Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hendry Prostitution Suspects Arrested

Stabbing-Robbery Investigation Continues - Two Arrested For Prostitution

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate a stabbing that occurred during the early morning hours of March 31, 2010 at a migrant labor camp south of LaBelle. Two women were arrested for prostitution.

Deputies responded to the Duda Labor Camp, located on South 29 after receiving a call of a fight.  Upon their arrival they found 23 year old Jose Hernandez suffering from a stab wound and lacerations to the abdomen.   

Upon questioning, Hernandez stated he didn't know who had stabbed him, but that they had taken his wallet and necklace. 

Deputies then noticed 31 year old Allison Carina Ruark (photo left) exit the apartment next to Hernandez and questioned her as to why she was there.  Ruark stated she had come to the Camp with Michelle Astroga, Linda Carbajal (photo right), John 'Ace' Daniels, and Victor Roa and they were in the process of conducting ''business" for $5.00. 

The victim later identified Ruark as being one the individuals who was involved with the males who took his possessions and stabbed him. 

During this time a second individual was later found walking down State Road 29, and identified as 35 year old Linda Carbajal.  Carbajal was then transported to the Hendry County Sheriff�s Office and along with Ruark and, subsequent to further investigation, Carbajal and Ruark were arrested for prostitution.

Currently Linda Carbajal and Allison Carina Ruark are being held on a $500.00 bond.

Suspect Arrested In Clewiston Shooting

Teen Arrested After Shots Fired At Truck

CLEWISTON, FL, -- In the early morning hours of March 31, 2010 Hendry County Deputies were dispatched to the Twin Lakes in the southeastern Clewiston area after a report of gunshots being fired.

When deputies arrived on scene they met with 24 year old Areli Campuzano who reported that she and her family had been asleep inside their home located at 691 Twin Lakes Drive when they heard gunshots being fired.  Areli Campuzano reported that she got up and ran out the door and saw a tan Ford F-150 pickup truck with several men dressed in black passing their house.  She went on to say that she recognized some of the men in the truck and identified them to deputies on scene.  

Investigators with the Hendry County Sheriff�s Office were contacted and a search for the Ford pickup truck was conducted.  Deputies along with Clewiston Police Officers did locate the vehicle and spoke with the driver and his passengers.  He reported to Deputies that he was dropping off some co-workers in the Twin Lakes area when he passed by the residence of Campuzano. 

The driver along with his passengers noticed several men standing in the front yard of 691 Twin Lakes, suspect Hugo Campuzano being one of them.  The driver stated that as he drove by he saw Hugo Campuzano with a gun in his hand and witnessed him shoot towards his vehicle.  

He then drove through the backyard of a residence onto Sherwood Drive as Hugo Campuzano continued shooting at them.  As the investigator inspected the vehicle he located what was believed to be a bullet hole located in the back passenger side of the truck and a bullet fragment was found.

Hugo Campuzano was then transported to the Sheriff�s sub-station for further questioning.  After further questioning, 19 year old Hugo Campuzano was placed under arrest for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Firing a Weapon in Public, Firing a Missile into a Vehicle and Possession of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony.  Campuzano is currently being held on no bond.

Free Florida Easter Fishing

No License Required This Weekend

Both residents and nonresidents in Florida can fish in public fresh waters across the state without a license during the weekend of April 3 and 4. All other fishing rules apply.

The Florida Legislature and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission designated the first full weekend in April each year to be Florida�s Free Freshwater Fishing Weekend. This year, that falls on Easter weekend.

Research conducted in 2009 by the Outdoor Foundation emphasized that recreational fishing is the number-one gateway activity that leads participants to increase their overall involvement in outdoor activities. 

So this weekend is your chance to get outdoors and go fishing right here in the �Fishing Capital of the World,� where virtually everyone is within 45 minutes of a freshwater fishing opportunity. The weather predictions are looking good, it is just after a full moon and spring stimulates fish to congregate in shallow waters. The fishing should be great.  So, Get Outdoors Florida! and burn off some of those chocolate-bunny calories with a free fishing adventure.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Death On Hendry Road - Seatbelts Tell Tale?

One Dead In Saturday Night Crash

LABELLE, FL. -- A 2000 Hyundai, driven by 23 year old Ernest De Kock of Felda was traveling west on County Road-832 (Keri Road) about 11:40 p.m. Saturday night and was unable to negotiate the curve. The driver abruptly steered to the left, sending the vehicle into a counter-clockwise yaw, traveling off the roadway into a ditch and colliding with trees and shrubbery with the right side portion of the vehicle.

