elgin_jones_web_13.jpgBUSINESS ATTACKS
South Florida businesses are increasingly facing ransomware attacks from cyber terrorists. Hackers use the malicious software to infiltrate a company’s computer database, encrypt all their files and block access to them. Companies which have been hacked this way are unable to conduct any business, including banking transactions until they pay a ransom that is wired overseas.

These types of cyber attacks have been used against major corporations for years but now small businesses are beings targeted. Federal agencies are investigating but business owners will have to employ tech security teams or firms to protect their data systems.


Guido Leyria and Brinn McAuliffe, both of Boca Raton, were pulled over during a random traffic stop and police said officers found more than 60 grams of marijuana in the car in which they were traveling. The suspects could face stiffer charges if it is determined they are dealers, as well as traffickers.

GECMC, a company representing a commercial mortgage-backed securities trust, seized a popular shopping center located at 401 Maplewood Drive, Jupiter, after winning a $8.5 million judgment. Tenants such as Pastor Ben Pierce’s Generation Church International are not expected to be affected. The property is appraised at $4.2 million but was valued at $9 million before the 2007 real estate collapse.

For those who never knew who Hank Asher was, this may be a surprise. He was the founder of TLO LLC, one of the most prolific data-mining companies in the world. The firm, which is based in Boca Raton, was recently sold in a bankruptcy auction for $166 million. Asher died last January and his daughters Desiree Asher and Carly Asher Yoost have been running the company. Asher was a pioneer in data-mining. His firm worked with law enforcement and other agencies.  Numerous companies had designs on his firm, including LexisNexis, but the winning bid went to the credit bureau Transunion. Attorneys representing LexisNexis are crying foul against the bankruptcy trustee because bidding for the company was cut off without giving them a chance to counter-bid. Asher had sold a predecessor company, Seisint, to LexisNexis and they ended up in a non-compete court battle when Asher started TLO. The company could end up in court again.

Broward County

North Miami Beach Police Officer Ericson Harrell, 39, was protesting against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at a University Drive intersection in Plantation while wearing a mask over his face. Most cities have laws prohibiting face coverings in public, out of concern for potential robberies. Harrell was also wearing a black cape and held a pole with an inverted U.S. flag. When police arrived on the scene, he refused to discard the mask or provide identification. Officers said when they searched him and took him into custody, they found a firearm in his waist band. At that time, he identified himself as a police officer. He was issued a notice to appear on several misdemeanor charges.

A collection of business owners, community activists and lobbyists attended a meeting in which members of the Florida Senate’s Gaming Committee heard concerns about changes to state gambling laws. The meeting was headed by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg. Everyone seems to be focused on privately run gambling operations but changes to the Florida Lottery’s games should also be included. Private companies should also be allowed to offer video gambling in stores and gas stations, as happens in other states. Give the free market rein and stop protecting certain industries just because they can hire enough lobbyists.

Thaddeus “Thad” Hamilton, who sits on the board of Broward Soil and Water Conservation District, is once again seeking the 2014 Democratic nomination for state agricultural secretary. The seat is currently held by Republican Adam Putnam, who is seeking re-election. Hamilton is a decorated retired Army lieutenant-colonel who served in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield. The Sunrise resident could be poised to make history.


Miami Gardens police are scrambling for answers after a store owner installed surveillance video to capture what he alleges is harassment of his employees and customers. Earl Sampson, 28, an employee at Quick Stop convenience store, said police routinely stoped him while he is walking to and from work and they have also issued him numerous citations, mostly for trespassing at the store where he works. He calls it harassment and store owner Alex Saleh agrees. Saleh installed 16 security cameras around his business to document the actions of the police and the video evidence is causing a stir. Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert is not commenting but someone should. This is unacceptable conduct.

Colley Billie has been re-elected chairman of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians. He won by a 123-vote margin, 151 to 28, over former chairman Billy Cypress, retaining control of the 600-member tribe. Billie vowed to continue a legal battle against Cypress and two former U.S. Attorneys, Dexter Lehtinen and Guy Lewis. The tribe has filed a $26 million embezzlement and malpractice lawsuit against Cypress and against Lehtinen and Lewis, former Miccosukee attorneys.

Former Sweetwater Mayor Manny Marono and some of his lobbyist friends are facing federal corruption charges. But that will not end the whispers of a town infested with corruption and cronyism. Some are saying a good case can be made that Sweetwater is a criminal enterprise that needs to be dissolved. Enough is enough.


Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies have captured a suspect they believe might be responsible for numerous burglaries in the Upper Keys after a homeowner awakend at 2 a.m., to find a masked man in his home. The intruder fled. Police surrounded the area and pulled over Martinez Watts, 51, for questioning at a roadblock. Officers said he had no identification and sped off while they were questioning him. He was captured following a brief chase. Police said he fit the description provided by the homeowner and he was taken into custody.

Jim Ovecka, 49, and Michelle Chapman, 54, of Arizona were found dead inside a car from gunshot wounds. A Monroe County Mosquito Control employee found the car in a wooded area near Big Pine Key. A hose was connected to the  tailpipe and the other end was inside the car with the engine running. Police said Oveka and Chapman owned the Two Georges’ Seafood restaurant in Corpus Christi, Texas, where they had been charged with theft. They were accused of making more than $200,000 in unauthorized charges to customers’ credit cards. Police believe Ovecka shot Chapman in the head before killing himself.

Norma Jean Sawyer has been released from prison. The former director of the now defunct Bahama Conch Community Land Trust in Key West was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of embezzling $121,637 in public grant funds in 2012. The funds were intended to go towards the construction of low-income housing in the predominantly black Bahama Village neighborhood in Key West. Sawyer must serve 25 years of probation, repay $59,262 to the city of Key West, $62,375 to the Department of Children & Families and $32,174 to the State Attorney’s Office for investigative and prosecutorial costs.