Update: Boca Raton Police advise that the arrest began with a routine traffic stop, during which the officer discovered the warrant.
A Venezuelan man was arrested Wednesday morning in Boca Chase on a Puerto Rican warrant for a multi-million dollar fraud. The short version of the underlying criminal case is available in English from the Associated Press, but there is much greater detail in Spanish from the Puerto Rico Department of Justice. Da Silva Castro and a Venezuelan associate allegedly defrauded Betteroads Asphalt Corp. (subsidiary of Empresas Díaz) of $7.8 million in 2011. The DoJ indicates they formed a fake corporation and set up a false sale of 100,000 barrels of liquid asphalt (at $78/barrel) that never existed. The funds were transferred to Swiss bank accounts. It’s not clear why it took five years but a warrant was issued for their arrest in 2016. The associate was in custody in Venezuela at the time and Da Silva Castro’s location was unknown. The address listed on the blotter entry appears to have been rented around the time the warrants were issued. We have reached out to the police and to the Realtors associated with the rental to see if we can find out more details. The arrest was reported in Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia.
Yes, I was arrested last week in Coral Gables. A few hours later I was “unarrested.” The video of my arrest is near the bottom of this article, but first there’s a back story. Scroll way down if you just want to see the arrest. As many of our readers know, I am a criminal defense (and personal injury) lawyer. I’m also a civil rights activist. Earlier this year I received national attention for my approach to handling checkpoints and traffic stops. I had published a book in 2013 called Fair DUI.
The book has sold fairly well on Amazon and has excellent reviews.
After writing the book people asked a lot of questions about how to handle encounters with police in traffic stops. One of the big questions was how to remain silent. It sounds simple, but it’s not so easy to do. In response to that I came up with the Fair DUI Flyer.
Some of my activist friends started using them in checkpoints. I did one myself in Miami last year and it went well. This video has been viewed over 100,000 times.
The story got bigger when my activist friends used it in a checkpoint on New Year’s Eve west of Gainesville. This video has now been viewed over 3.2 million times on YouTube alone.
In the heat of the moment we received some threats of arrest by local sheriffs but their comments were vague and often just plain stupid. Some said drivers have to talk to police, rejecting the right to remain silent. After the publicity died down we learned that police departments and prosecutors were discussing how to respond, and this led to my arrest in Coral Gables. One key feature of my approach is that you do not roll down your window. Florida law requires you to “exhibit” (or show) your license to police. It does not require you to hand it over. I recommend people keep the window closed and press the license up against the window. Some prosecutors and police legal advisors decided to fudge that law (§322.15 of the Florida Statutes) and claim that you are required to hand it over. The Coral Gables legal advisor, attorney Israel Reyes, went further and recommended that anyone who refuses to physically hand over their license be arrested for a misdemeanor – resisting without violence. The City Attorney adopted this recommendation and it became formal policy. That document is below. [gview file=”https://westbocanews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Coral-Gables-Fair-DUI.pdf”] Mr. Reyes and his friends missed a key point from law school. We are trained to read the whole statute. Subsection 4 of 322.15 says that a violation of it “is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation.” You can’t arrest someone for that. You can’t charge someone for a misdemeanor (a crime) when the legislature defines it as noncriminal. I talked about this in a video I made about 322.15:
So, as an activist, when I heard that Coral Gables was doing a checkpoint, I had to go and test them to see if the police officers would follow this unlawful order from their bosses. You can see my arrest in the video below:
While I’d like to think of myself as the hero of this story, the real hero is Sergeant Alejandro Escobar. He followed orders when he arrested me. About three hours later he “unarrested” me and gave me a ticket:
In a good story the hero learns from experience and grows. I don’t know what happened for sure but I think Sgt. Escobar figured out something was going on and made an effort to understand what I was doing and why. In the end he went against his department’s policy, against his orders, and only issued me a ticket. Coming soon I will be suing Coral Gables in federal court over this incident. This is not about money. While there will be monetary claims they are small. No one was shot. I did suffer nerve damage to my thumb from the handcuffs but it is minor and has nearly healed already. The goal is to get a federal judge to make sure that police follow the law, including 322.15 as well as Supreme Court cases on checkpoints. Those who are considering using the Fair DUI Flyer should be aware that I went further in this incident than I recommend for others. Most people should obey orders from police even if they are unlawful orders.