Subsequently, it overturned onto its top, coming to final rest on its top in the ditch, partly submerged, facing north. Driver and an unidentified passenger were flown to Lee Memorial Hospital. De Kock has serious injuries and was not wearing a seatbelt, nor was the passenger.

Another passenger, Friedrich H. Klingenberg, 19 of Felda was transported by ground to Lehigh Regional Hospital with minor injuries. He was using his seatbelt. The unidentified passenger, not using a seat belt according to the crash report, succumbed to his injuries at Lee Memorial Hospital.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend Fun - Collier County

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- One of the most popular parks in Collier County is the C.R.E.W. park south of Immokalee Road in the northeastern portion of the county.

Home to dozens of 'geocacaches', where participants look for hidden caches around the park using a GPS receiver, and site of broad ecology ranging from swamp to oak hammocks. Plenty of wildlife can be seen from turtles to bobcats along cleared trails and boardwalks.

Photo: 3-D photograph by Don Browne of one of the boardwalks through the Popash Slough trail at CREW.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Catholic TV In 3-D!

World's First Catholic Television Station Offers 3-D Programming Over The Internet

On Tuesday, March 23, the CatholicTV Network announced a special April magazine edition 3-D of its monthly magazine along with special 3-D episodes of several popular CatholicTV shows on the internet.

The April edition of CatholicTV's monthly magazine (available free) will include a pair of red/cyan colored 3-D glasses to allow subscribers to view the magazine in 3-D and also to view the 3-D programming offered at Many of these videos are full-length CatholicTV programs and are viewable in full-screen on any computer.

The idea originally came from CatholicTV's Director Father Robert Reed, who thought it would be a good idea to embrace unique technologies in order to spread the Gospel. has special 3-D episodes of the following shows. These episodes can be easily accessed at
  • We've Got to Talk - Father Dan O'Connell preaches in front of a blue screen with unusual backgrounds. He was once filmed with a super hero costume in front of a blue screen of the city.
  • House+Home - Reality-style show which takes viewers into Catholic homes, showing how Catholic families live their faith.
  • WOW: The CatholicTV Challenge - Catholic game show with 3rd grade contestants answering questions on Scripture and the catechism.
  • Going My Way - A modern version of the Merv Griffin Show. Father Chris Hickey and Father Paul Rouse share their musical talents along with guest priests.
  • This is the Day - CatholicTV�s signature talk show which has featured Johnny Pesky, Mike Lowell, Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking). The show includes Catholic News and guest appearances.
  • Blink - Everyday Catholics throughout the country share their faith in short video segments on a variety of topics.
  • The Rosary from Rome, Italy - Video footage of Father Reed praying the Rosary in Saint Peter's Square.
  • Catholic Destinations - Senior Producer Kevin Nelson hosts this Catholic travel show which takes viewers to interesting places of significance to the Catholic Faith. Filmed all over the U.S. and around the world.
  • The Rosary From Washington, D.C. - Video footage of Father Reed praying the Rosary in the nation's capital, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

CatholicTV is a nationally-broadcasted television network streaming a live feed 24 hours a day at  It is also considering broadcasting a 3-D episode on television and may broadcast a special episode in order to gauge the demand for 3-D broadcast programming.

"Heeding Pope Benedict XVI's call to greater utilize the power of television and new media, the CatholicTV Network features its cable TV station, Catholic web site, mobile apps and widget.  Celebrate Mass online; pray The Rosary; enjoy programs on prayer, the saints, the Scriptures and the Catholic Church on America's Catholic Television Network," says a recent press release from the Catholic TV network.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Higher Priced Homes Selling Now In Hendry?

Higher Home Sales Prices Shown

LABELLE, FL. -- Higher priced homes seem to be selling, shows a survey of February and March real estate sales in the LaBelle area. In past months homes were selling well from the lower priced offerings, many being foreclosed bank owned homes, mostly homes under $100,000.

But now there appears to be a trend of higher priced homes selling well. From February 2nd to March 23rd, higher priced homes showed good sales, although there were only eight homes sold in ZIP code 33935 for an average price of $163,000.

1) Unknown price on A Rd
2) $378,000 on Caloosa Dr
3) $250,000 on Hidden Hammock Dr
4) $185,000 on Howard Rd
5) $199,000 on Norris Rd
6) $140,000 on E Double J Acres Rd
7) $114,000 on S Balsam Cir (Port LaBelle)
8) $38,000 on W Palomar Cir (Port LaBelle)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hendry Drug Bust - 3 Arrests

Bust In LaBelle Finds  Police Badge, Cash And Drugs

LABELLE, FL. -- On Thursday evening, March 18, 2010, Hendry County Sheriff's Office served a search warrant for a residence located at 808 Manatee Avenue in LaBelle.  While approaching the residence 30-year old Jeremy Smith (pictured), who was seen on the front porch of the residence, watching officers, he attempted to run from the residence but was shortly detained by law enforcement officers.

