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Entries in Miami (35)

Sunday
Apr012012

Trayvon Martin's Parents to Attend Massive Miami Rally

Mario Tama/Getty Images(MIAMI) -- A rally for slain teen Trayvon Martin is planned for Sunday at 4 p.m. at Miami's Bayfront Park to welcome his parents home from their travels to Washington, D.C.

The event, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of people, is being hosted by Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat who represents Trayvon's home district. Trayvon's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, will also be in attendance.

"She just wanted to welcome them home, and give people in the community one place to support them, to show their support for the family, especially the students," said Gwen Belton, a spokeswoman for Wilson.

Trayvon's parents and Wilson had asked local students not to walk out of their schools to protest Trayvon's shooting, so they wanted to "give students a constructive and safe environment to express their support for Trayvon," Belton said.

Other government officials are expected to join Wilson, including Rep. Corrine Brown, Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, and Florida state Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami.

Other noteable figures expected to join the rally include the Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, singer Chaka Khan, singer Betty Wright and actress JoMarie Payton.

"We're just trying to comfort them in their time of sorrow," said Belton.

Rallies in support of Trayvon and his family have sprung up around the country, urging the Sanford, Fla., police to arrest shooter George Zimmerman in the wake of the controversy surrounding his encounter with the teen.

The volunteer neighborhood watchman claimed that he shot and killed Martin in self-defense after the teen had attacked him. Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves if they feel they're facing grave danger.

While Zimmerman did not appear to be bloody or bruised in a police surveillance video obtained by ABC, his lawyer, Craig Sonner, said his client felt "one of them was going to die that night" when he pulled the trigger.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar312012

Two Killed, 12 Wounded in Drive-By Shooting at Funeral Home

ABC News(MIAMI) -- Gunmen opened fire on mourners leaving the funeral of a 22-year-old shooting victim, killing two people and wounding 12 others, including a 5-year-old girl who was shot in the leg, Miami-Dade police said on Saturday.

The shooting occurred around 9 p.m. on Friday, outside the Funeraria Latina Emanuel in North Miami. About 100 people were in the parking lot when gunmen in a passing car fired shots into the crowd, witnesses told ABC affiliate WPLG-TV in Miami.

“People were going crazy, screaming, running. It was just chaos,” Pastor Ad Lenoir told WPLG.

“The service was going on, nice, people was crying, talking, and suddenly someone pass by, start shooting,” funeral attendee Jacques Leonet said. “It’s more than crazy. They are destroying the community. No future. That’s all that it’s about.”

One person was declared dead at the scene and another died after being taken to the hospital, police said.

The 5-year-old girl was listed in stable condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital Ryder Trauma Center.

“She was struck in the leg,” Lenoir said. “It was very sad and painful to see a little child go through something that traumatic. It was very horrible.”

“I grabbed her so we could go and she was screaming and I’m like why are you screaming, I thought she was scared,” the girl’s mother, Someta Etienne, told WSVN-TV. “Then I saw the blood coming from her pants.”

According to WSVN-TV, Miami-Dade police were looking for six suspects and have said the vehicle involved was a white 2006 or 2009 Pontiac or Impala.

“It’s too early to tell what the motive may be, if anything the person they were viewing had anything to do with it,” Det. Alvaro Zabaleta said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan232012

American Airlines Flight Turbulence Injures 6

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(MIAMI) -- Six crew members aboard an American Airlines flight en route from Brazil to Miami Sunday were sent to the hospital after the flight experienced severe turbulence, airline officials said.

American Airlines Flight 980 was carrying 136 passengers and nine crew members from Brazil’s Recife Airport to Miami International Airport when it was hit with bad turbulence, airport spokeswoman Maria Levrant said.

Passengers said the turbulence occurred about two hours into the eight-hour flight, and came out of nowhere.

The crew was said to be caught by surprise and thus took the brunt of the injuries.  One flight attendant was reportedly hit by a food cart that flew into the air, which damaged the plane’s ceiling and then landed on her.

Firefighters from the Miami-Dade Fire Department met the flight when it landed in Miami around 6:30 p.m. local time and took five of the injured crew members to area hospitals.

The sixth injured crew member was treated on the scene, and no passengers were injured, according to ABC News Miami affiliate WPLG.  No other information was released about the severity of the crew’s injuries.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan032012

Stenographer Error Gives Convicted Florida Murderer New Trial

Hemera/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- A Florida man convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison will get a new trial, all thanks to a court stenographer who erased the entire transcript of his murder trial.

