Around the Region

Published: Friday, January 25, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2008 at 6:23 a.m.

More than 1,400 pills found in man's car

Troopers found thousands of dollars in prescription medication in the car of a Fort Lauderdale man after a traffic stop on Interstate 75 in Alachua County on Wednesday afternoon.

Stephen D. Griffin, 56, was being held on $182,000 bond at the Alachua County jail Thursday on multiple charges, including armed drug trafficking, possession of forged documents and resisting an officer without violence, according to jail records and the Florida Highway Patrol.

Trooper Bobby Duncan stopped Griffin near mile marker 380, about five miles south of Gainesville, at about 2 p.m. because of traffic violations including improper lane change and window tint.

A check of his Kentucky driver's license showed it was suspended, troopers reported.

Inside Griffin's 1994 Buick officers found more than 1,400 pills of Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Methodone and Xanax, valued at about $30,000.

A loaded semi-automatic pistol also was discovered in the vehicle along with $5,424 in cash.

Griffin did not have proper prescriptions for the medication, said FHP spokesman Lt. Mike Burroughs.

Officers did not have information about where Griffin was headed but said they know the interstate is a pipeline for drug trafficking.

Burroughs said troopers have been working with other law enforcement agencies to stop drug trafficking along the state's roadways.

- Lise Fisher

Health forum is set to take place tonight

The Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies: "Pampering the Brothers Health Forum, Part II" is scheduled for 7 tonight at the Alachua County Health Department auditorium, 228 SE 24th St. The facilitator is Cynthia Moore Chestnut.

- Sun staff report

New skate park planned at Northeast Complex

The city of Gainesville plans to open a new skate park at the Northeast Complex next month.

The park is now under construction at 1028 NE 14th St. and will be located west of Citizens Field, the city reported.

The park will include skating structures such as a quarter-pipe, half-pipe and a launch box.

The facility is expected to open Feb. 1.

A concrete skate bowl also is under construction at Possum Creek Park, 4009 NW 53rd Ave., and should be completed this fall.

- Sun staff report

Residents to take part in community study

Residents in Gainesville will be asked to participate in a study rating the community and government services.

Postcards are being sent this week to households randomly selected to participate in the anonymous citizen survey, the city announced Wednesday. A survey will be mailed soon afterward.

The survey will allow the city to evaluate results with comparisons to other municipalities.

"Creating a mechanism to obtain feedback from our citizens is a critical component of improving our service delivery," said City Manager Russ Blackburn in a statement. "By listening to our citizens' needs, we can better refine our services and programs to continue to rank among the best cities in the United States."

Results from the survey will be available in April and will be posted online on the city's strategic planning Web page.

- Sun staff report

Final sections of 'Rails to Trails' to be made

Construction is set to start next month on the final two sections of the Rails to Trails project along State Road 100 in Clay County, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The new sections will add 4.7 miles to the existing trail in Keystone Heights. One extends from the Bradford County line to the start of the existing trail at NW Berea Avenue.

The second runs from the current trail east from NE Commercial Circle to the Putnam County line.

The trail, expected to be completed this summer, will be located on the abandoned Norfolk-Southern Railroad, according to DOT.

- Sun staff report

Petty tour to stop in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers will make concert stops in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale as part of a sweeping summer tour that kicks off in Grand Rapids, Mich., on May 30, the group announced Thursday.

The two Florida shows are slated for July 15 and16, with Steve Winwood performing as the opening act.

The tour announcement comes as the Heartbreakers prepare for their much-anticipated performance at this year's Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 3.

Tickets for the Heartbreakers' summer tour will go on sale Feb. 4 at 10 a.m.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or

- Laura Wright

Man faces murder in death of infant cousin

OCALA - Authorities have charged an Ocala man with first-degree murder in the death of a 5-month-old cousin he was babysitting.

The Marion County Sheriff's Office says the infant died after reportedly coughing up blood. A medical examiner on Wednesday ruled the death a homicide.

Detectives arrested Rishi Abraham Ramgoolie after they say he gave two different accounts of how the infant was injured and neither matched the physical evidence.

No further information was immediately available.

Ramgoolie is being held without bond at the Marion County Jail. The jail did not have information on an attorney for the 22-year-old. He is scheduled to appear before a judge at Thursday.

- The Associated Press

Man lying on tracks killed by oncoming train

LAKE ALFRED - A man lying on the railroad tracks has been run over by a freight train in Polk County.

The sheriff's office says 48-eight-year-old Lester Petty was killed Wednesday night in Lake Alfred.

The conductor of the CSX freight train saw Petty on the tracks and blew the horn several times, but he was unable to stop the train in time.

Petty lived at a nearby mobile home park. Authorities don't know yet why he was on the tracks.

- The Associated Press

Alleged Mafia member charged in fraud case

WEST PALM BEACH - A purported member of the Gambino crime family and five other men have been charged in a 42-count grand jury indictment with fraud involving telemarketing and real estate deals, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The indictment charges that Vincent Artuso, 63, is a member of the New York-based Mafia organization and supervised the others in various fraud and money-laundering transactions.

Some of the charges involve a Deerfield Beach-based telemarketing firm that allegedly sold fraudulent magazine subscriptions nationwide in a scheme to obtain credit card numbers and steal from the victims.

The suspects each face at least 20 years in prison if convicted.

- The Associated Press

Scout leader given 10-year sentence in fraud

PENSACOLA - A former Girl Scout leader was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Thursday for stealing her troop's Social Security numbers and using them in a tax-fraud scheme.

U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers sentenced Holly M. Barnes, 33, in the scheme that netted $87,000 in illegal refunds. Barnes pleaded guilty Oct. 31 to 19 counts of filing fictitious tax claims and 15 counts of identity theft.

Barnes admitted asking parents of the girls in her troop to provide their children's Social Security numbers for a fake medical release, which she claimed was required to take trips.

She then electronically filed false tax returns that included Social Security numbers of 15 scouts and her own four children.

- The Associated Press

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