Once inside the residence deputies located two additional individuals, 23-year-old Jessica Lee Davis and 34-year-old Curtis Lee Christmas.  Davis was found to be in possession of marijuana less than 20 grams.  A search of the residences revealed drug paraphernalia, cocaine and marijuana along with prescription drug possession. 

As deputies searched the residence they found in the immediate area of the stove top a pan of water, and numerous items to indicated the manufacturing of crack cocaine to include items that tested positive for cocaine residue as well as residue inside a pan that tested positive for cocaine residue. 

Deputies seized from the 808 Manatee Avenue, 60 pieces of crack cocaine, 50 grams of marijuana, 140 prescription pills, 3 Ecstasy tablets, numerous items of drug paraphernalia such as packaging materials, crack containers, baggies, razor blades, etc., $2,000.00 in cash, two digital scales, approximately 2 grams of powder cocaine, items used to manufacture/cook crack cocaine, 1 bullet resistant vest, and a badge wallet with an authentic police badge and police identification from New Jersey.

Jeremy Nickosa Smith (pictured above) was arrested and charged with Resisting Arrest / Obstruction, Possession of cocaine w/ intent to sell within 1000' of a Place of Worship, Manufacturing cocaine within 1000' of a place of worship, trafficking in a controlled substance, possession of Marijuana under 20 grams, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a new Legend Drug without a prescription.  Smith is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail on $149,000 bond.

UPDATE: The state dropped all the charges on the case against Smith 9/28/2010. He was later had drug charges against him again on June 22, 2010 and again the state dropped the charges by May 21, 2012. More charges were brought September 7, 2010 including possession of marijuana, resisting arrest, violation of probation and contempt of court where he was found guilty of all charges and received suspended sentences and time served, and probation for one year. March 24, 2011 he was charged with more drug charges and found guilty of three counts of possession of cocaine on May 18, 2012 and sentenced to prison for five years. He was released from prison June 15, 2015 and was to reside in Lake Worth, Fl.

Curtis Christmas, 57 years old, was arrested and charged with Possession of Cocaine with intent to sell within 1000' of a place of worship, manufacturing cocaine within 1000' of a place of worship, possession of Marijuana over 20 grams, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a new legend drug without a prescription.  Christmas is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail on $55,500 bond.

UPDATE: The state dropped the charges against Christmas on January 13, 2011.

Jessica Davis, 23 years of age, was charged with Possession of Marijuana under 20 grams.  She was released on March 19, on a $1,000.00 bond.

UPDATE: Davis was found guilty and given six months probation and court costs. In November 2014 she was found guilty of probation violation and failure to pay $220 costs. On February 19, 2016 she paid off all the costs.

240 Traffic Tickets Issued In Hendry 2-Week Program

Two-Week Traffic Enforcement Finds Hundreds Of Violations

LABELLE, FL. -- From March 1 through 15, Hendry County deputies participated in the statewide Click It or Ticket campaign and focused on drivers who did not fasten their safety belts.

Hendry Deputies issued nearly 240 traffic citations.  Of those, 142 were for failure to buckle up.  They also made six arrests for driving under the influence or alcohol or drugs, ten for speeding, 27 No valid driver�s license, five expired drivers license, 14 driving while license suspended or revoked, seven improper or unsafe equipment and 29 miscellaneous charges.

The state of Florida implemented the Dori Slosberg and Katie Marchetti Safety Belt Law on June 30, 2009, which allows law enforcement officers to stop and site motorists who are not wearing their safety belt.  The new law allows for the primary enforcement of Florida�s safety belt requirements, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates will save 124 lives and prevent more than 1,700 serious injuries in Florida annually.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Florida Sues Bonita Bay Group, Inc.

Bonita Bay Group Alleged In Failure To Refund Deposits

TALLAHASSEE, FL ­ Attorney General Bill McCollum has announced that his office has filed a lawsuit against the Bonita Bay Group, Inc. over allegations the company took hundreds of thousands of dollars in membership fees to country clubs, marinas and other social establishments, but failed to provide the promised refunds. The lawsuit alleges that despite demands, Bonita Bay Group has not refunded membership deposits to approximately 800 resigned members and may owe over $215 million in un-returned membership deposits.

