Hoverboard-riding Boca armed robber gets eight years in prison

Keon Dennard Cunnington

A 21-year-old arrested for a string of armed robberies that culminated in a purse-snatching from a trio of elderly women while on a Hoverboard was sentenced to eight years in prison Monday.

The sentence for Keon Dennard Cunnington came as part of a plea agreement from three separate cases from February 2016.

They included an armed robbery with a teen accomplice of two men’s iPhones in Greenacres and a robbery outside the Boca Raton library where the robbers dragged an elderly woman to the ground at gunpoint before making off with a purse, credit cards and other items from her and two other women.

Cunnington, who was listed with addresses in Lauderhill and Clewiston, was also accused of robbing another man of his cell phone at gunpoint while the man was sitting on a bench at Veteran’s Park in Greenacres.

According to arrest records in the library case, Cunnington and the teen followed three elderly women to the parking lot of the public library after dark while riding Hoverboards they’d taken at gunpoint from two riders in Ocean Ridge hours earlier.

 The women told police one of the men pulled out a pistol right before they got to their car. He grabbed one woman, 70, and dragged her onto the parking lot floor in an attempt to steal her purse, the report says.

The robbers ran off with one purse with several credit cards and personal items inside. The women had minor injuries.

Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sentenced Cunnington to a total of eight years in prison on all the charges as part of a plea deal from Assistant Public Defendern Maegan Young and Assistant State Attorney Emily Walters.

Court records show that Cunnington’s case was moved to mental health court for several months after a court-ordered mental health evaluation in August. The records show he was subsequently deemed competent to stand trial in November.

Dr. Salomon Melgen made and lost millions by multi-dosing elderly patients

Dr. Salomon Melgen’s practice of using a single vial of a drug to treat multiple elderly patients for a wet macular degeneration went from being a bonanza to a bust, according to those who testified Wednesday in the Palm Beach County ophthalmologist’s trial on 76 charges of health care fraud.

Dr. Salomon Melgen, 62, arrives at the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach this week.(Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

When the U.S. Supreme Court two weeks ago refused to hear Melgen’s appeal in his long-running dispute with federal health regulators, it dashed his hopes of recouping millions he repaid Medicare when it claimed he wrongly used one vial of the pricey drug Lucentis to treat as many as four patients, a practice known as multi-dosing.

But federal prosecutors, who claim Melgen bilked Medicare out of as much as $105 million by multi-dosing, misdiagnosing and mistreating scores of elderly patients, said millions more are at stake.

The high court’s decision means Melgen won’t be able to get back the $8.9 million he repaid Medicare for multi-dosing patients at clinics in West Palm Beach, Wellington, Delray Beach and Port St. Lucie in 2007 and 2008. But, Medicare officials also want the wealthy, politically-connected retinal specialist to repay another roughly $32 million for multi-dosing patients from 2009 to 2013.

An attorney, whose Washington-based firm has been paid about $5 million to represent Melgen in his unsuccessful legal battle with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, told a federal jury that Melgen is appealing the agency’s claims that he owes it additional money. The appeals, attorney Alan Reider acknowledged, could stretch on for years.

Melgen’s attorneys – including one that works for the same Washington, D.C. law firm as Reider – argued that Melgen’s practice of multi-dosing didn’t cost the Medicare program a dime. Had Melgen bought separate vials of Lucentis for each of his patients, the agency would have reimbursed Melgen roughly $2,000 for each one.

But, prosecutors countered, the practice was lucrative for Melgen. Instead of buying separate vials of Lucentis for three or sometimes four patients, he bought one. But he was reimbursed as if he bought one for each patient.

That means if he used one vial to treat three patients, instead of getting back roughly $2,000 for a single vial, he got back about $6,000. If he used it to treat four patients, he got nearly $8,000.

