Articles Posted in Theft

There have been a number of recent high-profile cases of theft of motor vehicles in South Florida in recent weeks, with defendants in each case facing serious penalties.


Still, it’s important to note that grand theft auto and carjacking, while both major crimes, are inherently different, which means the approach of prosecutors and defense attorneys will be different as well.

Grand theft auto, as codified in F.S. 812.014, is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum five of $5,000. It’s on par with theft of a firearm or commercially-farmed animal or a controlled substance. The offense may be bumped up to a second-degree felony if the vehicle involved costs more than $20,000 (but less than $100,000), in which case the penalty is increased to a possible 15 years maximum in prison. Carjacking, meanwhile, is codified in F.S. 812.133is a life felony if a firearm is used; Otherwise, it’s considered a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Carjacking is the act of taking a motor vehicle either by force, violence, assault or putting in fear.  Continue reading

It’s touted as a smart way to identify alleged thieves, drive down property crimes and return stolen possessions. It’s a spray called SmartWater CSI, and it’s a liquid that glows under ultraviolet light. The liquid is intended for spray on property or intruders, and it leaves a residue that is detectable on people for several weeks and on property for years. keyhole

Since more than two dozen law enforcement agencies in South Florida signed up to use the liquid, 11 say property crimes have taken a nosedive. However, it’s only resulted in half a dozen arrests and in no case has stolen property been recovered and returned to its owner. In fact, a number of law enforcement agencies say it doesn’t seem as if the product actually works.

As criminal defense lawyers, we would have a number of questions as to how a certain piece of property could be traced back to that particular owner or how spray identified on a certain individual could be traced back to the crime scene. Continue reading

A 27-year-old Broward County woman is accused of two robberies at two separate banks – one at a SunTrust Bank in Fort Lauderdale and another at a Space Coast Credit Union in Miramar weeks earlier. fingerprint

Federal authorities with the FBI intervened and linked the two crimes with fingerprints, making an arrest just hours after the alleged second robbery. Investigators say the suspect, Ashley Cambridge, heisted a total of $4,220 collectively in both incidents. In both cases, she reportedly handed tellers a note that began with the phrase, “Don’t try anything stupid.”

After matching the fingerprints, authorities with the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force initiated an arrest against her at her apartment in Hollywood, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Cambridge, a mother of two small children, reportedly confessed her involvement in both robberies to authorities. She even went so far as to sign two photographs of the crime scene, circling the alleged robber in both pictures and writing the word, “Me.” She told investigators some of the money had been spent on her family and rent.  Continue reading

Finders keepers, losers weepers. That’s how the saying goes, anyway. Unfortunately for a man in Palm Beach County, the Florida criminal justice system doesn’t quite work that way. diamondring

According to The Sun Sentinel, a woman shopping at Neiman Marcus in Palm Beach stepped into a unisex bathroom when duty called. As she washed her hands, she slipped off a $30,000 diamond ring and placed it on the counter. And then, the Vero Beach made a colossal mistake: She forgot it.

She walked out of the bathroom and soon therefore, police reported, Joseph Tursi walked in. The 58-year-old New York native reportedly pocketed the ring and made no attempt to turn it into store personnel. The 31-year-old alleged victim reportedly didn’t realize her error until she got into her car about 10 minutes later. She put her hands on the steering wheel and then started to panic. She went back to the bathroom to search for the 3-carat diamond ring, but it was nowhere to be seen. Continue reading

Authorities in Weston are tracking down leads trying to find a suspected light-fingered woman with a penchant for long skirts. securitycamera

According to the Sun Sentinel, the woman first appeared on law enforcement radar last year, when she reportedly heisted some $1,000 up or into her flowing, floral skirt. Now, almost exactly a year later, the same woman – accompanied by the same man – reportedly returned to the same store. This time, she had on a different skirt, but the technique was the same. The value of the goods taken this time, police say, was $400.

