.jpgTHUMBS DOWN
In recognition of the Florida Lottery’s 25th anniversary, Florida Lottery Secretary Cynthia F. O’Connell has unveiled the agency’s new website and logo. The new site is cumbersome and difficult to navigate but it’s clear a lot of effort went into the project.

The new logo is flashy but what was behind the decision to change the most recognizable logo in the state? The Lottery should spend its efforts on implementing games with a reasonable chance of winning a jackpot instead of misguided PR campaigns like this makeover. The historically bad economy has led more desperate people to take a chance on Lottery games. As economic conditions improve, expect a falloff in the number of those willing to fork over their earnings on the games of chance. 

Palm Beach County

Andre Barbosa, a squatter who is using a little known Florida statute known as adverse possession to live in a foreclosed $2.5 million waterfront mansion in Boca Raton, is facing an eviction lawsuit. Bank of America, the owner of the property, filed the court action after his tactic garnered international media attention. The 23-year-old Brazilian national is liable for more than $15,000 after breaking into the home and staking a claim to it, according to papers filed in court by the bank. Adverse possession allows anyone to take possession of a vacant property and claim the title if they live in the home for seven years. The property in question had been vacant for 18 months.

Denise McCoy, 34, and Sara Marin, 42, were arrested on prostitution-related and money laundering charges. McCoy’s husband Samuel, a Boca Raton police officer, has been placed on administrative leave while it is being determined if he was involved.  The women work for Sara’s Entertainment Escort Service and are accused of arranging dates for prostitutes with clients. City officials became aware of the matter after finding out the McCoys belonged to a swinger’s social networking website and that Denise had been arrested last June by Broward Sheriff’s deputies on prostitution-related charges.

Jeffrey H. Bender of Delray Beach, an official with the Messiah Freedom Church and His Successors in Davie, was fired in October from his accountant position at the Juno Beach Preparatory School for failing to file the school’s income taxes. His successor later discovered alleged irregularities with the books. Bender has now been arrested for allegedly forging 33 schools checks and making them out to himself for a total of more than $26,000.

Broward County

The Lamb of God drug treatment and rehabilitation facility at 971 S. Dixie Hwy in Pompano Beach has offered services for decades. But the center’s days of helping the homeless, mentally ill and the downtrodden may be numbered. The owners of the building where it is located are auctioning off the property and it’s unclear what plans the new owners have for it. CEO Michael Lewandowski hopes to keep the facility operating but it’s unlikely to remain at its current location. Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher’s company conducted the auction.

Jennalin M. Garcia-Calle, 28, is a New Jersey high school teacher who was being treated at a Davie psychiatric center. She came there after being charged with having sex with a 16-year-old student in her classroom on several occasions. After being arrested, she reportedly told police she fled to the center “to get some help.”

Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger is facing term limits in 2014 and the race to replace her is heating up. Already a number of potential candidates are mulling a run. State Rep. Joe Gibbons and Hollywood City Commissioner Beam Furr have opened campaign accounts. Furr got his start in politics by getting elected to the Hollywood commission, narrowly defeating community activist Joy Mack. Gibbons began on Hallandale Beach commission, defeating community activist Josh Brown. Now the two could face off to represent the south Broward District 6 on the county commission.

William L. Roberts II, also known as rapper Rick Ross, and passengers in a Rolls Royce escaped injury after the car was hit with a barrage of bullets. Ross had just left his birthday party at the Floridian restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale when the attack occurred. Ross tried to speed off and crashed the car a short distance away. No one was injured.

Miami-Dade County

The fight is on for public funding to help pay for $400 million  worth of renovations to Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. Team owner Stephen M. Ross wants taxpayer funds and other incentives from local and state governments to help offset the cost. Opponents of that proposal, such as businessman Norman Braman, say it is a bad idea and point to the Florida Marlins deal as an example. It will be a hard fight, particularly in the Legislature, where South Florida envy could be an issue. Ross, though, has already won the support of the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Carlos Enrique Vazquez, 39, a counselor with the city of Miami’s Homeless Assistance Network of Dade, has been charged with official misconduct and accepting a $5,000 bribe from a client of the agency. He and an alleged accomplice, Odalys Lovett Delisle, 45, who is also charged, required a client to pay them the money in exchange for expediting her application for low-income housing, police said. After a landlord complained to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmondson’s office, the matter was referred to police for investigation.

Monroe County

Ron Capobianco Jr., 40-year-old contractor from Pompano Beach, has been charged with taking a $4,000 bribe to steer a federally funded $25,000 Florida Department of Transportation contract to a subcontractor working on traffic signals in the Florida Keys. If convicted, he could get 10 years in prison.

A manslaughter charge against Michael Mearns, 26, has been dropped. Mearns is the son of former Marathon Mayor Randy Mearns and grandson of former Marathon Councilwoman Margie Mearns. He was accused of contributing to the death of 17-year-old Amber Kogelis. Mearns picked the teenager up and it is believed he had drinks with her at a bar as well as at  other locations. Then, even though she had only a leaner’s driving permit, he allowed her to drive his SUV with him as a passenger, according to police. She hit another car and crashed the vehicle and died at the scene.