elgin_jones_web_13.jpgPalm Beach County

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Wayne Gent is recommending that contracts with three charter schools not be renewed. My Choice Academy in Riviera Beach, Leadership Academy West in West Palm Beach and Excel Leadership Academy in Delray Beach could face closures. Among the concerns are low enrollment and financial problems.

Twenty-three local and out-of-state people have been indicted on federal drug charges in “Operation Tumbleweed.” Arrest warrants remain outstanding for seven others. They are accused of operating a crack cocaine drug ring in several states from a base in Tucson, Ariz. Federal prosecutors allege 31-year-old Daniel E. Torrez of Tucson was the leader of the ring and the local leader was Antonio M. Beverly, 31, of West Palm Beach. Also indicted are William Alvarenga, of Boynton Beach; Jessica Arvizu, of Tucson; Michael Barkley, David White, Demetri Cobb, Wellington Glinton, Jean Innocent, Jeannot Saintelus, Calvin Sirmans Jr. and Jamie Toby, of Lake Worth; Jerrick Bartee, George Bivins, Lavaris Bivins, Theresa Razz and Lori Saccoman, of West Palm Beach; Javaris Bartelmy, of Boynton Beach; Kirk Bivins, Quatavious George, Ernest Holiday and Demetrice Jones, of Riviera Beach; Darren Donnally and Evens Louis, of Palm Springs; Dominic Lamare, of Port St. Lucie; Patrick Lowe, Monica Toby and Eric Williams, of Lantana; Richard John Mercy, of North Palm Beach; and Frank Moore, of Royal Palm Beach. All face potential sentences of life in prison if convicted on all counts.

Ron Johnson, CEO of J.C. Penney, has approved the closing of its retail store in the Palm Beach Mall at 1801 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach. According to documents filed with the state, 125 workers at that location will be laid off, effective May 1. The mall is being redeveloped.

Broward County

Drivers for the Yellow Cab Company, the largest in Broward County, protested at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport over advanced GPS devices installed in their cabs. The electronic device monitors their speed, driving habits and location and captures it all on video. Drivers say they are concerned the devices are intended to spy on their activities. The protesters blocked traffic at the airport and when tow trucks were called to move their cabs, the drivers laid in front of the vehicles to prevent them from being towed, which led to two of them being arrested.

Principal Karlton Johnson is celebrating Blanche Ely High School’s 58-50 victory over Orlando Evans to win the Class 7A state basketball championship. This is the school’s second straight state basketball title. Ely is now a confirmed national basketball powerhouse, with several top-notch college recruits on the team.

Nidia Ortiz, 35, of Hollywood is charged with beating and then robbing a paralyzed woman. The victim was sitting in the passenger seat of a parked vehicle when she was approached by two women who were yelling at her for smoking while children were in the area. The women then began punching the victim and pulling her hair and one of them reached inside the car and snatched her purse. They drove off in a van, which police caught up with a short time later. Ortiz was taken into custody; the other suspect remained at large.

Miami-Dade County

Frankie Jermaine Anderson, a convicted drug trafficker who has been unemployed for more than a decade, cashed fraudulent IRS income tax refund checks totaling more than $12 million last year. Federal authorities allege that Anderson got the checks from unnamed suppliers and then gave 30 percent to a Perrine check-cashing store owner, 50 percent to the suppliers and kept 20 percent for himself. Authorities are seizing homes he recently purchased in southwest Miami-Dade County, one for himself and the other for his mother. They also seized his fleet of new luxury cars, including two BMWs, a Porsche Cayenne, a Porsche Panamera, a Cadillac CTS, a Jaguar XF, a Jaguar XJ and a Bentley GT Coupe.

The Rev. Billy Strange, pastor of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City, has launched a “Call A Pastor” or CAP initiative. It is intended to minimize incidents of crime, particularly gun violence, in the black community. A growing number of pastors, elected officials and community leaders from around Miami-Dade County are getting involved in the effort.

Micky Arison, CEO of the Carnival cruise line and owner of the Miami Heat, is the richest person in Florida, the 64th richest man in America and the 211th wealthiest in the world. The rankings were compiled by Forbes magazine in its annual tally of the rich and famous. Arison is estimated to be worth a whopping $5.7 billion.

Monroe County

Ammon Covino, 39, and Christopher Conk, 40, president and secretary, respectively, of Idaho Aquarium Inc., were charged with buying four eagle rays and two lemon sharks that were illegally caught in the Florida Keys. They were indicted in Idaho and will have to appear in federal court in Key West next week.  The Idaho Aquarium, a 10,000- square-foot facility in Boise, charges an admission fee to view the more than 250 species of animal and marine life. It is unclear what led to the investigation. According to court documents, two unnamed wildlife collectors cooperated with authorities.

Officials have found several birds with beer cans placed around their necks at the Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge. The tops and bottoms of the cans were cut off and then placed around the necks of the birds, which were made sick by the act. Maya Totman, director of the Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue, said the birds are recovering.

An incident that began in Kankakee, Ill., has found its way to the Florida Keys. Monroe County officials were on the lookout for Arthur Fletcher, 32, and his wife, Kirsten Kelly-Fletcher, 28. They were believed to be traveling with their three sons, one of whom authorities believe may have been abused. After picking up their 1-year-old son from a daycare last week, they noticed bruises to the lower portions of his body and took him to a hospital. Medical staff alerted social workers, who began an investigation.

The Fletchers checked their son out of the hospital and had not been seen since but had communicated with friends. Arthur Fletcher reportedly expressed fear that his son would be taken away and said he feared for the child’s safety. There were protests in support of the Fletchers in Kankakee and on Facebook. The family was found by a state trooper who pulled their vehicle over on Ramrod Key. The children have been turned over to the Department of Children and Families.