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.

 

Boca attorney again asks court to declare Trump mentally unfit

A Boca Raton probate and guardianship lawyer has renewed his efforts to have Donald Trump declared mentally unfit to serve as president of the United States.

Donald Trump
New U.S. President Donald Trump

Attorney James Herb said Trump’s actions over the last 10 days – fighting over the size of the crowd at his inauguration, insisting he really won the popular vote and inciting international turmoil with an immigration ban – reinforce his earlier claims that part-time Palm Beach resident is delusional.

A similar guardianship petition Herb filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in the run-up to the November election was thrown out by Circuit Judge Jaimie Goodman. As a state court judge, Goodman said he had no power to block Trump’s candidacy or remove him from office. Further, he ruled, Herb didn’t have a relationship with Trump that would allow him to ask that the real estate tycoon be declared incompetent.

Herb said he has addressed those legal obstacles in a new petition filed Monday. “I did not have a relationship with him but I now do because he’s my president,” Herb said.

Further, he said, he’s not asking a judge to remove Trump from office. That would be done in accordance with a process outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

Herb said he is simply asking a judge to appoint a team of experts to evaluate the new chief executive’s mental health. If Trump is found incompetent by the three-person panel, the judge could then limit his activities.

In the petition, Herb is asking that Trump be barred from “seeking or retaining employment.” In an asterisks, he notes that he is asking Trump be prohibited from “retaining employment as President of the United States.” If a judge agrees to the limitation, the order would be forwarded to federal officials capable of removing him from office.

As he did in the previous petition, Herb claims Trump exhibits signs of narcissism and histrionic personality disorder. Both are recognized as mental illnesses by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Since taking office, Trump has also exhibited signs of being delusional, Herb wrote.

Herb, who was criticized as a publicity-hound after filing the first petition in October, said his actions aren’t part of some self-serving publicity stunt. A longtime guardianship and probate lawyer, he said his practice is now primarily limited to wills and trusts.

“I’m not interested in getting business. I have plenty of business,” he said.

His goal, he said, is much more far-reaching. “I’m trying to save the world,” he said.

He is not alone in his suspicion that Trump is mentally unfit to be president. A group calling itself “We The People,” on Sunday started an online petition to “Demand Congress Require an Independent Expert Panel Determine the President’s Psychiatric Stability to Protect America.” If they get 99,999 signatures by Feb. 28, the White House by law has to respond.

 

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.

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.

Dalia Dippolito’s third trial set to begin in June

The first Friday in June will mark the start of jury selection in what will be Dalia Dippolito’s third trial in the case surrounding her caught-on-camera alleged plot to kill her then husband, Michael.

Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley issued an order Thursday setting Dippolito’s retrial for June 2.

The notice comes more than a month after Kelley declared a mistrial in Dippolito’s second trial after  group of six jurors announced they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict in the 2009 Boynton Beach case.

A first jury in Dippolito’s case in 2011 convicted her on a single charge of solicitation to commit first degree murder, and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but both her conviction and sentence were overturned on appeal.

Dippolito’s attorneys have argued that police violated Dippolito’s rights by forcing her lover turned police informant to participate in the investigation after he allegedly said he wanted out. They say police officials did so to spice up an episode of the reality television show “Cops.”

Prosecutors say the video evidence in the case, including conversations between Dippoilto and an undercover detective posing as a hitman, provide clear evidence that she fully intended to have her now ex-husband killed.

NEW: No venue change for third Dippolito trial

Prosecutors will not take the unprecedented step of asking a judge for a change of venue in the upcoming third trial for Dalia Dippolito.

The news comes just days after Dippolito’s lawyers said they’d like to keep the 34-year-old’s case in Palm Beach County, where last month jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on whether or not Dippolito was guilty of hiring an undercover Boynton Beach Police officer posing as a hitman to kill her then-husband, Michael.

Dalia Dippolito, 34, sits in a Palm Beach County courtroom awaiting the start of a hearing in her case on Jan. 6, 2017.
Dalia Dippolito, 34, sits in a Palm Beach County courtroom awaiting the start of a hearing in her case on Jan. 6, 2017.

Dippolito attorneys, Brian Claypool and Greg Rosenfeld, said prosecutors soon after their announcement sent an email to Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley indicating that they would seek to move the trial out of the area.

Local defense attorneys say they’ve never heard of prosecutors making such a request in this circuit. In most states, prosecutors are prohibited from asking for changes of venue.

Claypool and Rosenfeld had unsuccessfully tried several times to get Kelley to move the trial out of the area before last month’s trial.

  Continue reading “NEW: No venue change for third Dippolito trial”

Trial begins for Deerfield teen accused in fatal Boca crash

Wendy Harris-Aceves
Wendy Harris-Aceves

A jury as early as Wednesday could begin deliberating the case of a 16-year-old charged as an adult on vehicular homicide and other charges in the Nov. 1, 2015 death of a 47-year-old mother of two in a Boca Raton wreck.

The trial for Wesley Brown began in a Palm Beach County courtroom Tuesday, where prosecutors and defense attorneys presented two different scenarios for jurors of what happened the night Brown plowed a stolen convertible Ford Mustang into Wendy Harris-Aceves’ Honda pilot as he and a passenger fled from Boca Raton Police.

Harris-Aceves was driving along Palmetto Park Road, on her way to pick her daughter from a school dance just before 11:30 p.m., when Brown allegedly ran a red light at Northwest Second Avenue and hit her SUV. Brown was just 15 at the time.

Assistant State Attorneys Danielle Sherriff and Laura Burkhart Laurie have told jurors in the trial that Brown was behind the wheel of the Mustang when Boca Raton Police spotted it and identified it as being stolen in an armed robbery just hours before at The Addison Even Center.

According to arrest reports, Brown was not involved in the robbery.

Prosecutors did say, however, that Brown sped off soon after a patrol car pulled in behind him as he drove on Northwest Second Avenue near Glades Road, weaving in and out of traffic at speeds over 90 miles per hour until he ran the red light and caused the crash.

Police aid they had their lights sand sirens on when Brown sped through the light in the 30 miles-per-hour zone. Harris-Aceves died at the scene.

Palm Beach County Public Defender Carey Haughwout told jurors that Brown drove the car under duress, in fear of his passenger, 21-year-old Jacquan Strowbridge, who at the time was on probation for armed robbery.

Outside the jury’s presence late Tuesday, Haughwout said she planned to introduce certified records showing that Strowbridge had been released from prison four months before the crash and was still on probation from armed robbery and armed kidnapping charges.

Strowbridge tried to run from the scene soon after the crash but was captured by police. Haughwout is also planning to present evidence that Brown, who suffers from asthma, could have had an attack before the crash.

Testimony in the case is expected to continue Wednesday, when Brown himself could take the stand. Aside from vehicular homicide charges, Brown is also charged with fleeing and eluding and driving without a license.