The Bonita Bay Group owns development lands in Hendry county, and has an office in LaBelle.

The lawsuit states that an integral part of Bonita Bay Group's marketing strategy is the marketing of club memberships with the written representation that a member's deposit, which ranged from $25,000 to $180,000, would be immediately refunded within 30 days of a member's resignation.

Consumers reported that Bonita Bay Group amended the membership plans in November 2008 and suspended the immediate refund of membership deposits. According the lawsuit, the opportunity for an instant refund of membership deposits was an integral part of the Bonita Bay Group's real estate development and marketing and the sale of residential home sites and amenities to consumers, prior to November 2008. The lawsuit alleges the suspension of the instant refund program constitutes violations of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

The Attorney General has requested that the Court grant a permanent injunction against the company and full restitution for any victims. The Attorney General is also seeking civil penalties of $10,000 per violation or $15,000 per violation if the victim was an elderly citizen or disabled individual. The lawsuit also seeks the recovery of any fees and costs associated with the litigation and investigation.

Great Grandson Of Hendry Namesake Dies

Richard Clark, Great Grandson Of Captain Francis Asbury Hendry Dies At 89

BARTOW, FL. -- Richard Clark, 89, civic leader, developer, and agricultural entrepreneur died March 13, 2010 in an accidental drowning at his home in Bartow. He was born May 31, 1920 in Bartow, the youngest of three sons of the late W. W. and Laura Clark.

Hendry County was named for his great grandfather, Captain Francis Asbury Hendry. The city of LaBelle, the county seat of Hendry county was named for his mother, Laura and her sister, Belle.

His education at Summerlin Institute and studying animal husbandry at the University of Florida equipped him to build on his family's entrepreneurial history--a family remembered in the parts of Florida bearing their names.  His father owned and Operated the Bartow Ice Plant for 50 years.

He took an interest in farming while working in his father's Ice Plant, supplying ice for produce shipping out of Florida. Supported by a mentor who helped him master better ways of growing vegetables, he found early success growing cabbage, which he shipped north by train. His green thumb­and innovation­expanded as he worked with two partners to reclaim a 160-acre tract of land. The first reclamation project ever done on this scale or magnitude, the project was written up in an engineering manual, serving as a valuable resource for hundreds of engineers. Using two bulldozers he purchased, Richard went out ahead of areas where the mining was taking place and hauled topsoil back to his 160 acres of reclaimed land.

He developed more than 800 residential lots and four subdivisions, the largest being the 490-home Richland Manor. His capstone project was Square Lake, an upscale residential community with 120 lots developed on the land he had carefully groomed with rich topsoil and planted with hundreds of trees.

Richard was preceded in death by two sons, Fred Clark and James Milton Clark. He is survived by his wife: Mayme Burdin Clark; Grandchildren: Susan Blenk and husband, Paul Blenk Bartow; Rickie Clark and his wife, Cyndi Clark Highlands Ranch, CO); Cindi Clark Lakeland; Cathy Ferris and husband Chris Ferris Tallahassee; Jim Clark; Allison Mabe Greensboro, NC; Melissa Woodard Savannah, GA; Cathrine and Lilly Pfeiffer Bartow; Great-grandchildren: Adam, Jake, and Taylor Blenk Bartow; Chrissy Clark Highlands Ranch, CO; Jamie and David Clark IL; Sydney and Julia Ferris Tallahassee; Stepchildren: John Burdin Lakeland; Trish Pfeiffer and husband, Bob Pfeiffer Bartow. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Driver Dies In State Road 29 Canal

Driver Used Seat Belt But Alcohol Use Under Investigation

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Serafin Gonzalez - Caracheo, 29 of Immokalee died in a canal crash on State Road 29 north of State Road 82 about 1:30 am Tuesday.

The 2000 Ford 150 pickup truck he was driving was traveling south on State Road 29 on the southbound lane. The driver failed to maintain control as it traveled in a southwesterly direction onto the unpaved grassy west shoulder.

It then traveled in a southeasterly direction and re-entered the roadway crossing the southbound lane and entered the northbound lane. The driver over steered back to a southwesterly direction and the truck rotated clockwise, re-entered the unpaved west shoulder while traveling in a southwesterly direction where it overturned multiple times and subsequently entered a canal.