The dollar amounts are important in these situations because when it comes to Florida theft cases, the severity of the charge will depend on the amount stolen.  Continue reading

The man said he was roped into an international fraud after striking up a conversation with a group in a Romanian night club. That was back in 2007. The plan didn’t involve physically hurting anyone, simply separating them from their money. computermouse1

The following year, he was on a flight to Los Angeles, where he was taught how to open phony bank accounts. He was able to return to Romania. From there, federal prosecutors say, he would trick unsuspecting buyers on websites like and Craigslist into putting a down payment on a vehicle. Problem was, he didn’t own any vehicles and he never delivered once the cash was transferred. Authorities say there was never any intention on Mihai Postelnicu’s part to engage in a legitimate vehicle purchase transaction.

He returned to the U.S. in 2010 and began working out of Broward County, where he set up two bank accounts into which victims sent electronic transfers of cash. Posing as a Czech or Swedish citizen, he used fake identification cards and aliases to withdraw the money. The emailed transactions made it appear as if they were from legitimate services, like Google Wallet.

Now, The Sun Sentinel reports, the 37-year-old Postelnicu has been sentenced to 2 years, 9 months in a U.S. federal prison. Once he serves his sentence, he’ll be deported back to Romania.  Continue reading

Three men in South Florida are facing federal fraud charges after authorities allege the men took over control of about 80 houses in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, swapped the locks and then rented these units to tenants who had no idea the “landlords” weren’t the rightful owners.housekeys

The four men, all from Palm Beach County, are facing charges that include mail fraud conspiracy and mail fraud. Bond is being withheld until a judge determines whether they should stay locked up while the case is pending.

Authorities say this brazen scheme specifically targeted homes that were owned by a Georgia-based company in the business of buying and renovating homes and then renting them out. Continue reading

Fort Lauderdale police detectives say two teen suspects channeled their inner Grinch recently when they broke into a home on Northwest 17th Avenue and made off with a pillowcase stuffed with Christmas gifts. christmasgifts

Authorities say the two, 19-year-old Qwavon Jones and a 16-year-old who was not named due to his age, were caught after neighbors called police to report they heard glass shattering at a home nearby. Police arrived quickly thereafter, allegedly spotting the two as they ran and hopped a fence while holding the pillowcase. After a brief foot chase, the two were apprehended. Authorities later surmised the two gained entry to the home by smashing a rear window and climbing inside.

South Florida Sun Sentinel reports the two were charged with grand theft, burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and resisting an officer without violence. Investigators say they discovered not only unwrapped gifts inside the pillowcase, including purses and shoes, but also a myriad of jewelry and rings inside the pockets of each. The homeowner later identified the items as belonging to him. In total, the value of the items was placed at $2,000. Continue reading

Social Security fraud is addressed under federal statutes – specifically, 42 U.S.C. 1383a. In part, the law defines fraud as having knowledge of the occurrence of any event that would affect one’s initial or continued right to any such benefit or the initial or continued right to any such benefit of any other individual in whose behalf or she applied for or received the benefits, along with a failure to disclose it.checks1

Violation of this law carries a maximum five years in prison, plus an order for restitution.

Despite this, a Deerfield Beach woman who allegedly committed Social Security fraud for more than three decades was sentenced to house arrest, probation, community service and restitution. This was after defendant Claudia Carpenter, 60, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft of government funds. The Sun-Sentinel reported Carpenter admitted to the court when entering her plea that she failed to tell the Social Security Administration when her mother died in 1984. Instead, she continued collecting her mother’s disability checks – about $900  each month – which were automatically deposited to their joint bank accounts. Years later, she started taking the money out of automatic teller machines. Continue reading

YOLO is a popular Fort Lauderdale restaurant named after the mantra that, “You Only Live Once.” But a former bookkeeper at the downtown hot spot may have taken those words too closely to heart.onehundreddollarbills

According to a report by The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 52-year-old Joanne Purstell of Oakland Park has been arrested on grand theft charges after management accused her of stealing nearly $350,000 of the restaurant’s money.

Purstell, who reportedly has no prior criminal record, was in charge of managing tip shares, balancing cash receipts and making deposits of cash and credit card payments for the East Las Olas Boulevard restaurant. But Fort Lauderdale police investigators assert that between 2012 to 2015, Purstell failed to deposit nearly $350,000 into restaurant bank accounts.

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