Friday, February 27, 2009

Sheriff Charlie Morris Arrested for Theft, Fraud & other Charges

An emotional start to a Friday morning for the employees of Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.Just before 9 o'clock they were informed their boss, Sheriff Charlie Morris, was behind bars.

"I don't know if i can do this Charlie Morris has been like a father to me and to say that we are hurt, to say that we are stunned to say that we are disappointed does not even begin to describe it," says Michele Nickelson the O.C.S.O. public information officer.

Federal agents arrested Morris in Las Vegas, Friday morning on theft, fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy charges.

Around the same time, authorities in Shalimar arrested Morris' director of administration and finance, 50-year-old Theresa "Terry" Adams, escorting her out of her office.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Morris and Adams were conducting a scheme to steal money from the sheriff's office payroll account, enlisting the help of unwitting employees. Several of those employees got suspicious and began working with local FBI agents.

Those agents say the scheme worked like this:

Adams or Morris or both, would tell the employee the sheriff's office charity account was out of money. They'd ask the employee to help them transfer money from the payroll account to the charity account, in the form of kick-backs.Those employees told federal agents they would receive thousands of dollars in bonuses, then give most or all of the money back to Adams as either cash or a cashier's check.
The say Morris never gave any of the money to charity, but pocketed it for his own use.

After Morris' arrest, Gov. Charlie Crist suspended him from office and appointed FDLE Agent Edward Spooner as the acting sheriff. Friday afternoon, Spooner reacted to the situation.

"It's a bad day for all of us I've known charlie Morris for 16 years..I've worked with him quite a's tough for all of us." But he refused to answer any questions about the investigation, like are there any more arrests pending.

"This involved a very small group of employees in the sheriff's office that is being investigated by the FBI."

If the allegations are true, the nagging question is why would Morris do it. Some claim Morris has a gambling problem.

"I don't know that he has a gambling problem I have no knowledge of that and it's an issue i will not discuss," says Spooner.

When asked why Morris was in Las Vegas, Spooner would only answer he was on vacation.
As for his stay at the sheriff's office, Spooner says he's only there for a short time.

"It's my understanding I'll be here for 4 to 6 or even 8 weeks to come in and keep the sheriff's office running the same and give the same service to the citizens, the members and the employees, but the agency is who will make the difference."

There is no word on who will step-up and permanently replace Morris, not only as sheriff, but also as the president of the Florida Sheriff's Association.

Morris is due in Federal Court in Las Vegas for a bond hearing.

He'll then be extradited back to the Pensacola where he'll face the charges.

Teresa Adams Arrested with Sheriff Charlie Morris

Another person has been arrested in connection to the arrest of Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris.

Along with the Arrest of 59-year-old Sheriff Charlie Morris, Teresa Adams, age 50, of Niceville, Florida, were arrested Friday based upon a federal criminal complaint alleging violations of Theft or Fraud from Federally Funded Programs, Wire Fraud, Fraud or Theft of Honest Services, Money Laundering and Money Laundering Conspiracy.

Sheriff Morris was arrested by federal agents in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is expected to make an initial appearance in United States District Court for the District of Nevada Friday.

Thereafter, he is expected to be returned to the Northern District of Florida.

According to the complaint filed in federal court, Morris, with the assistance of his Director of Administration and Finance, Adams, created fictitious bonuses to sheriff’s department employees.

The complaint alleges the employees were directed to return all or a portion of the bonuses in the form of cash and cashier’s checks under the pretense that these returned funds were to be used for charitable purposes.

Adams is expected to make an initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Elizabeth M. Timothy in Pensacola Friday.

A criminal complaint is merely a charging instrument. Each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in United States District Court.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Randall J.

Officer Paul Cervantes Charged with Stealing Drug Dealers SUV

A judge ruled this afternoon that there was sufficient evidence to order one Fresno police officer to stand trial on a charge of helping an informant steal a suspected drug dealer's SUV, but another officer charged in the case was allowed to go free.

Judge Gary Orozco said in Fresno County Superior Court there was probable cause to believe officer Paul Cervantes helped steal a 2001 Ford Explorer that belonged to Humberto Ortega Quintero, who was arrested Jan. 7, 2008, during a drug bust in Fresno.

But Orozco said there was little evidence to link officer Hector Becerra to the theft.

The judge also ruled that the informant, Jesus Jose Mendoza Valles, should stand trial.

1:38 p.m.: A preliminary hearing began this morning in Fresno County Superior Court for two Fresno police officers and a confidential informant accused of stealing a suspected drug dealer's SUV in January last year.

Randy Royal, an investigator with the California Highway Patrol, testified he interviewed the informant, Jesus Jose Mendoza Valles.

Royal said Valles told him police officers Paul Cervantes and Hector Becerra gave him permission to take an SUV owned by Humberto Ortega Quintero after Quintero was arrested in a drug bust on Jan. 7, 2008.

The next day, Valles went to the Department of Motor Vehicles and registered the SUV in his name, Royal said.

Royal also testified he interviewed Quintero and learned Valles never paid him $5,000 for his 2001 Ford Explorer.

Valles was booked into the downtown jail Dec. 29 on a charge of stealing Quintero's car. Before the two officers were arrested, Royal said, they went to the jail to visit Valles. The officers interviewed Valles for about 20 minutes, Royal testified.