The trial, which began last month, continues today. Melgen also faces corruption charges in New Jersey along with his longtime friend, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. His multi-dosing of Lucentis, and Menendez’s attempts to intervene in his dispute with federal regulators, figure into the prosecution’s case there as well.

 

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer to join Holland & Knight

Wifredo Ferrer
Wifredo Ferrer

Wifredo A. Ferrer, the outgoing U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, has accepted a position as head of the Global Compliance and Investigations team at the international law firm Holland & Knight.

The move, announced in a press release Wednesday, will put Ferrer in charge of corporate compliance and government investigations for the firm’s white-collar defense division.

Company officials said Ferrer, who with seven years as U.S. Attorney was the South Florida office’s longest-serving top prosecutor since the 1970s, will focus on both domestic and international clients.

“Over my many years in the South Florida community, I’ve been very impressed by the caliber and professionalism of Holland & Knight attorneys, many of whom I count as friends,” Ferrer aid in the news release. “The firm has an outstanding reputation in the profession and also embodies a culture that is deeply committed to giving back to the community. I look forward to contributing to its continued success.”

Ferrer will work at the firm’s Miami office, one of its 27 branches worldwide.

Former Statewide Prosecutor William Shepherd, who heads Holland & Knight’s West Palm Beach office, attributed Ferrer’s move in part to an opportunity to reunite with the head of the firm’s litigation section, John Hogan.

Ferrer previously worked with Hogan at the Department of Justice while Mr. Hogan was chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

“I think it’s great to have Willy as part of the the team,” Shepherd said, later adding: “He’s a real trial attorney, both from the county attorney’s office in Miami-Dade and as Assistant U.S. Attorney, so he brings new depth to an already strong national team.”

Prosecutors, clerks to host workshop on sealing, expunging records

tmpNSWfqS-mdly-photoRemember that old criminal charge you’ve always wanted to get removed from your record?

The Palm Beach County court system has a workshop for that.

Officials from the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office, Palm Beach County Clerk of Court and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday will host a second sealing and expunging workshop for people seeking to have an arrest removed from their record.

Sheriff’s officials in a flyer list eligible participants as people who were ever charged with a crime in a Palm Beach County case that did not result in conviction, adding that people who fit that criteria may be able to a get a single arrest record sealed or expunged.

“Our community becomes safer when those who are eligible under the law for sealing and expungement can get their lives back on track and become successful members of our society,” Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said in a press release this week.

The workshop will be held Thursday on the first floor of the main courthouse at 205 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, from 3:00 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Workshop attendees should bring the following:

  1. A Florida driver’s license, Florida issued photo I.D. or U.S. Passport.
  2. A completed “State Attorney’s Preliminary Application for Sealing/Expungement Eligibility,” which can be found at sa15.org.
  3. Any copies of old paperwork available on the arrest. If the case occurred before 2008, call ahead so the clerk has a few days to locate the old file.

For more questions, contact Angel at 561-355-7373 or Lidis at 561-355-7313

State to pay Dalia Dippolito’s trial transcript costs, judge rules

A state agency will pay the cost to transcribe Dalia Dippolito’s second trial to help her attorneys to prepare for her third trial this summer, a judge has ruled.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley at the end of a short hearing Thursday granted defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld’s request to have the state pay for what he estimates will be at least $10,000 in transcription costs to receive a written play-by-play of the December retrial that ended in mistrial.

Dippolito is now on house arrest as she awaits a third trial in the case where she was caught on camera allegedly hiring a hitman to kill her husband, Michael, in 2009.

The “hitman” turned out to be a Boynton Beach police detective who was part of an investigation that began when Dippolito’s then-lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, told authorities that Dippolito was shopping for a killer.

Rosenfeld, who last month revealed he is representing Dippolito free of charge, and California defense attorney Brian Claypool had previously won a request to have Dippolito declared indigent for the purposes of costs and fees associated with her defense. Dippolito has not been able to work since her 2009 arrest, her lawyers say, because she’s been on house arrest for most of that time.