The truck came to final rest on it's roof submerged in a canal on the west shoulder southwest of where it initially left the roadway.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hendry Sweep Catches Five Selling To Minors

Hendry County, Clewiston Police and ABT In Underage Alcohol Enforcement Sweep

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriff's Office, Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco and Clewiston Police Department teamed up Friday, March 12, 2010 for an enforcement sweep in Hendry County targeting the sale of alcohol to minors. 

The sweep operation included compliance checks of 18 local commercial establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in Hendry County.  Of the 18 establishments checked, five were found to be in violation, and five individuals were arrested.

Friday's operation was the result of a continued effort on the part of Hendry County Sheriff's Office to continue to curb the sale of alcohol to minors. 

Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden stated, ''I am very pleased with the vast majority of our commercial partners that are responsible businesses that refuse to sell alcohol to minors.'' 

The Hendry County Sheriff's Office urges all individuals to report the illegal sale of alcohol to law enforcement.  Violations within the unincorporated areas of Hendry County can be reported to the Hendry County Sheriff's Office at either 674-5600 or 885-5000 or within the city limits of Clewiston call 983-1474.

The sting operation brought arrests of those alleged to have been selling alcohol to minors at the following locations:

Gator Bait Pub, 17070 E. State Road 80 at the Pioneer Plantation intersection where April Britt was arested by HCSO and transported to the Hendry County Jail and charged with selling alcohol to a minor. Britt released on $500 bond.

Primetime Shell Gas Station, 750 Hickpoochee, Labelle where Susanne Evenson was arrested by HCSO and  transported to the Hendry County Jail and charged with selling alcohol to minor. Evenson was released on a $500 bond.

Super Stop Gas Station, 642 E. Sugarland Hwy, Clewiston where Sandro Cordova was arrested by ABT and issued a criminal notice to appear for selling  alcohol to a minor.

Tiki Bar 920 E. Del Monte Ave., Clewiston, where Angela Lancaster was arrested by ABT and issued a criminal notice to appear for selling alcohol to a minor

La Fiesta Bar 721 E. Sugarland Hwy., Clewiston where Maria Alfrado was arrested by Clewiston P.D. and issued a criminal notice to appear in Court for selling alcohol to a minor.

Commercial establishments that were checked and did not sell to a minor include:

Merit Shell Station at 1830 S. State Road 28, LaBelle, Florida
Patson's Beverage -  216 South Main Street, LaBelle, Florida
Rick's Mini-Mart -  4050 N.E. Eucalyptus Blvd., LaBelle, Florida
Handy Food Store #85 -  1400 N. River Road, LaBelle, Florida
Handy Food Store -  North, 200 Old C.R.78, LaBelle, Florida
Handy Food Store, South - 1040 South State Road 29, LaBelle, Florida, (24 hour store)
Valero's – 101 N. Berner Road, Clewiston
Suzy B Liquors – 210 W. Sugarland Hwy, Clewiston
Shamrock - 641 E. Sugarland Hwy, Clewiston
Quick Stop – 1020 S. WC Owens Ave, Clewiston
Stop n' Shop – 721 E. El Paso Ave., Clewiston,
Brenda's Place – 107 N. Francisco Street, Clewiston

Florida Panther Found Dead In Collier

Panther Discovered - Killed By Vehicle

IMMOKALEE, FL. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission received a call Monday morning from staff at the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) about a dead female panther found along Corkscrew Road at the Marsh Unit 1 trailhead, Collier County, FL. 

Darrell Land, Panther Team Leader at the FWC said the female panther, identified as UCFP139, appeared to have been struck by vehicle and killed sometime during the night of March 11 based on the degree of rigor mortis and the lack of tracks leading to the carcass following recent heavy rains. 

UCFP139 weighed 68 lbs., did not have a kinked tail or a cowlick and no transponder chip was detected.  UCFP139 was approximately 3 years of age.  This is the first road kill of 2010 and the second mortality overall. 

The remains have been placed in a freezer at the Naples Office and will be eventually transported to Gainesville for a necropsy.  Following the necropsy, the remains will be archived at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hendry Post-Election Audit Notice

Canvassing Board Meeting Post-Election Selection & Audit

The Hendry County Canvassing Board will convene on Friday, March 12, 2010 at 11:00 am in the Supervisor of Elections Office to select the Race and Precinct for the Post-Election Audit.  The Canvassing Board will reconvene on Monday, March 15, 2010 at 9:30 am to begin Post-Election Audit.

