Florida’s hurricane fund remains strong heading into season
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — The Florida fund that helps private insurers pay out claims after a hurricane continues to be in strong shape ahead of storm season.
Estimates prepared by Raymond James show the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund will have $17.6 billion available this year. This marks the second year in a row that the fund has more money than it would need to pay out if storms racked the state.
The estimates were formally approved Thursday by a panel overseeing the fund.
The financial health of the fund is important because the state can impose a surcharge on most insurance policies to replenish it if the money runs out. Some critics have called the surcharge a “hurricane tax.”
The fund has grown because Florida has avoided major hurricanes since 2005.
Dozier memorial bill goes to Scott
TALLAHASSEE (News Service of Florida) — A bill authorizing the creation of memorials for the victims of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was sent to Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday.
The monuments would be placed at the Capitol complex in Tallahassee and in Jackson County, the site of the now-closed reform school where hundreds of boys said that they were physically and sexually abused.
The House and Senate passed the legislation (HB 7115) and a formal apology for the Dozier abuses. The bill authorizes the reburial of victims of a 1914 dormitory fire in the Boot Hill cemetery at the former school.
It also directs the reburial in Leon County of unclaimed bodies, which were discovered as part of an extensive forensic investigation at the site led by University of South Florida researchers.
The legislation also authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to explore the 1,400-acre Dozier site for additional unmarked graves.
Swastika, ‘WHITE POWER’ spray-painted on middle school sign
BONITA SPRINGS (AP) — Authorities say they’re investigating after someone drew a swastika and wrote “WHITE POWER” on the sign in front of a southwest Florida junior high school.
The Naples Daily News reports that a Bonita Springs Middle School employee discovered the graffiti Monday morning and called the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
A school district spokeswoman says the graffiti was removed before classes started that day. An incident report says the sign’s plastic glass will need to be replaced at an estimated cost of $450.
Coast Guard unloads $500M in cocaine from 20 seizures
FORT LAUDERDALE (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard unloaded cocaine in South Florida worth nearly $500 million from 20 separate seizures in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Coast Guard officials said in a news release Thursday the seizures totaled about 18.5 tons of cocaine. The recently seized drugs were brought to Port Everglades by the cutter Hamilton.
Authorities say the cocaine was intercepted along the Central and South American coasts by Coast Guard cutters and a Royal Canadian Navy ship sailing with a Coast Guard team aboard. The eastern Pacific is a prime smuggling route for cocaine headed to Mexico, where it is typically brought into the U.S.
Numerous suspected smugglers are being prosecuted by U.S. attorneys in California, along the East Coast and elsewhere as a result of the operations.
20 years’ prison for ex-Secret Service agent in sexting case
MIAMI (AP) — A former Secret Service officer at the White House got a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to sexting with teenage girls.
Thirty-eight-year-old Lee Robert Moore of Church Hill, Maryland, learned his fate Wednesday from a federal judge in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Prosecutors say Moore maintained a profile on a social media site called “Meet24.” Delaware State Police detectives posed there as a 14-year-old girl. Investigators found Moore also communicated inappropriately with real underage girls in Florida, Texas and Missouri.
The married former U.S. Marine was assigned to the White House when he was arrested in 2015. He pleaded guilty to enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity and attempting to send obscene material to a minor.
His wife asked for leniency, citing their two children.
Suspect in shooting says he’s the attorney, not the accused
FORT LAUDERDALE (AP) — A man accused of shooting at a sheriff’s deputy outside a South Florida nightclub told a judge during a first appearance hearing that he is his lawyer and not the suspect.
During the Wednesday hearing, 24-year-old Demetrius Vidale told Broward County Judge Kenneth Gottlieb that his “client” has been assaulted, kidnapped and is being held against his will.
The SunSentinel reports Vidale is accused of the attempted murders of a man at the nightclub and a Broward Sheriff’s deputy responding to the call early Monday. The deputy wasn’t injured. The other man is expected to recover.
An arrest report says Vidale defecated on a signed search warrant. He also refused to let deputies take his picture, fingerprints or DNA, saying a judge has “no jurisdiction over him.”
Florida authorities demolish child porn devices
ORLANDO (AP) — A group of investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement watched as a 17,000-pound roller demolished dozens of confiscated electronics that once produced or shared child porn.
The Orlando Sentinel reports FDLE Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks said on Wednesday that “Operation Crush Cyber Crime” smashed just a sample of the hundreds of pieces of evidence confiscated each year.
Banks says the destruction is symbolic and all evidence crushed has been used in the successful prosecution of child predators in the region.
According to a Florida statute, all evidence that once held child pornography must be destroyed after prosecution. Some seized evidence without explicit images can be donated.
Officials say the agency investigated 53 cases in central Florida and about 117 cases are pending.
Florida man charged in slaying of roommate
ST. CLOUD (AP) — A man has been arrested after authorities say he killed his roommate.
The Orlando Sentinel reports 23-year-old Robert Overcash was arrested Monday and charged with first-degree murder in the death of 41-year-old Shawn McKee.
Osceola County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jacob Ruiz says other people who rent rooms in the house heard a commotion and called deputies.
Ruiz said when deputies arrived they immediately noticed that something was off. Because of a pending investigation, he declined to say what they saw.
Deputies say they were not able to locate the body until they secured a search warrant and combed through the home.
Authorities are waiting for the medical examiner to confirm the cause of death.
DJ arrested 2 days after playing hits at police health fair
MIAMI (AP) — A South Florida disc jockey faces drug charges just two days after playing hits and taking selfies with officials at an employee “health and wellness fair” in the lobby of the Miami police headquarters.
A Miami-Dade narcotics unit arrested DJ Fredy Benz, whose real name is Alfredo Benitez, on Wednesday.
The Miami Herald reports 39-year-old Benitez is charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell.
Investigators say Benitez was selling drugs from his home, across the street from an elementary school.
The Herald reports no one involved with the health fair is believed to have known about Benitez’ alleged drug dealing. His wife is an administrator for the city of Miami.