FDLE Commissioner Glass thanks members for 2023 accomplishments

For Immediate Release
January 10, 2024
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.– As we move into the new year, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is highlighting some of its members’ most significant 2023 accomplishments.
FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass said, “From innovative projects to complicated investigations to new training and responding to emergencies, our members accomplished a lot last year.  I am so proud of all our accomplishments and thank each member for their hard work and dedication to public safety.”

Fighting Crime from the Southern Border
Operation Lone Star
FDLE members remain deployed assisting Texas law enforcement agencies investigating criminal activity along the border associated with human trafficking and drug and weapons smuggling.  Agents have assisted Texas DPS with arrests of violent felony suspects, including gang members.
Operation Vigilant Sentry
FDLE is coordinating Florida’s law enforcement response in the Florida Keys. Agents are helping to gather and provide intelligence and work investigations as requested.   FDLE is providing aviation assets to assist with surveillance of the area.
Highway Interdictions
FDLE, along with FHP, continued monthly criminal interdictions across Florida with local law enforcement agencies focusing on identifying and stopping illegal activity, including drug trafficking, human smuggling and organized crime. 
Combating Drug Trafficking
FDLE, along with local, state and federal law enforcement partners, participated in Operation Unified Front in Brevard County. The multi-agency investigation resulted in the seizure of more than 17 pounds of fentanyl, 10 pounds of methamphetamine and 55 pounds of cocaine. 
FDLE Tampa Bay arrested Renee Stephens for trafficking in fentanyl.  In addition to the fentanyl, agents found 63 individually packaged snacks resembling children’s candy, but these snacks contained marijuana. During the investigation, agents learned that Stephens was known as the “candy lady,” reportedly selling drug-infused candy to children in the neighborhood.
State Assistance for Fentanyl Eradication – SAFE 
Arrests were made in three drug trafficking cases using SAFE grant funds. FDLE administers the program, which provides money for local law enforcement agencies to be used in Fentanyl and drug trafficking organizations.  Money can be used for training, overtime, travel or investigative supplies, such as upfront money to purchase drugs. 
Securing Florida Elections
Inspectors have reviewed hundreds of election crime allegations and investigated dozens of cases, including the arrest of a Buena Ventura Lakes man on eight counts of willful certification of false or incomplete campaign treasurer’s reports and six counts of deliberate failure to report campaign expenditures as required. It was alleged the suspect was paid to enter the 2022 District Four Osceola County Commissioner’s race to affect its outcome. 
In a separate case, inspectors arrested an Ocala woman for two counts of casting more than one ballot in an election after she voted in person in Marion County and by mail in New Jersey.
In September, City of Miami Commissioner Alejandro “Alex” Diaz de la Portilla, 58, and attorney William W. Riley Jr., 48, of Miami, were arrested for money laundering, unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior, bribery, and criminal conspiracy. Diaz de la Portilla was also charged with official misconduct, campaign contributions in excess of legal limits and failure to report a gift. Riley Jr. was charged with failure to disclose lobbyist expenses.
Stopping Human Trafficking
FDLE arrested a Middleburg man on human trafficking, promoting a sexual performance by a child, using a minor in production of computer pornography, seduction of a child using the internet and transmission of child sexual abuse material. Investigators found the suspect contacted the then-15-year-old victim on an online chat platform in December 2022 and began messaging her via text and email.   
FDLE’s Gainesville Field Office rescued a 16-year-old girl from Texas who had been human trafficked to Florida.  The teen met the suspect online and was brought to Florida where she was abused physically and forced to engage in sex acts.  The child was rescued within 24 hours of the tip coming to FDLE agents.  An adult male suspect and a female accomplice were arrested.  
Protecting Florida Families
Agents in FDLE’s Orlando Region assisted Mount Dora PD after the homicide of a husband and wife inside their senior living apartment.  Because of their investigative work, a female suspect was quickly arrested and charged with their murder.
Following a murder investigation by FDLE, suspect Mathew Scott Flores was extradited back to Florida to face homicide charges in two separate January killings, including the murder of 74-year old Lyft driver Gary Levine and the murder of a Wauchula man. 
Following an FDLE investigation, Eric Horton was arrested in Abuja, Nigeria for possession of child sexual abuse material and promoting a sexual performance by a child. During the investigation, Horton, a former school teacher, traveled to Nigeria to teach physical education to school-aged children.
FDLE agents arrested Jesse Kiefer for capital sexual battery on a child under 12, lewd or lascivious exhibition, production of child sexual abuse material and possession of child sexual abuse material. The investigation began after FDLE’s Cybercrime Task Force received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Within 24 hours of receiving the tip, Kiefer was in custody. 
Agents arrested a man for the 2015 cold case murder of a Clewiston, Florida man who was shot to death in his apartment.
FDLE spearheaded a joint operation with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Gainesville Police Department and the Florida Department of Corrections to make more than 100 address checks of sex offenders registered as living in Alachua County. Operation Won’t Back Down resulted in eight arrests, the identification of 11 sexual offender/predator absconders and 12 registrants brought into compliance with Florida law. 