Adamblea de Escrutador Eleccion-Poste Seleccion y Contabilidad

            El Condado de Hendry Escrutador se reunion el Viernes 12 de Marzo 2010 a las 11:00 am en la oficina Supervisor de Elecciones para selector la carrera y precinto para la contabilidad de Eleccion-Poste.  El escrutador se reunion de nevo el Lunas 15 de Marzo 2010 a las 9:30 am para empezar la contabilidad de la Eleccion-Poste.

by Lucretia A. Strickland - Supervisor of Elections - Hendry County, Florida - 1SER08-4

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Which Hendry Bank Is Next To Be Taken Over?

Clewiston Bank Rated '0' Stars

LABELLE, FL. -- The latest report of bank ratings by Coral Gables based Bauer Financial says the Olde Cypress Bank of Clewiston is on their troubled bank list and has given the Clewiston bank a no-star rating, the lowest rating possible. Formerly on the zero star local troubled bank club was the former Florida Community Bank which has since been closed by the state and assets sold to another bank.

Florida Community Bank, was closed in late January by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with Premier American Bank, National Association, Miami, Florida, to assume all of the deposits of Florida Community Bank.

The Olde Cypress Bank has offices in Clewiston and LaBelle in Hendry County and has held their 'zero star rating' for over a year.

Clewiston's First Bank earned three stars from Bauer and Seacoast National Bank, based in Stuart had two stars and has two branches in Hendry county. Seacoast had received fifty million dollars in December 2008 from the Treasury Department in the government's troubled assets relief program (TARP).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Hendry Farm Tour Coming

29th Annual County Farm Tour - Up Close To Nature

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Farm-City Tour Council will be holding the second wave of the 29th annual farm tour of the Hendry County agricultural industry, Thursday, March 18, 2010.  Tickets for the tour cost only $60.00 per person and the participants will be able to catch a modern air conditioned tour bus at the U-Save Supermarket Center on Palm Beach Blvd in Fort Myers or at the Hendry County Extension Office in LaBelle.

Hendry County is one of the largest agricultural counties in the state and is largest producer of oranges in Florida with over 75,000 acres of groves.  In addition, Hendry County is the second largest producer of sugarcane, third largest in vegetable production and fifth largest in beef cattle.

This year's tour will feature a variety of interesting stops at some of Florida's most sophisticated agricultural operations including vegetable transplant and ornamental nurseries, citrus, sod, sugarcane and vegetable production as well as one of the largest beef cattle ranches in the state.  There will also be fresh Florida orange juice breaks at strategic stops along the way.

As an extra-added attraction, lunch will feature a delicious melt in your mouth steak lunch with all the trimmings served by the Hendry County Cattlemen�s Association in a rural country setting.

Deadline for ticket sales is March 12, 2010.  For additional information about the tour and how to purchase tickets for the tour, stop by Hendry County Extension Service Office, which is located at 1085 Pratt Blvd, LaBelle, Florida.  Phone: (863) 674-4092

Friday, March 05, 2010

Hendry Man Found Dead

Ernest Forde, Sr. Age 85, Found Dead In Wooded Area

LABELLE, FL. -- This Friday morning at approximately 7:16 am, Hendry County Sheriff's Office received a call reporting a man found in a wooded area off of Commerce Drive.

When Deputies and emergency personnel arrived on scene they found the man unresponsive and later confirmed he was deceased.  Responders on scene were able to positively identify the man as 85 year old Ernest J. Forde, Sr., reported missing on Thursday, March 4, 2010.

Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden stated, ''Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.  We are all saddened with the unfortunate outcome of this search effort to locate Mr. Forde.  We are deeply touched by the outpouring of volunteers that made themselves and their personal resources available to assist in the ground search for Mr. Forde. 

It wasn�t just local citizens that assisted in the ongoing search, but also included help from adjoining Lee and Palm Beach counties.  Both Palm Beach County and Lee County Sheriff�s Offices responded with helicopters and a bloodhound tracking dog, who conducted searches well into the night.'' 

According to the Hendry Sheriff's Department the cause of death is unknown at this time.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Missing Hendry Man Sought

Have You Seen This Man?

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Deputies were called this morning to the residence of 3059 W. Briarwood in LaBelle to help in locating a missing person, 85 year old Ernest J. Forde.

Deputies spoke with Mr. Forde�s son, Ernest J. Forde Jr, who reported his father missing.  The son stated that he had last seen his father, Wednesday night at about 10 pm.  On Thursday morning at about 9 am, when checking on his father, he found him missing.

Ernest Forde, Sr., is approximate 5'10'' and weighs about 130 lbs.  He was last seen wearing a khaki colored shirt, blue jeans, and black tennis shoes.  Ernest Forde, Jr. told law enforcement that it has been confirmed by doctor's that Forde, Sr. is suffering from Alzheimer's. 

