Sheriff Tom Knight presented several awards during a ceremony Thursday to recognize employees and citizens who demonstrated exemplary service to their community.
Deputies Andrew Prummell and Lynda Morris received the Life Saving Award for their efforts to save a woman from an accidental drowning. On February 22, deputies responded to Regatta Circle in Sarasota for the report of a woman floating in a residential pool. Deputies Prummell and Morris arrived on scene and immediately located the victim lying face down in the pool unconscious, without a pulse. Deputy Prummell began CPR and was joined shortly after by Deputy Morris who began administering rescue breaths using an Ambu bag. Deputies Prummell and Morris worked diligently and maintained lifesaving efforts until paramedics arrived on scene and took over medical care. The victim was transported to the hospital where she received care for her injuries and was eventually released, expected to make a full recovery. If not for the swift actions of Deputies Prummell and Morris, the victim would not have likely survived.
Deputies Carl Severs, John Albee and Grace Luh received the Life Saving Award for their efforts to render aid to a fellow deputy while he was choking. On June 11, fellow Deputy Dean Pappas was enjoying his lunch when he suddenly stood up and signaled to his coworkers the universal sign for choking. Deputy Severs immediately began performing the Heimlich maneuver but was unsuccessful due to the ballistic vest Deputy Pappas was wearing. With assistance from Deputies Albee and Luh, the team was able to quickly remove the ballistic vest, which was impeding Deputy Pappas’ breathing. Deputy Severs continued the maneuver until the item eventually dislodged. Deputy Pappas regained his breath and recovered thanks to the unhesitating actions of his coworkers, Deputies Severs, Albee and Luh.
Deputy Michael Schermock received the Life Saving Award for his extraordinary efforts to save the life of an infant at Siesta Key. On March 30, Deputy Schermock was in the process of transporting an arrestee from the public beach when he was notified by a concession worker of an infant choking due to a possible air obstruction. Deputy Schermock quickly responded to find the baby unconscious and nearly blue due to lack of air. Deputy Schermock immediately began back thrusts and cleared the obstruction. The baby was revived just as paramedics arrived on scene. Follow up with the infant’s family revealed the baby suffered a seizure and choked on his tongue, however the child made a fully recovery and is in good health. If not for the heroic and quick efforts of Deputy Schermock, the baby would not have survived.
Deputy Mark Colwell received the Life Saving Award for his efforts to perform CPR while off-duty in Sarasota. On January 17, Deputy Colwell was shopping in the 200 block of Lime Avenue when he overheard a citizen yelling for assistance to help a man who was on the ground, receiving CPR. Deputy Colwell quickly responded and ultimately took over CPR efforts until paramedics arrived. A letter received from the Sarasota County Fire Department confirmed, “Deputy Colwell’s quick response, recognition of the severity of the medical emergency and effective CPR resulted directly in saving a life.” If Deputy Colwell did not render aid, the incident would have resulted with a tragic outcome. During Thursday’s ceremony, Deputy Colwell credited the agency’s Training Unit for equipping him with the knowledge and skills needed to save lives.
Detective Rafael Ortiz received the Life Saving Award for his efforts to save the life of a man attempting suicide along the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. On June 18, Detective Ortiz was off-duty, heading home from Tampa International Airport. While driving southbound on the bridge, Detective Ortiz came across a vehicle parked in the breakdown lane and nearby, a man standing at the ledge of the bridge. Because of his experience, Detective Ortiz was confident the man was attempting to climb over the ledge to commit suicide. Ortiz stopped his vehicle, began communicating with the man and was luckily able to gain his compliance, ultimately detaining him. At the same time, an off-duty St. Petersburg Police Officer also arrived on scene. Detective Ortiz and the officer placed the man in the back of the officer's patrol car until an FHP trooper arrived to take over the investigation. In the trooper’s report he writes, “Upon my arrival, I observed a [white male] in the back of a patrol car. I went to the subject's vehicle and saw a suicide note addressed to his family. I spoke with the subject who stated he wanted to jump off the bridge and kill himself… The Sarasota County Detective saved this gentleman's life. If not for the Detective, the gentleman would have surely jumped off the bridge." Detective Ortiz is recognized for his extraordinary merit and dedication to duty in this successful attempt to save the life of a citizen in need.
