INSURANCE RIP OFF
Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the public insurance carrier for homeowners who can’t obtain coverage from private companies, is once again raising its rates. The increase will be at least 8.8 percent and could go as high as 10.2 percent. Citizens is now Florida's largest property insurer, as private firms refuse to provide coverage to a growing number of homeowners. Citizens has a $6.1 billion surplus and a rate hike is unnecessary. It is intended simply to force customers to buy private insurance.
Rick Scott is now the most sued governor in Florida’s history and just as unpopular as his predecessors Claude Kirk and Bob Martinez. At present, Scott’s administration is being sued over its pension plan, drug-testing of welfare recipients, teacher compensation, election “reforms,” healthcare, purging voter rolls, prison privatization and other policies. Scott’s top-down management style is proving to be unsuitable for the public sector, where the people do have certain rights.
Palm Beach County
Scott A. Blake, the 47-year-old principal of Polo Park Middle School in Wellington, has been arrested after allegedly sending sexually explicit messages to what he thought was an under-aged boy. Police say Blake made arrangements to travel from his Palm Beach Gardens home to a Boynton Beach shopping plaza to meet the child. As it turned out, the “boy” was actually an undercover detective and Blake was arrested. He is facing numerous charges. Book ’em, Danno!
WHAT A PAWN
Charles Crosby, 28, of Lake Worth, decided to get back at his boss for docking his pay over a weed trimmer that went missing from a truck he was assigned to. Crosby denied the theft and reacted by selling off his employer’s other lawn maintenance equipment to a pawn shop. He was fired after failing to show up for work and an inspection of the truck revealed other missing equipment. Police were called and it was discovered that Crosby had sold most of the items to local pawn shops. According to police, Crosby admitted to the thefts and said he used the money to buy drugs. He is in custody.
Alexander Petersmarck, 32, of Palm Beach Gardens, was being held in a federal detention facility in Miami on charges related to a $15 million
kidnapping scheme. Petersmarck, who suffered from mental illness, pleaded guilty to sending letters to a wealthy Palm Beach man threatening to kidnap and poison his daughter unless he was given the money. He demanded the ransom in Guatemalan bonds and untraceable U.S. bills. He was arrested at the scene of a staged drop point and later pleaded guilty. At a hearing that was scheduled to take place this week, he faced about seven years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. Petersmarck committed suicide instead.
Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein and his assistant Gordon Weekes are calling for an investigation of a Pembroke Pines juvenile detention center. The 154-bed Thompson Academy is accused of abusing children sent to the facility for detention or treatment. At a hearing before a panel of Broward Circuit Judges Merrilee Ehrlich, Michael Orlando and Carlos Rodriguez, the judges said they need to make sure they have the authority to act on the request. Youth Services International; Thompson Academy's Maryland-based owners, are denying the allegations. The public defender’s office is representing dozens of teenage children ordered to the center, who say they are the victims of years of abuse.
Former deputy Russell DiPerna has filed a lawsuit against Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti and the sheriff’s office seeking to overturn an arbitrator’s ruling that upheld his 2009 firing. DiPerna was accused of improperly intervening in a criminal case. Internal Affairs Sgt. Mary Guess conducted the investigation. DiPerna’s attorney Terri Guttman Valdes wants the court to set aside the arbitrator’s award based on allegations that Guess may have included false information in her report. Guess is already the target of a criminal investigation being conducted by the Broward State Attorney and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement over allegations that she included false information in an internal affairs investigation of former deputy James Murray.
Miami city commissioners have declared a “financial urgency” over an estimated $40 million budget shortfall. Mayor Tomas Regalado said there will be no tax increases but layoffs and other cuts are likely. By declaring the emergency, city officials can strengthen their hand in negotiating with unions, even to the point of voiding collective bargaining agreements. The Fraternal Order of Police union is upset and says its members have already been crippled with pay and benefit cuts for the last four years running. Firefighters have had 35 percent pay cuts as well.
Paul “P.J.” Royal, an 18-year-old star linebacker at Miami Carol City High School in Miami Gardens was shot and killed July 24. Royal had a full scholarship and was preparing to enroll at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville in the fall. He was sitting in a car outside a friend’s home when two masked gunman approached on foot and shot him.
CAUGHT IN PERU
Enrique Gonzalez, former director of Physicians Med-Care and Physicians Health Med-Care clinics, who fled the country after being indicted in a $26 million Medicare kickback scheme in 2008, was captured in Peru. In 2008, Gonzalez, who was also known as Enrique Figueredo, and alleged co-conspirator Ronald Harris were indicted on fraud, money laundering and other charges. The indictments accused them of billing the government for fake HIV infusion therapies. In 2008, Harris was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay $9.8 million in restitution. Also indicted were brothers Carlos, Luis and Jose Benitez, who owned 11 clinics. They remain on the loose. Authorities believe they defrauded the government of $100 million.