Randy Chaviano, 26, of Hialeah, Fla., was convicted by a jury in July 2009 of fatally shooting Charles Acosta, who came to his apartment to buy drugs.

Chaviano appealed his conviction to the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami.  When it was discovered that hardly any transcripts of his trial proceedings existed, the court last week threw out his conviction and life sentence, and ordered that he get an entirely new chance to go before jurors.

Any traces of Chaviano’s trial all but disappeared from the Miami-Dade courthouse’s records, officials say, because the court reporter for the case, Terlesa Cowart, failed to capture the trial on paper.

Cowart, a court spokeswoman told the Miami Herald, put the trial transcript on an internal disc instead, and then erased the data from the stenography machine’s memory disc.  She did back the disk up on her computer, but a virus on the computer later erased all of her notes.  All that remained was a transcript of one pretrial hearing and the trial’s closing arguments.

“The rest is lost forever,” Chaviano’s attorney, Harvey Sepler, wrote in court documents.

For now, court stenographers in Miami-Dade are required to use machines that capture their work both on paper and the internal disc used by Cowart.  The county is currently pushing, against the wishes of stenographers, to replace the old human, paper and disk model with digital recorders instead.

The firm that employed Cowart at the time of the trial, Goldman Naccarato Patterson Vela & Associates Inc., told the Herald their employee had a history of not bringing enough of the paper stenographers use to chronicle the proceedings.  Cowart has since been fired from the firm.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office apologized for the error: “The overturning of a murder conviction always means terrible pain for the victim’s family and frustration for prosecutors and police officers.  Overturning a murder conviction because of a court reporter’s problem creates a brand new level of pain and frustration,” a spokesman told the Herald.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec052011

Navy Training Mine Washes Ashore in Miami

File photo/ Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Beachgoers on Miami Beach got a scare Monday when they discovered what looked like a Navy mine that had washed ashore.

That’s exactly what it was, an inert Navy training mine known as an MK-57 that had likely separated from its anchor offshore. The four- to five-foot-long devices are painted white with red stripes, which Dougherty says identifies them as training devices.

“There were no explosive components on the device,” said Bill Dougherty, a spokesman for the Navy’s Southeast region.

Dougherty credited beachgoers with doing the right thing in taking precautions around the device.

“We give people the message that when they find something like that on the beach, step away from it,” said Dougherty.  “Contact the police and they’ll contact us, and we’ll send our experts to check it out and take appropriate action.”

Miami Beach Fire and Rescue evacuated the beach around 56 Street and Collins Avenue until investigators could determine whether the device posed a safety hazard.

Dougherty said that once the device was identified as an inert training mine, a Navy team arrived to take it to a Navy facility in Fort Lauderdale.

According to Dougherty, Florida has various offshore training areas that are used to help Navy personnel identify mines in the water. He says it’s unclear how the mine ended up on the beach. "We don’t really know how it broke loose.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov182011

Justice Department Investigates Miami Police Shootings

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department is opening an investigation into the Miami Police Department and its policies concerning the use of deadly force after eight young men have been killed by department officers since July 2010.

The investigation, known as a “pattern and practice” investigation, is being launched by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to examine the police shootings that, in two cases, involved unarmed individuals.

“In the past 16 months, we have seen nine police-involved shootings that are of concern and are the premise of our investigation,” said Tom Perez the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for civil rights.  “Since July 2010, MPD officers shot and killed eight young men and critically wounded a ninth man.  By comparison, the country’s largest police force, the New York City Police Department, had one fatal shooting for every 4,313 officers in 2010, while Miami had one fatal shooting for every 220 officers.”

The Justice Department had been reviewing the shootings in a preliminary investigation after the last shooting occurred in February of this year, but has decided to launch a full investigation to determine if federal laws have been violated.

The chief of the department, Miguel Exposito, was fired in September after a disagreement with city leaders over staffing issues.

“Of the shootings since July 2010 until the last shooting in February 2011, all but one occurred within the proximate neighborhoods of Little Haiti, Overtown and Liberty City, in northeast Miami,”  Perez said in prepared remarks.  “In two of the shootings, the subject was unarmed.  Six out of the eight fatal shootings were by MPD officers in specialized units like the gang unit, SWAT, tactical robbery unit and the canine unit.”

The investigation will involve Justice Department officials from Washington and investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami working with law enforcement experts to review the police department’s policies.  The investigators will review documents and conduct extensive interviews with officers and staff.