The Meritorious Achievement Award is presented to Lieutenants Michael Dumer and Jeffrey Lane, Sergeants Gerardo Carrillo and Jason Friday, Detectives Mark Micale, Rafael Ortiz, Brandon Clark, Jay Patella, James Klay, and Dale Ellis, Crime Scene Unit Supervisor Candace Matthews, and Crime Scene Analysts Lauren Wafer and Jerry Wagner, for their efforts to successfully investigate a 2018 homicide. In October 2018, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office was notified when construction workers found a deceased person lying near a home being remodeled in Naples. An autopsy revealed the male victim was murdered, however his identity could not be determined. Through investigation, Collier County detectives learned a green Subaru Forester was seen the day before at the home where the body was recovered. Through continued investigation, Collier County detectives contacted the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office regarding 55-year-old Sarasota resident Sergio Hostins, who was reported missing along with his green Subaru Forester. Detectives and crime scene personnel in partnership with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office recovered a latent fingerprint from evidence at the home, which identified Daniel Davenport as a possible suspect. Sarasota County detectives interviewed witnesses and seized evidence from two homes in Sarasota County which confirmed Davenport’s connection to the murder. Investigation revealed Davenport and Hostins met online and were together on October 4, inside Hostins’ apartment in Sarasota. No one else was present and Hostins was never seen again. On October 11, an arrest warrant was issued charging Davenport with Murder. His photo was released to the media and detectives worked tirelessly to track him down, spotting him in both the Tampa and Orlando areas, driving Hostins’ vehicle. Davenport was eventually taken into custody in Orlando with support from the agency’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit and U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force. Unusual circumstances of the investigation included three separate crime scenes including one in Collier County, a fugitive on the run, and eventually, Davenport representing himself during trial. Detectives worked the investigation diligently from start to finish which concluded in May 2019 with a first-degree murder conviction. During the ceremony Thursday, award recipients accepted the recognition on behalf of the victim, Sergio Hostins.
Detectives Rhett Campbell, Carlos Verdoni and Daniel Levanti as well as Crime Analyst Caitlin Griffin received the Meritorious Achievement Award for their efforts to identify and disband a significant Miami fraud ring responsible for a data breach that compromised the identity of more than an estimated 2,000 Florida residents. Detectives launched their investigation in May 2019 after being contacted by a retailer in the University Town Center (UTC) area in Sarasota about suspected fraudulent activity. Detectives worked closely with loss prevention personnel to ultimately identify Roxana Ruiz and Eduardo Lamigueiro, who were using the personal information of unsuspecting victims to open credit card accounts for the purchase of more than $6,000 in merchandise. The duo, both from Miami, were arrested on charges of Fraud, Grand Theft, and Criminal Use of Personal Identification. They were booked into the Sarasota County Jail on May 23 and released two days later, on bond. Based on evidence recovered in their vehicle including cash, a handgun, several pieces of stolen merchandise, and several cellphones, detectives continued their investigation. A search warrant was executed on their cellphones which revealed dozens of images of receipts, counterfeit driver’s licenses, and personal information including addresses, birthdates, phone numbers and social security numbers of unknown people. Based on the images, detectives determined the stolen information was used to perpetuate more than 40 transactions throughout the state of Florida, yielding an estimated $260,000 in retail theft. Detectives continued to analyze the cellphones which revealed the phone number of Bertanicy Garcia, employed at the time by DCFS as an Interviewing Clerk, based out of their Miami office. Garcia sent more than 500 photos of personal information tied to both adult and child victims, to Lamigueiro. Detectives confirmed the information was accessed using the DCFS database. Also connected to the organized crime ring was Jose Perez, from the Miami area. Investigation revealed Lamigueiro sent Perez stolen personal identification information that was later used to create fraudulent driver’s licenses that Perez used to make purchases at various retailers in the UTC area. Detectives confirmed the fraudulent driver’s licenses were created by Nelson Cobo-Hernandez and Junior Perodin Verges. Finally, detectives also connected Marcos Cobo-Gonzales with the fraud ring after recovering text messages and images sent to Cobo-Gonzalez from Lamigueiro that contained social security numbers. Detectives believe Gonzalez used the social security information for the purpose of tax fraud. In June, detectives travelled to Miami and worked in partnership with several law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Secret Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Miami-Dade Police Department, City of Miami Police Department, and Hialeah Police Department, to bring resolution to this significant investigation. Thanks to the determination, coordination and hard work demonstrated by Detectives Campbell, Verdoni and Levanti, as well as Crime Analyst Griffin, seven suspects are facing multiple felony charges related to fraud and identity theft, and hundreds of potential victims will no longer face the undue stress of being victimized.