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Hendry County Sheriff�s Office at 863-674-5600.

How To Hear Hendry's Sunday Morning News Audio

How To Subscribe To Sunday Morning News Audio Podcasts

LABELLE, FL. -- For those who would like to listen to the Sunday Morning News stories instead of reading, you can subscribe to all the news stories in audio format using one of many podcasts services and web news readers.

You may go directly to the iTunes store to listen or subscribe to the audio podcasts: News Audio on iTunes

The most common way to hear an audio podcast of each story published on the Sunday Morning News is through the iTunes podcast link noted above, or through a service like Juice, Zune or Newsgator. Google, AOL, and Yahoo also have their versions of news readers.

Choose one of the links below to try out the Sunday Morning News audio podcasts and see how it works. Now you can listen to the news for those times when it's not convenient to read the stories.

If you wish to subscribe to the audio news feed, please click one of the links below:

iTunes users subscribe to this feed with iTunes

Juice users subscribe to this feed with Juice

Zune users subscribe to this feed with Zune

Web readers:


google reader

msn reader


my aol


Other: (copy and paste this link into your favorite podcast client)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Florida Crystals Exec's Parents Charged In Ponzi Scheme

Gaston E. Cantens And Wife Bilked $135M From Elderly Says SEC

MIAMI, FL. -- The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a prominent Miami-based business leader and his wife with fraud for conducting a $135 million Ponzi scheme with real estate investments from hundreds of elderly Cuban-American investors living in South Florida.

The SEC alleges that Gaston E. Cantens and Teresita Cantens, the founders and co-owners of real estate development company Royal West Properties Inc., sold promissory notes to investors after acquiring various properties and later financing their sale. Son, Gaston I. Cantens is a vice-president of Florida Crystals, a large South Florida sugar producer, and a former Florida State Representative. He is not involved in the SEC complaint.

According to a filing by the SEC, the Cantens lured investors by promising the investments in their real estate business were safe and secure with annual returns between 9 and 16 percent. However, when property owners defaulted on their mortgages, Royal West's financial condition deteriorated and the Cantens used new investor money to repay earlier investors and afford the firm's operating costs. The Cantens also misappropriated more than $20 million from investors to fund unrelated personal business ventures, pay themselves high salaries, and divert money to their children and grandchildren.

The Cantens were not registered with the SEC under the federal securities laws to make securities offerings to investors.

"The Cantens used their prominent standing in a close-knit Cuban-American community to ruthlessly exploit vulnerable elderly investors who trusted them with their life savings," said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC's Miami Regional Office. "They portrayed themselves as a pious couple closely involved with educational and religious organizations, while in reality they were living lavishly off money from defrauded investors."

According to the SEC's complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the Cantens gained the trust of prospective investors in typical affinity fraud fashion by cultivating an impression within their community that it was a privilege to invest with them. The Cantens emphasized that Jesuit priests and other well-known leaders in the Cuban-American community had invested with Royal West. They targeted investors at charitable and religious gatherings and at social functions in their home. They also recruited investors through their contacts with alumni and others associated with a local private boys' school where Gaston Cantens served on the Board of Advisors. Besides word of mouth, the Cantens also attracted potential investors who learned of Royal West properties through television commercials broadcast on Spanish-language channels nationwide.

The SEC alleges that the Cantens made numerous material misrepresentations and omissions about the safety and security of investors' principal and returns, the success of Royal West's business, the source of purported investment returns, and the use of investor funds. The Cantens told potential investors that Royal West generated investors' returns through the sale of land and its mortgage receivables business, which they claimed was highly successful. These representations were false because Royal West was not generating sufficient income from its real estate business and mortgage receivables to pay its business expenses or investors' principal and interest payments. By 2002, the Cantens had resorted to using new investor funds to make principal and interest payments to earlier investors. Even after Royal West entered dire financial condition, the Cantens continued to falsely tout their business as financially successful in order to attract new investors and raise additional millions of dollars to continue the Ponzi scheme.

The SEC further alleges that the Cantens falsely represented that the promissory notes were collateralized by mortgages or mortgage obligations. In fact, Royal West did not record as many as one-third of the assignments of mortgage receivables that served to collateralize investors' promissory notes. Royal West also assigned the same mortgage receivables to multiple investors at the same time.

The SEC's complaint charges the Cantens with violating the securities registration and antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The complaint seeks permanent injunctions, sworn accountings, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and financial penalties against the Cantens.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Click It Or Ticket Says Hendry Sheriff

Enforcement Of Seat Belt Use Day And Night

LABELLE, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden and members his department are joining forces with hundreds of other law enforcement agencies across Florida in renewing a pledge to save lives by cracking down on motorists who drive without wearing seat belts and properly restraining children. 