What parts of Palm Beach County have the most crime? What parts have the least? We’ve got answers by zip code. Measured by arrest counts vs. population, West Delray Beach’s zip code 33446 has the lowest crime rate in Palm Beach County. With 22,571 people and only 24 counts, the rate of arrest counts per population was the lowest in the county at just over one in a thousand. Riviera Beach’s zip code 33404 was the worst, with 1034 arrest counts booked in a population of 26,634. That crime rate is nearly 40 times as high as in West Delray, and roughly quadruple the county average of one count per hundred residents. West Boca News readers will be pleased to hear that four of our five zip codes were in the top 10 for lowest crime out of 51 zip codes in the county. And the #1 West Delray is probably our sixth zip code since we often hear from readers in Saturnia Isles, The Bridges, and Mizner Country Club. Here’s the Top 25 in lowest crime rates (West Boca zips are in blue): We’ve included zip code maps of the county at the bottom of the post. Here’s the worst 26: We previously wrote about the crime rate in West Boca, and arrest rates in all nine Boca Raton zip codes. A couple of notes about the data are in order. First, this is for only a three-month period – the first three months of 2014. We hope to do this again covering a longer period and think that will be more accurate overall. Second, we don’t have perfect data and we didn’t go through it as thoroughly as we’d like to. Some of the counts are for things like “Booked – Recommit” or “Fail to Appear” which are not really crimes in and of themselves. The number of counts is also imperfect. When we went through Boca Raton in our earlier articles, the counts per arrest number ranged from 1.6 to 2.1. We’ve seen cases where one person is arrested and charged with over 30 counts. And our population numbers are for 2011, which makes them somewhat out of date. Overall we think these issues are minor but could be significant for some zip codes. Third, some of the zip codes we included are small, making the data a bit less reliable. Canal Point’s zip code 33438 was second-worst, but the population is only 354 so the numbers are statistically dubious. Similarly, West Boynton’s 33473 (the GL Homes Canyon developments) ranked #2 in lowest arrest rate, but the population for that zip code is less than 4000. This should be less of a problem when we do this for a longer period of time. Fourth, the zip codes are for the address of the person arrested, not necessarily for the place where the crime was committed. Fifth, some of the arrests in the data had the wrong zip codes. For example, zip code 33425 is listed as having 24 arrest counts, 33422 had 12 and 33416 has 10. These three zip codes all have zero population. Over 500 of the nearly 15,000 or so arrests are attributed to zip code 00000, and another large chunk are from 4-digit or 6-digit zip codes. And there are big groups from other counties, especially Broward and Miami-Dade. We also left out the Tequesta zip code because most of it is in Martin County. We reduced the data to 13,093 arrest counts in a population of over 1.3 million people in the county.
We have eight arrests in our latest summary from the Palm Beach Sheriff’s blotter. On the upper left of the top photo we have Christopher Green (23) of East Boca, arrested by Delray police Friday night for possession of heroin and drug equipment, and also a couple DUI counts. He was released on bond Saturday. The Spanish River grad might be a fan of another Chris, the Birdman, of the Miami Heat. It appears to be the same man who had a felony battery charge back in 2008, and a couple of traffic cases. Next we have Alexa Shuman (also 23) of Boca West. Ms. Shuman stands accused by deputies of marijuana possession. She was booked Friday morning and released that afternoon. Ms. Shuman may have had a prior marijuana arrest in New Jersey a couple years ago. She also had a traffic ticket back in 2011. Anthony Brown (bottom right) was arrested Friday by Delray Beach police, allegedly selling cocaine. The charge is “enhanced” – the legal term for making it worse – because it supposedly occurred too close to a church, school, or some other restricted location. His reported address is in Countrypark, just south of SW 18th near the Turnpike. He was released last night on bond. The charges against Mr. Brown date back about a month before the arrest, which always makes us suspicious about the quality of the case. He’s had a few misdemeanor and traffic cases dating back to 2003. If we’re reading the charges correctly, Leslie Benhayoun (49) initially encountered deputies Saturday night because of a non-moving violation having to do with state right of way. That led to charges for possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. She was still in custody when we checked the blotter. Her reported address is in West Sandalfoot, aka the Sandalfoot trailers. Her name shows up as a possible witness in a 2009 lawsuit against IHOP, so she may have worked there in the past. We see no prior cases for her, either traffic or criminal, in Palm Beach and Broward. David Kornstadt (upper left, 29) was arrested Friday for battery on an officer, firefighter or EMT. He previously appeared in one of our October reports for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. His reported address is in “Boca Trails” on the south side of Judge Winikoff just west of 441. Tamas Orosz (upper right, 38) was arrested for domestic battery Friday morning by deputies and released Saturday afternoon. His reported address is in the Bella Vista apartments in Boca Del Mar (southeast of the Powerline-Palmetto Park intersection). The only history we see for him is a couple of minor traffic tickets. Richard Utter (bottom left, 46) was arrested Saturday night for burglary. On a previous arrest in December (a drug case that was dropped) his reported address was in the Sandalfoot trailers, though this arrest has him as “at large.” He was still in custody with bond set at $5,000 when we checked the blotter. He has some history including a felony burglary in 2011 for which he got probation, and a 2003 felony case in Broward with burglary, indecent exposure and prowling counts. This is one of those moments when we wonder why someone would get probation on a repeat felony burglary. Welcome to South Florida. In that 2011 case he eventually violated his probation and did about 3 months in county jail.