Citizens Richard Pennewaert, Michelle Edwards and John Alongi received Certificates of Recognition for their extraordinary efforts to assist a Sarasota County deputy in his time of need. On April 9, Deputy Rob Lowen was transporting a man to a recovery facility for a voluntary admission. During transport, the man became so agitated, Deputy Lowen was forced to pull over on the side of the interstate to secure the man in his back seat. When Deputy Lowen opened the rear passenger door, the man attacked Deputy Lowen and immediately started reaching for Deputy Lowen’s holster in an attempt to take his firearm and kill Deputy Lowen. Good Samaritan Michelle Edwards was traveling along I-75 when she witnessed the incident and quickly parked her car before running across three lanes of interstate traffic to come to Deputy Lowen’s aid. Michelle retrieved a Taser from her purse and began giving the man verbal commands to get on the ground. After several commands, the man got off Deputy Lowen and complied. At the same time, multiple citizens parked their vehicles, compromising their own safety to run across interstate traffic and assist Deputy Lowen. Three additional good Samaritans including Richard Pennewaert and John Alongi, worked together to get the man to comply and eventually into handcuffs. In a subsequent interview, the man admitted he had every intention of killing Deputy Lowen with his own firearm. The man was ultimately arrested and charged with Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer, Depriving an Officer of Means of Protection, and Resisting Arrest with Violence. Michelle, Richard and John exhibited extreme bravery and valor in the face of danger. Had it not been for their heroic actions, Deputy Lowen may have lost his life.
Sergeant Xavier Beorlegui, Deputies Luke Sniegowski, Patrick Schurr, Justin Weaver, and Lindsey Fischer, as well as the entire Special Investigations Section received the Meritorious Achievement Award for their work to conduct a long-term undercover investigation involving a Sarasota County resident accused of trafficking in methamphetamine. Detectives launched their investigation in October 2018 after connecting 44-year-old Jennifer Lambert to the sale and distribution of methamphetamine in the Nokomis area. Known within her network as “Mama Jen,” Lambert has several prior arrests since 2013 and is well known to local law enforcement. In April 2019, detectives connected Lambert to seven individual drug transactions in which she conspired to traffic in methamphetamine. Over the course of approximately eight months, Special Investigation Section detectives worked to identify Lambert’s associates and others who may be involved in her network. Through continued investigation, detectives identified three of Lambert’s counterparts, all mid-level dealers in Sarasota County including Randy Greene of Nokomis, Erik Walker of Venice and Robert Cain of Sarasota. Combined, the 16 people arrested during ‘Operation Ice Mama’ had 156 prior felony charges and 149 prior misdemeanor charges. Significant prior arrests include for Murder, Aggravated Battery, and Burglary. During the operation, more than 287 grams of methamphetamine, two firearms, and various illicit drugs were seized. The extraordinary effort and subsequent results of the investigation is due to the hard work, vigilance and dedication by all involved. Several members worked tirelessly on nights and weekends with no days off, while travelling throughout the state of Florida to bring the investigation to a successful conclusion.
“While I am always proud to be part of these award ceremonies, I am especially proud of the men and women we honored today,” commented Sheriff Tom Knight. “Law enforcement is not an easy profession and when you see hardworking deputies surrounded by friends, family and citizens who respect and appreciate this line of work, you know you’re doing something right.”