A seat belt usage survey conducted at three major intersections in Hendry County indicated a seat belt usage of 45%; less than 50% percent of drivers and their passenger's utilized safety belts.

Law enforcement officers will not only be targeting major roadways but also school zones ticketing drivers and passengers, including children under 18, who are not buckled up.  The statewide campaign runs March 1 thru March 15, 2010. 

According to 2008 data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 2,938 individuals were either drivers or passengers in safety belt equipped vehicles.  Sixty percent (1,085) of these people killed were not wearing safety belt.  In addition to that, 54 of the 79 children ages 0 – 17 years old, killed in traffic crashes were either not using safety belts or restrained in child restraint device.

'''With 30 percent of traffic fatalities due to Floridians failing to buckle up regularly, it's clear that far too many people still don't take the safety belt law seriously,'' Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden said.  ''The unbuckled rate is especially high – and the fatal crash rate increases significantly at night.  So look for us to be out on streets both day and night in March making sure that everyone is buckled up.''
Sheriff Whidden said, "Wearing your seat belt is easy and it costs you nothing.  Not wearing it might cost you a ticket, or worse – your life.  I urge everyone in Hendry County to please be safe and buckle up day and night –Click It or Ticket It."

Environmental Report Says Improvement Shown

South Florida Environment Report Online

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) this week released the 2010 South Florida Environmental Report detailing a year of restoration, scientific and engineering successes in the Kissimmee Basin, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and South Florida coastal areas.

The 2010 South Florida Environmental Report spans two volumes comprising more than 50 individual reports. The illustrated volumes, including a 44-page executive summary, provide extensive research summaries, data analyses, financial updates and a searchable database of environmental projects.

The 2010 report highlights state-federal partnership agreements between the SFWMD Governing Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that lay critical groundwork for Everglades restoration for decades to come. These agreements allow federally funded work to move forward on key Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects, such as the Picayune Strand restoration, which broke ground earlier this year.

The State and the District also continue to pursue a historic opportunity to broaden Everglades restoration on a scale never before envisioned. In 2009, the Governing Board approved a contract to acquire 73,000 acres of strategic lands to benefit the River of Grass, with options to purchase an additional 107,000 acres in the future.

Additional findings documented in the 2010 report:

Wading bird nesting records lofty year. In 2009, the estimated number of wading bird nests in South Florida was nearly 80,000. As the largest nesting effort recorded in the region since the 1940s, this year's significant increase is more than four times greater than the last breeding season and surpasses the previous record year, 2002, by approximately 11,000 nests.
Improving water quality. The existing 45,000 acres of effective Stormwater Treatment Areas treated about 1.1 million acre-feet of runoff water in Water Year 2009. Since 1994, constructed wetlands and agricultural Best Management Practices have together prevented more than 3,200 metric tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades Protection Area. Construction on an additional 12,000 acres of valuable treatment marshes is under way.
Lake Okeechobee continues rebound. Lake Okeechobee continues to show signs of recovery from the enduring impacts of the 2004–2005 hurricanes, including lower nearshore turbidity, more submerged aquatic vegetation beds and no severe algal blooms.

The 2010 South Florida Environmental Report is available online at

Monday, March 01, 2010

Swamp Cabbage Festival Success!

Weekend LaBelle Streets Crowded During Big Festival

LABELLE, FL. -- Another annual LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival concluded Sunday as thousands of visitors took every available downtown parking space around Barron Park, along the shores of the Caloosahatchee River, to enjoy hundreds of exhibits and food vendors.

The annual Festival Parade got off on time Saturday morning notwithstanding cool weather and the threat of rain showers, which came later in the day to the LaBelle area.

Kids got a treat this year as one section east of the park was set up for children rides, as an abundance of food vendors showed up this year, and hundreds of thundering motorcycles, parking in an area south of Barron Park, displaying wild colors and gleaming chrome modified exhausts pipes.

The Hendry County Tourist Development Council, with help from Michelle Phillips of Florida Freshwater Frontier, manned a booth at the Swamp Cabbage Festival to disseminate information on Hendry county and local area tourism to festival-goers. An added attraction was the gift basket giveaway courtesy of the HCTDC and the Harold P. Curtis Honey Company. The lucky winner of the basket filled with honey and other local products was Nick Wegscheid. - Swamp Cabbage Festival with video and photo of past parades.