The Justice Department is expected to notify the Miami Police Department of any changes that should be made in real time as the review proceeds.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug302011

Airport Animal Smugglers Busted in L.A. and Miami

Creatas/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- It’s not unusual to get backed up going through airport security because someone has liquids in their carry-on, but it is unusual when the hold-up is due to snakes, tortoises and birds concealed in cringe-worthy places. These animals were all recent issues at both the Los Angeles International Airport and the Miami International Airport.

In Los Angeles on Monday, a China-bound woman was stopped in security due to bulky clothing. After a pat-down, Transportation Security Administration agents found two birds wrapped in socks and taped to the woman’s leg and chest. She was arrested by U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers on suspicion of smuggling and exporting an endangered species out of the United States.

At least one of the birds was an endangered Golden Parakeet, a species of endangered tropical parrot, according to Richard Thomas, the global communications coordinator for TRAFFIC, an organization that monitors wildlife trade.

Thomas said that endangered parrots can be worth “tens of thousands of dollars,” and that the organization is “wary” of specifying the worth of the animals for fear of encouraging others to attempt to smuggle them.

Last Thursday, a man traveling to Brazil from Miami was caught attempting to get through security with seven small snakes and three small turtles in his pants. All of the animals were stored in women’s hosiery. He was also arrested by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, who took custody of the animals.

The TSA addressed the attempted breaches with humor, posting a TSA blog entry titled, “Snakes On A Plane! And Turtles & Birds, Oh My!!! Almost…”

“TSA’s mission of course is not to find artfully concealed wildlife, but items taped to a passenger’s body could very well be explosives or some other dangerous prohibited item,” wrote “Blogger Bob” of the TSA Blog Team. “We just don’t know until we check it out.”

“Indications are that [animal smuggling] is something that does seems to be happening more frequently,” Thomas said. “But it’s difficult to get a handle on whether it’s a growing problem or whether it’s better enforcement we’re seeing.”

Thomas stresses that security checks have gotten stricter and he strongly discourages people from attempting smuggling operations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul282011

Airline Passengers Allegedly Attack Pilot in Miami

ABC NewsTwo men allegedly attacked an American Airlines pilot after being kicked off a flight in Miami Wednesday night, according to officials.

Brothers Jonathan and Luis Baez of Las Piedras, Puerto Rico, were aboard the San Francisco-bound flight when an attendant noticed that Jonathan, 27, was sleeping without his seatbelt buckled. When she tried to wake him as the plane departed the gate, Baez was unresponsive and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or dugs, officials said.

The pilot turned the plane around and returned to the gate in order to deal with the issue on ground rather than in the air.

Police said the pilot and the flight attendant then woke Baez and asked him to get off the plane, but he didn't comply, according to an American Airlines spokesperson.  

Luis Baez, 29, eventually left the plane with his brother. As the brothers approached the plane's exit, the two became agitated, officials said, with Luis Baez reportedly telling the pilot, "When you fly to San Juan I will have you killed."

The two left the plane, but Jonathan then returned and allegedly punched the pilot in the face and hit the flight attendant in the shoulder when she tried to intervene, according to police.

The brothers then allegedly attacked the pilot again in the jet bridge and chased him through the terminal. Members of the flight crew and other passengers held the brothers until the police arrived.

The pilot, who is based in Miami, had cuts and bruises on his face and suffered from blurred vision, officials said. He also told police he was afraid Luis Baez would follow through on his threat.

Another pilot filled in and flew the plane carrying 176 passengers to San Francisco International Airport.

Jonathan Baez was held on $9,000 bond and was charged with battery and aggravated battery. Brother Luis was also charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault. It's unclear whether either brother had an attorney.

Saturday
May142011

Six Accused of Providing Financial Support to Pakistani Taliban

Joe Raedle/Getty Images (File)(MIAMI) -- An Imam from Miami and his two sons are among six people charged with providing material support to the Pakistani Taliban, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, and his sons Irfan Khan, 37, and Izhar Khan, 24, all of whom reside in Florida, face a slew of charges U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo A. Ferrer said Saturday. The three other people facing charges are Pakistan residents Ali Rehman, Alam Zeb and Amina Khan.

Hafiz Khan and his younger son were arrested in Miami, while the older son was taken into custody in Los Angeles. The other three defendants are said to be still at-large in Pakistan. The six suspects were indicted following an investigation by the FBI and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Authorities allege that from sometime in 2008 through November 2010 the suspects provided the Pakistani Taliban with money, financial services, and other forms of support. The defendants are accused of seeking to aid the terrorist organization in its fight against the Pakistan government and the government’s perceived allies such as the United States.