Sheriff’s deputies have made an arrest in the Sandalfoot Cove home explosion case. Eduardo Antonio Agudelo, age 34 and a native of Colombia, was arrested Tuesday afternoon and is being held on $18,000 bond. He’s been charged with what appears to be four felony counts: 1. Arson 2. Possession of over 20 grams of marijuana 3. Marijuana producing 4. Renting a property knowingly used for manufacturing illegal drugs West Boca News has obtained two probable cause affidavits from the case, and researched Mr. Agudelo’s arrest history as well.
Of course we remind our readers that arrestees are innocent until proven guilty, and also that despite our crime coverage, West Boca has a lower crime rate than East Boca and much lower than the county as a whole.
In Palm Beach County, Mr. Agudelo has 10 cases listed though they appear to be from 6 incidents including 3 traffic stops. Aside from those, in 2006 he was arrested for a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. That case was dropped by prosecutors. In 2007 he was charged with felony marijuana possession and was sentenced to 18 months probation along with community service and nearly $500 in “fees.” Now he’s producing his own marijuana! The reports don’t disclose whether or not he was actually selling the marijuana he was growing, but if he was, he’d probably would’ve been using some seed to sale software so he could keep track of his expenses and his stock.
He also has had a few traffic tickets in Broward but we don’t see anything criminal there. We do see a history in Miami-Dade as well: That shows four counts from 1998. Most were dropped, but the felony burglary and grand theft charges were resolved with probation and “adjudication withheld.” He was arrested by the sheriff and booked the same day. From the arrest report, it appears that Mr. Agudelo voluntarily appeared at the Sheriff’s office on Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach. His “first appearance” was scheduled for this morning at 9 am but we do not have an update on what happened yet. The affidavits show that the vehicle parked in front of the house was registered in Mr. Agudelo’s name along with a woman at an address in Miami-Dade County. They also found substantial “correspondence” between Mr. Agudelo and a different woman [name omitted] (25) who has had a couple traffic cases in Broward County. She might be one of the women pictured in this photo, but we can’t be sure. We found it at a blog titled [woman’s name omitted – link broken]. We see a possible connection between the two associated with North Bay Village, an island between Miami and Miami Beach along the JFK Causeway. The police affidavit indicates that a neighbor’s surveillance video shows Mr. Agudelo on the scene shortly after the explosion along with an as-yet unidentified woman. It’s lucky the neighbor was in possession of a camera similar to that of My Animal Command’s – Solar Trail Cameras For Security and Surveillance otherwise Mr. Agudelo may have never been arrested and tried. On review of the affidavits, the arson charge looks like a stretch. Here’s what the investigating officer wrote: As written it seems like he’s trying to squeeze an accident into an intentional arson. However the statute, section 806.01, includes damage resulting from commission of any felony, so the intent may refer to the other felonies charged. We still think it’s a weak arson case. It may also be difficult to prove a connection between Agudelo and the other criminal acts. The police claim video puts him at the scene but we don’t know how clear that video is, and there does not appear to be any evidence showing what he did, if anything, inside the house. Do they have enough for probable cause? Sure, that looks pretty clear. But proving his guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? That’s not going to be easy unless something else happens. One other bit from all of this. There are two separate arrest reports. For some reason they have two arrests, one for the arson and another for the other three charges. In one arrest report they list his occupation as “unknown.” And in the other a different officer listed Agudelo’s occupation as “drug producer.” Now that’s a cop with a sense of humor.