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Bud Garner
Sentry columnist
Copyright 2012

Volume XXI Phone (954) 532-2000 Fax 954-532-2002 Editor@flsentry.com
Click Here for Current Edition

Coconut Creek toy thieves nabbed

A couple is accused of stealing "thousands" of toys and selling them online from their Coconut Creek home, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.
The months-long investigation led deputies to Krishna Ramotar and his wife, Sela Nafi, sheriff's spokeswoman Gina Carter said. They were arrested Wednesday and were being booked into jail, she said.
The toys were stolen from Toys "R" Us, Target and Wal-mart stores in Deerfield Beach and surrounding cities, authorities said.
Deputies on Wednesday afternoon planned to remove the thousands of toys from the suspects' home.

Pompano man killed crossing street

Broward Sheriff’s Office traffic homicide detectives are investigating the death of a man who was struck by a utility van Monday night in Pompano Beach.
BSO Communications received the call around 7:11 p.m. The adult male had been attempting to cross West Copans Road from north to south, just west of Blount Road, when he was killed. According to witnesses, the man was not crossing at a crosswalk and was narrowly missed by a tow truck on the right thru lane prior to being struck by the van in the left thru lane.
Pompano Beach Fire Rescue pronounced the man dead at the scene.
The driver of the utility van, Lester Williams, 49, remained on scene to assist in the investigation and does not face charges.
BSO traffic homicide detectives continue the investigation. The pedestrian’s name is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin.

Ex-concert promoter pleads not guilty in $300M fraud case

A former concert promoter recently extradited to the U.S. from Brazil has pleaded not guilty to fraud and money laundering charges in an alleged $300 million fraud scheme.
Jack Utsick entered the formal plea Tuesday in Miami federal court. He was actually extradited last year following a lengthy Brazilian court fight, but encountered difficulties hiring a lawyer. Utsick is currently represented by a public defender.
Prosecutors say Utsick operated his Worldwide Entertainment Inc. promotion company as a Ponzi scheme, repaying older investors with money from newer ones. The scheme allegedly defrauded an estimated 3,300 investors out of nearly $300 million.
The company also staged tours of top-name acts including the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Aerosmith and the Pretenders, among others.
A tentative March 23 trial date has been set.

Teens mob Ocoee mall after being denied entry to ‘50 Shades’

Teens now must be accompanied by an adult at night at an Orlando-area mall that teens mobbed over the weekend after they were denied entrance to the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
West Oak Mall officials in the Orlando suburb of Ocoee said Monday that all teens must be accompanied by an adult after 9 p.m.
The policy was implemented after 100 teens rushed a movie theater after they were denied tickets to see “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which is rated R and requires the viewer to be accompanied by a parent if they are under age 17.
Scores of other teens rushed the mall’s food court.
No one was injured, and there wasn’t any damage.

Two panthers killed in southwest Florida

Officials say two Florida panthers were found dead in southwest Florida over the weekend.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that a 16-year-old, collared female was recovered Friday in Big Cypress National Preserve. The cause of death is listed as unknown. A 1-year-old, uncollared male was recovered Sunday just north of the Seminole Tribe’s Big Cypress reservation. It was killed in apparent vehicle strike. Both cats will be taken to a Gainesville facility for a necropsy.This brings the total number of recorded panther deaths this year to seven, with five killed by vehicles. Florida set a record last year with 25 road kills and 33 overall deaths.
Florida panthers once roamed the entire southeastern U.S., but only around 180 remain in the wild.

Astronomers gathering in Keys

About 500 amateur and professional astronomers are setting up telescopes in the lower Florida Keys this week to observe southern constellations, comets and stars during the 31st annual Winter Star Party.
Event founder Tippy D'Auria said Monday the Keys' latitude of 24.5 degrees means astronomers can see down to minus 65 degrees on the horizon. That enables them to view celestial objects that can't be spotted from most other locations in the contiguous United States.
The Florida Keys' clear night skies and relative absence of city lights contribute to prime viewing conditions.
The Star Party also features workshops and presentations by speakers including planetary photography expert Dr. Donald Parker.

Some Floridians getting another week to buy health insurance

Federal health officials are granting a special enrollment period for consumers who unsuccessfully tried to buy health insurance before Sunday's deadline and were sidelined by long wait times or computer glitches.
Some consumers who tried to pick a health plan through healthcare.gov or its call centers were unable to complete their application because of the high volume of callers or technical problems with income verification. If you were in line by Feb. 15, health officials are giving you until Feb. 22 to complete your application.
If you enroll during that time, health coverage will start on March 1.
Nearly 1.4 million Floridians have signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace.
Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country and is leading enrollment among states using healthcare.gov.

Hit and run car accidents on the rise in Florida

Florida law enforcement officials say hit and run crashes are increasing at an alarming rate. That's why they're launching a new campaign to let drivers know that leaving the scene of an accident can result in tougher penalties.
Florida had more than 80,000 hit and run crashes last year. Fatal hit and run crashes increased by 23 percent in Florida between 2013 and 2014 and nearly half of those victims were pedestrians, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The agency is hosting press conferences around the state this week to educate drivers on the consequences of leaving a crash.
Gov. Rick Scott signed a law last year that enhances the penalties for leaving the scene of a crash, making it a second-degree felony and requiring a mandatory minimum four year sentence for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal crash. Drivers who leave an accident could also have their license revoked for three years under the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act.
If the driver was under the influence during a fatal crash, the law increases the mandatory minimum sentence from two to four years in prison.
"Leaving the scene makes the situation worse, not only for those who flee, but even more so for the victims left behind," said Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. "It is crucial that all individuals involved in a crash, including witnesses to a crash, contact 911 and remain at the scene until help arrives. Every life matters and every second counts."
Law enforcement officials say those involved in an accident should call law enforcement, remain calm, get vehicle witness and driver information, sketch the scene to show vehicle crash locations and help the injured.

97 million tourists visited Florida

A record number of tourists flocked to Florida last year as the nation's economy continued its recovery after the Great Recession.
Gov. Rick Scott was to announce Monday during a visit to Tampa International Airport that more than 97 million visited the state last year according to estimates prepared by Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm.
That's the fourth year in a row that the state has had a record number of tourists come to the state. Most of the visitors were from the United States, but millions also came from overseas and from Canada.
"Florida's natural beauty, pristine beaches and exciting attractions continue to bring countless visitors to our state and provide valuable jobs for our families," said Scott in a statement.
Despite the record year of 97.3 million tourists Florida fell a little bit short of reaching Scott's goal of having 100 million tourists visit in 2014. Nearly 94 million people visited the state the previous year.
Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing company, estimates that 11.5 million visitors were from overseas and 3.8 million tourists came from Canada. Those are increases over 2013 as well. State officials told a legislative committee last year that Florida is "growing at the expense of our competition" as Americans are shifting away from visiting other places to come to Florida.
Since becoming governor Scott has pushed to increase the amount of money spent on marketing and advertising by Visit Florida. This year he is seeking an increase of $17.5 million. It's not clear, however, if state legislators will go along with the request.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater and chairman of the committee that oversees Visit Florida's budget, said last week that while the numbers have jumped the last few years that another large boost in funding may not produce another large jump in the number of visitors.

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