All six are charged with conspiring to provide, and providing, material support to a conspiracy to murder, maim and kidnap persons overseas, as well as conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Hafiz Khan, Rehman and Zeb are also charged with providing material support to the Pakistani Taliban.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr202011

Miami Beach Bar Girls Defrauded Men at Nightclubs, Say Feds

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- A sultry hostess, a seedy nightclub and an amorous out-of-towner with a loose grip on his credit card.

According to the FBI, "b girls" at six Miami Beach clubs who were part of an international crime ring used that recipe to defraud nearly 100 male tourists out of as much as $43,000 at a time.

"This international organized crime group has victimized tourists and defrauded them of tens of thousands of dollars," said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the Miami field office of the FBI. "The crimes this group committed have impacted our south Florida community and our economy. The dismantlement and disruption of this organized crime group reaffirms the FBI's and our law enforcement partner's commitment to remove organized crime from our neighborhoods."

"South Florida, by virtue of its geography, is a gateway for domestic and international travel and business," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo Ferrer said. "Unfortunately, we also attract criminal elements, including transnational criminal organizations and groups like the one involved in this South Beach tourist scam. ...Without hesitation, I can tell you that our investigations into transnational criminal organizations operating in South Florida will continue."

Earlier this month, the FBI arrested six men and 10 alleged "b girls" linked to the scheme on federal charges that include wire fraud, immigration fraud and bribery. If convicted, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, 10 years for each immigration fraud count and 15 years for each bribery count. Federal authorities are still seeking nightclub operator Alex Simchuk, a suspect who remains at large.

Authorities say the "b girls," from Estonia, Latvia and Russia were chosen for their beauty and brought to the U.S. expressly to prey on tourists. Working in pairs they would look for marks at swanky South Beach hotels like the Delano or the Clevelander and then entice them to one of the nightclubs.

At the clubs, according to the FBI, the bar girls would order their guests multiple bottles of liquor, wine or champagne at exorbitant prices -- as much as $5,000 -- often without the knowledge of the patron. The girls would pour drinks into plants, ice buckets or other large containers so that the guest would be sure to order more. Later the victim would find thousands of dollars of mysterious charges on his credit card bill.

A victim from Philadelphia identified in the U.S. Attorney's criminal complaint only as "J.B." was hit with the biggest credit card bill of the 88 alleged marks. J.B. was approached at the Delano Hotel in March 2010 by two females. He says he had drinks with them, but then his memory became vague.

According to the complaint, "His fuzzy recollection was of people physically holding him up at an unknown location and having him sign something three times."

The same thing allegedly happened the next night. J.B. learned a few days later that his credit card had been charged $43,000 for items that included a painting on the bar's wall. He continues to dispute the credit card charges and alleges that he was drugged by the women.

According to authorities, the club where his recollections grew fuzzy was called the Caviar Bar, and was operated by Simchuk and another man.

On many occasions, says the complaint, victims were either too drunk to sign a credit card receipt or staff at the club would forge the signature at the end of the night. If a guest complained the next morning, managers at the club would explain that he had ordered all of the drinks and show him receipts and surveillance video from the club, threatening to call the local police if the tab wasn't paid.

The bar girls, who worked in pairs, allegedly split an average 20 percent cut, while managers and bartenders each received 10 percent.

The clubs themselves, say authorities, were merely fronts for the rip-offs. They weren't open to the public, and any would-be customer who wasn't accompanied by a pair of bar girls was denied entrance. The men running the clubs allegedly arranged to have the bar girls brought to the U.S. and housed them in apartments while they participated in the scam. In some cases, the women were trained overseas before coming to the Miami area.

The FBI's investigation of the clubs involved an undercover agent who posed as a corrupt local police officer who moonlighted as a bouncer. According to the complaint, the duties of the undercover "bouncer" included checking IDs of the bar girls at the door, pretending he didn't know them and making sure victims paid their bills by identifying himself as a police officer.

The undercover agent also obtained pills at some of the clubs, including a herbal sleep aid and capsules believed to be tranquilizers, according to the complaint. He was told by alleged coconspirators that at least one of the women had drugged victims in the past.

The clubs involved were all located along Washington Avenue in South Miami Beach. Caviar Bar was closed after American Express received so many complaints of fraudulent charges that it shut off the bar's merchant account, but the club reopened three months later as Stars Lounge and allegedly continued the scheme until it was shut down again for the same reason. Other clubs included Nowhere Bar, Steel Toast and the Tangia Club. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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