Around the Region for Dec. 2, 2010


Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 12:17 a.m.

POLICE BEAT

Ex-Gainesville man indicted in Ponzi plan

A former Gainesville man was indicted Wednesday on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud in connection with a $30 million Ponzi scheme.

David Lewalski, 47, was indicted by the Department of Justice in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa following his Nov. 4 arrest in New York City.

U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill said Lewalski defrauded hundreds of investors in Florida and throughout the U.S. through his company, Botfly LLC of Bayonet Point in Pasco County, while he led a lavish lifestyle.

Lewalski and co-conspirators told investors they could earn as much as 10 percent monthly interest trading on the foreign currency market. After collecting $30 million, Lewalski invested a small portion, generating little if any profits. He paid investors $15 million using other investors' money. He also spent millions of dollars on himself, friends and family leasing real estate and private jets and purchasing luxury autos, clothing and jewelry.

If convicted, Lewalski faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

— Anthony Clark

Homeless man accused of burning another's tent

A homeless man was arrested late Monday after being accused of burning down the tent of a person who shared a campsite with him.

Gainesville police said James Albert Wimmer, 49, was charged with arson of a dwelling.

The campsite where the incident happened was in the woods in the 100 block of Southeast 16th Avenue. Officer Shawn Barnes said Wimmer and the victim, Connie Lou Burger, had been arguing when Wimmer apparently pulled Burger's tent out of the ground and threw it into a campfire. Burger told police that most of her belongings — such as shoes and clothing — were inside the tent and also burned.

Police said the remnants of Burger's belongings could still be identified in the fire when they arrived.

Wimmer was booked into the Alachua County jail.

— Karen Voyles

Man allegedly stole from prison construction site

A man suspected of stealing from a Marion County state prison construction site was arrested in Levy County on Monday.

William Edward Carter, 36, was arrested at his home at 15751 NE 60th St. in Williston by Levy County sheriff's Investigator Mike Wilkinson. Marion County deputies assisted in the arrest.

Carter was wanted on a Marion County warrant charging him with grand theft for allegedly stealing property from the Lowell Correctional Institution construction site.

The deputies said that while they were at Carter's home, they noticed two rifles in plain site by his front door. Because the deputies knew Carter has a felony conviction record, they charged him with possession of a firearm by convicted felon.

In addition to the rifles, deputies said a search of Carter and his home turned up a shotgun, some ammunition, 7 grams of crystal methamphetamine and more than $5,000 worth of items reported stolen from the construction site.

In addition to the warrant and weapons charges, Carter was also charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Carter was booked into the Levy County jail.

— Karen Voyles

Man allegedly files false report for food, money

A man who does not own a car or have a driver's license told police he was looking for money or food when he filed a report claiming his car had been stolen.

Samuel Goodlander, 37, who gave the St. Francis House homeless shelter at 413 S. Main St. as his address, was arrested Monday evening and charged with filing a false police report.

According to Officer Brett Smith, Goodlander asked an employee at the Radio Shack at 3333 SW Archer Road to call police so that he could report his car as having been stolen from the store's parking lot.

Smith said Goodlander began to change his story when he was reminded that he did not have a driver's license. Instead, Goodlander claimed he made up the stolen car story, hoping the employee would give him money or food. He said the employee had previously helped him.

Goodlander was booked into the Alachua County jail.

— Karen Voyles

Husband arrested, wife wanted in robbery case

The potential purchase of a puppy resulted in a robbery and arrest in Lake City on Tuesday.

James Wesley Mahaffey, 35, of 1007 SE Putnam St., was charged with robbery following an incident in his home, Lake City Police Capt. John Blanchard IV reported.

The incident was reported at 12:43 p.m. when the victim, Kenneth Chasteen, agreed to meet Mahaffey to purchase a puppy.

Once Chasteen entered the home, Mahaffey's wife, Lanayia Mahaffey, struck him several times with a baseball bat, Blanchard reported. Chasteen told police his money and cell phone were stolen. Chasteen escaped and called police, Blanchard added.

Officers located James Mahaffey, interviewed him about the incident and then arrested him for robbery. Bond is set at $25,000.

Lanayia Mahaffey has not been located, and investigators are requesting a warrant for robbery for her actions, Blanchard reported Wednesday evening.

— Cindy Swirko

COMMUNITY

UF professor to discuss effects of daily news

According to John Sommerville, the availability of daily news makes us dumber, not smarter. That's the thesis of his book, "How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society," and the topic of his talk on Dec. 8 at the Mennonite Meeting House, 1236 NW 18th Ave., Gainesville.

Sommerville is a professor emeritus of English history at the University of Florida and a member of the Advisory Board of the Christian Study Center of Gainesville. His talk is one in a monthly Brown Bag Lunch series sponsored by the Beltram Peace Center that provides an opportunity for the community to meet local activists, artists and thinkers in a informal setting.

The program is free and open to the public. Participants may bring their own lunch. Drinks will be provided.

For more information, contact Eve MacMaster at (352) 377-6577.

— Staff report

STATE

Judge dismisses Donald Trump suit over jet noise

MIAMI — Donald Trump's lawsuit against Palm Beach County and its noisy airport has been dismissed by a judge, but Trump's attorney says they plan to refile the case.

The lawsuit filed in July was the latest legal action by Trump in a decades-old disagreement over noise control at Palm Beach International Airport, which is near Trump's ritzy Mar-a-Lago club. The suit claimed the county failed to assess noise and associated pollution from jet engines that has particular impact on Mar-a-Lago — a National Historic Landmark.

The judge disagreed Tuesday. Trump's attorney, James Beasley, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that they will refile and keep pushing for changes at the airport.

The lawsuit also asked to block the airport's planned runway expansion, which aims straight at Trump's home.

— The Associated Press

Fla.-grown Christmas tree presented to Crist

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist has accepted his last Capitol Christmas tree.

Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson and a couple who own a Tallahassee Christmas tree farm presented the fresh-cut Carolina Sapphire cypress to Crist on Wednesday.

The full, blue-green tree will be on display at the entrance to the governor's office through the holidays.

Crist, who ran for the U.S. Senate and lost rather than seek re- election, will leave office Jan. 4.

Bronson joined Franco and Sigrid Camacho in presenting the tree on behalf of the Florida Christmas Tree Association. It's a Tallahassee tradition.

They said buying locally grown Christmas trees is an energy- efficient and environmentally sound alternative to out-of-state and artificial trees.

— The Associated Press

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