Dippolito was jailed briefly after a first jury in her case convicted her in 2011. A judge back then sentenced to her to 20 years sin prison, but she was released on an appellate bond shortly afterwards as her lawyers fought to get her a new trial.

They won that quest when an appellate court threw out both the conviction and sentence in 2014, clearing the way for December’s trial.

That trial ended in mistrial after jurors announced they were split 3-3 over whether or not Dippolito was guilty.

Kelley set the start of jury selection for Dippolito’s third trial for June 2.

UPDATE: Judge denies Corey Jones shooter’s bid to attend child’s event

 

Nouman Raja leaves court with his wife Thursday, January 26, 2017 after a hearing where he hoped to have conditions of his house arrest loosened to attend an event at his daughter's school. The judge denied the request. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Nouman Raja leaves court with his wife Thursday, January 26, 2017. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE 8:41 a.m.: Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer denied Nouman Raja’s request to relax his house arrest this Sunday as he awaits trial in the death of a stranded motorist.

Raja, the former Palm Beach Gardens police officer accused of manslaughter and attempted murder in the Oct. 18, 2015 shooting death of Corey Jones, had asked a judge to release him from house arrest so he can attend a school event for his daughter.

See Post’s full coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

Raja’s wife, Karine Antonio Raja, said all the other parents sat her daughter’s preschool would be attending the event and that her five-year-old daughter had asked for both her mother and father to attend.

But Feuer, agreeing with Chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis that the request should be denied, called the request “a slippery slope.”

“I simply believe that this just chips away at the importance and essence of house arrest,” Feuer said. “I understand that this is an important day in Mr. Raja’s child’s life, but I think the ramifications that were placed on Mr. Raja’s house arrest should remain at this time.”

Raja was arrested in June, nearly eight months after he approached the 31-year-old stranded motorist in plainclothes and shot him several times after a brief encounter on the off-ramp of Interstate 95 and PGA Boulevard.

By then, he had been fired from the department and also let go from a job as a police academy instructor at Palm Beach State College.

Thursday’s hearing brought Raja face to face for the first time with Jones’ father, stepmother and brother, who did not attend his first appearance hearing back in June.

It also marked the first time Raja’s wife has spoken publicly since his arrest.

Feuer at the end of the hearing canceled a status check in the case set for next month and instead asked the lawyers to come back with an update on March 28.

The judge has said she wants to bring the case to trial as early as this summer, but prosecutors alone have listed dozens of potential witnesses that Raja’s defense team will be entitled to interview before trial.

Raja told investigators initially that he identified himself as an officer and only shot at Jones when he charged at him with a gun.

Jones was on the line with a roadside assistance operator at the time, and the recording prosecutors released recently in the case captured no such introduction.

In Raja’s June arrest report, prosecutors also noted Raja’s 911 call, where he repeatedly shouted to someone – presumably Jones – to drop the gun.

But prosecutors claim that according to Jones’ injuries and the time Raja fired his last shots, Jones was likely dead and certainly already on the ground by the time Raja dialed 911.

Raja has been free on house arrest since his arrest and is only permitted to leave the house for work, medical visits, dropping his children off at school and once monthly haircuts.

Chief Assistant State Attorneys Brian Fernandes and Adrienne Ellis in the past have balked at Raja’s requests to relax his house arrest, saying that Jones never had a chance of his own to have children and be with family because of him untimely death.

Raja’s attorney, Richard Lubin, has said that his client is presumed innocent and says he should be free from “a rush to judgement” in the case.

VERDICT: Pair acquitted in 2008 Lake Worth murder

A Palm Beach County jury on Wednesday acquitted Tzaddi Allen and Dexter Lewis in the 2008 murder of Randall Copeland.

The jury’s verdict comes after more than four hours of deliberation that began Tuesday.