What was discussed has not yet been disclosed in Judge Gary Orozco's courtroom.

Before the lunch break, another witness, Fresno Sgt. Walter Boston, said he received a tip from Cervantes after the officer was arrested. The tip led him to a female confidential informant who works for the Fresno Police Department. Cervantes told Boston that Valles told the woman he felt pressured by the CHP and Fresno police detective Brad Alcorn to "give up the officers."

Cervantes, 32, Becerra, 34, and Valles, 45, each face a charge of felony auto theft.

The preliminary hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to order the three men to stand trial. The hearing resumes after the lunch break.

Trooper Leslie Hoover Arrested for DUI was Wearing a Red Dress

A South Carolina Highway Patrol officer is off the job after being arrested under bizarre circumstances on Wednesday.

Officials say trooper Leslie C. Hoover was pulled over on John Dodd Road in Spartanburg County under suspicion of DUI. This came after a motorist called 911 to report Hoover’s personal vehicle, an Isuzu Rodeo, swerving erratically on Insterstate 26 about 6:40pm in heavy rush hour traffic. The SC Department of Public Safety says Hoover refused a breathalyzer and failed a field sobriety test. He was charged with driving under the influence.

Thursday morning, Hoover appeared before a magistrate and was released on his own recognizance. But his appearance when he entered the jail has stirred more discussion than his legal troubles.

A high-ranking official who wished to remain anonymous tells News Channel 7 he saw Hoover brought into the jail “wearing a red dress”. He says Hoover was also wearing a bra and was seen “adjusting his bra” while he waited to be processed. And he says the shamed trooper had a pair of thong panties “in his possession”.

That would explain statements made by the man who made the 911 call on the interstate. The driver, who asked not to be identified, said Hoover “appeared to be wearing a blonde wig” when he came flying past him near exit 22. On a recording of his 911 call - which was obtained by News Channel 7 - the man refers to Hoover as “she” several times.

“Yes, I’m on interstate 26 heading west at exit 22 and there is a red, I think it’s an Isuzu or a Rodeo, and she - I think it’s a she - is weaving all over the road,“ says the caller on the 911 tape.
Dispatcher: “Do you think she’s intoxicated or….?“
Caller: “I can’t tell but she is weaving all over the road!“.

Sid Gaulden, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, says Hoover is from Lexington County and was on his personal time when he was arrested. He says Hoover was terminated Thursday morning. He had worked for the Highway Patrol for 30 years. He says Hoover retired in 2000 but came back to work in 2002 as a member of the patrol’s Insurance Enforcement Team. The team works with the Department of Motor Vehicles to seize license plates from car owners who have allowed their insurance coverage to lapse.

“They are part-time employees but they have the same authority to conduct traffic stops and issue citations as a full-time state trooper,“ says Gaulden. He says Hoover did not have any disciplanary actions against him as a patrol officer from 1976 to 2000. But after he came back in 2002, he had to attend one counseling session for “negligent operation of a state vehicle”. Gaulden says that stemmed from an incident in which Hoover rear-ended a civilian’s vehicle. He says “there was no indication alcohol was a factor” in that crash.

The man who called 911 raises another interesting issue: he says another state trooper could have stopped Hoover before he called 911 but did not pull him over. He says as Hoover’s vehicle swerved all over the road near exit 22, a state trooper in an SUV pulled “right up behind” Hoover and followed him. He says at the time, Hoover’s vehicle was straddling the divided white line that separates lanes.

“I really thought (the trooper) was going to pull him over because he was clearly weaving,“ says the caller. “But he just went right around him and took off real fast like he was in a hurry.“

He says as the trooper was going around Hoover’s vehicle, Hoover swerved off the shoulder of the interstate.

“I thought that would have been obvious enough for the trooper to notice that but I guess he didn’t,“ says the man. He says minutes later, after he saw Hoover almost collide with several vehicles, he picked up his cell phone and dialed 911.

We informed Department of Public Safety of the man’s statement about the trooper failing to pull over Hoover. Gaulden said they were not aware of the scenario “but we will investigate it fully” to see if it was indeed a state trooper who pulled up behind Hoover and if so, why they opted not to pull him over.


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Veteran Officer Javier Alonzo Arrested for Sexual Assault

EL PASO, Texas

A 16-year veteran of the El Paso Police Department has been arrested in Austin on a charge of aggravated sexual assault.

El Paso police announced Friday that Javier Alonzo was arrested by Austin police without incident. Alonzo's whereabouts had been unknown since El Paso police issued a warrant for his arrest Tuesday, according to the news release.

Alonzo was booked into the Travis County jail but is expected to be moved to El Paso, the news release said.

The alleged victim was identified in the news release as a woman living in El Paso.


Officers Hector Becerra & Paul Cervantes Return to Court for Auto Theft

Two Fresno Police Officers, accused of felony auto theft, will return to court Friday morning.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Hector Becerra and Paul Cervantes, at which prosecutors will present evidence to hold the two over for trial.

The two are accused of stealing a car they were supposedly seizing, and turning it over to a chop shop. They were arrested back on January 30th, and made their first court appearance on February 17th, where they pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A third Fresno Police Officer, 40-year-old Robert Eddings is facing charges related to the case, for giving false information.

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