Assistant State Attorneys Andrew Slater and Karen Murillo argued that Allen and Lewis were two of several men who pulled up to a home where Copeland was staying on May 30, 2008 and ambushed him.

It was Allen, prosecutors say, who shot Copeland when he tried to run.

They say Allen and Lewis tried to rob Copeland to avenge Copeland’s former roommate, Ashley Rosa, a new girlfriend of Allen’s who felt Copeland owed her rent money after he abruptly moved out.

But Allen’s defense attorneys, Assistant Piblic Defenders Scott Pribble and James Snowden, and Lewis’ attorney, Franklin Prince, have said the only guilty parties in the case are Rosa, her brother Mark and a third man, Dwayne Jackson. 

Jackson and Mark Rosa are free after serving 7-year sentences. Ashley Rosa was never charged. 

DIY legal workshops to be held at Palm Beach County courthouse

The Palm Beach County Clerk and Comptroller’s office on Tuesday announced a series of free “Self-Service” workshops designed to help people navigate through the local court system and file legal documents.

The first of these workshops, on landlord/tenant evictions, will be held Wednesday at the main courthouse in West Palm Beach from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Other planned topics for the series of workshops include simplified divorce, small claims and sealing and expunging records.

For more information, call (561) 355-7048.

 

 

Boynton man get six months’ jail in pit bull cruelty case

"Lady," mother of the puppies, shortly after her rescue in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)
“Lady,” mother of the puppies, shortly after her rescue in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)

A 36-year-old Boynton Beach man accepted a plea deal Monday that will and him to jail for six months on charges from a case where investigators say he kept a starved pit bull and her four puppies in a filthy crate without food.

Deon Blue accepted a plea on a single felony charge of cruelty to animals and four misdemeanor charges of  unlawful abandonment and confinement of animals.

His attorney, Harris Printz, told Circuit Judge Laura Johnson that Blue accepted the allegations in hia January 2016 arrest report as part of the deal he arranged with Assistant State Attorney Judith Arco.

Lady's four puppies, as they were discovered in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)
Lady’s four puppies, as they were discovered in May 2015. (Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)

Among the claims, Boynton Beach police say, an investigation began in May 2015 when an anonymous called complained that there was an emaciated dog and four puppies in the carport of a home in the 2600 block of Northeast 4th Court.

By the time an officer arrived, the pit pull had made it out of her crate, leaving the puppies behind, and wandered to a neighbor’s house. The carport area, the officer said, had a putrid stench of urine and feces, and there was no food or water in the area where the whining puppies were discovered.

Although the home had been foreclosed months earlier, investigators say they quickly traced the dogs back to Blue, who immediately claimed ownership of the pit bull he named Lady and her four puppies.

Animal Control officials took custody of the dogs, and a veterinarian later said Lady was anemic and suffering from severe starvation.

Aside from the jail sentence, Blue was also ordered to may nearly $1,000 in fees and costs.

Boca Raton nanny killer Jerry Wiggins dies in prison

The man serving a life sentence for a slew of crimes that included the 2004 rape and murder of a 26-year-old woman died in prison just before the Christmas holiday, prison records confirm.

Jerry Lee Wiggins, 40, was on Friday listed as deceased in the Florida Department of Corrections website. The site does not list a date of death, nor the circumstances of his death.

Jerry Lee Wiggins
Jerry Lee Wiggins

He is listed on the site as a “released” inmate, and the release date listed is Dec. 20.

Wiggins was convicted in October 2014 for the 2004 rape and murder of 26-year-old nanny Monica Rivera Valdizan. He was also serving a 15-year sentence for the 2003 rape of a Broward County girl and a total 90 years – 50 years for attempted murder and 40 years for armed burglary – for a 2003 home invasion robbery.

His attorneys in each trial argued that, with a severely low IQ and documented mental illnesses, that he was mentally unfit to stand trial.

A psychologist found Wiggins “marginally competent” during the nanny murder trial.