On Florida’s Sex Offender Registry, FDLE members added more than 3,700 new sex offenders and predators to the Sexual Offender and Predator website and disseminated more than 5,400 travel notifications to other states and territories. 
Protecting Florida Businesses
As part of Operation Gone in 60 Days, FDLE shut down an organized vehicle theft ring issuing fraudulent Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) to high-end vehicles that were obtained through fraud or theft, selling the vehicles below market value, fraudulently assigning tags, defrauding customers through purporting to issue automobile insurance and other crimes.  Twenty-three arrests were made as a result of the operation. 
FDLE arrested the owner of Olympus Pools for stealing $1.5 million from at least 140 Tampa Bay area customers who paid for new swimming pools. The jobs were never completed.  Instead, the owner spent customer money on lavish purchases including vacations, jewelry, vehicles and Super Bowl LV tickets.   
An FDLE investigation led to the arrest of four in an organized theft ring based out of the Miami area with operations spanning across 14 Florida counties. The theft ring targeted high value heavy equipment and construction machinery, such as skid steer machines, mini excavators, utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) and trailers used to transport the machinery. Investigators linked the ring to 28 thefts totaling more than $1.7 million.
Following an FDLE investigation, an Orlando man was arrested on charges of an organized scheme to defraud in a complex merchandise return scheme. The suspect purchased high-value products, including electronics, sporting goods, and luxury eyewear, and after receiving the merchandise he requested returns, and then sent back lesser-value substitute products in place of the original merchandise. The total loss to the business was more than $40,000.
FDLE agents arrested two suspects following a box-stuffing scheme to defraud home improvement stores in Orlando and Miami. One suspect would empty boxes of tile that were being sold from store shelves and then fill them with high-value items. Once the boxes were stuffed with higher priced merchandise, he would pay for the lower cost tile and not the expensive concealed merchandise. After stealing the items, the second suspect, using fake ID cards, returned the stolen items for in-store credit which he would sell. The scam resulted in a loss of more than $60,000 at stores in Orlando and Miami.
In November, FDLE Jacksonville and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office conducted a two-day retail-theft operation at Oaks Mall, Celebration Pointe and Butler Plaza, recovering nearly $4,000 in merchandise. Nineteen suspects were charged.
Shutting Down Cybercrime
FDLE agents shut down a complex criminal enterprise using the dark web and cryptocurrency to commit identity theft and launder money. An Orlando teen, Justin Vassell, used cryptocurrency to buy bundles of stolen personal information to open credit card accounts and purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise. FDLE arrested Vassell, Jacquelyn Vassell, Shannon Vassell, Marc Williams, Deonte Benejan and Lawrence Dority for the criminal enterprise that illicitly purchased more than $350,000 worth of merchandise, including ammunition and firearm parts. The group then sold the items to pawn shops around the Orlando area to obtain cash. 
In early 2023, FDLE established a Cyber Bureau in Tampa Bay with experts to investigate crimes and educate citizens and businesses about cyber safety. 
Investigating Public Integrity Cases
Tiffany Carr and Patricia Duarte were arrested after an FDLE investigation. The suspects led the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV).  Both are charged with organized scheme to defraud, grand theft and official misconduct, all felonies.
FDLE arrested the clerk of court and comptroller for Jefferson County, Kirk Bradley Reams, Jefferson County clerk of court financial consultant Warren “Charles” Culp Jr. and former deputy clerk of court and human resource director for the Jefferson Board of County Commissioners, Justin “Tyler” McNeill, for fraud and theft-related crimes. 
FDLE arrested Port St. Lucie Police Sergeant Robert Vega, former Assistant Police Chief William Vega Jr. and several others on multiple counts in a scheme to falsify records to allow high school football athletes to attend and compete for schools outside their residential boundaries.
Using Science to Solve Crimes
Sexual Assault Kit Tracking
FDLE implemented a statewide web-based tracking system that allows sexual assault survivors to monitor the location and processing of their barcoded sexual assault kits (SAK). Survivors may also elect to be notified if a DNA match to an alleged perpetrator occurs. 
FBI Grants Authority to Operate Rapid DNA at Booking Stations
Florida became the second state approved by the FBI to perform Rapid DNA analysis at booking stations.  This was the culmination of many years of work and development between FDLE and the FBI. The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office is the first agency statewide to use the technology. 
Mobile Ballistics Platform
This portable technology, housed in Tampa Bay, allows FDLE lab analysts to test weapons found at crime scenes within hours instead of months, providing information and possible leads to investigators working violent crimes. 
DNA leads to arrest in 30-year cold case
An arrest was made in the 1993 cold case murder of 12-year-old Jennifer Odom. Jeffrey Norman Crum, who was serving a life sentence in prison, became a suspect in the case after being convicted in 2015 of an eerily similar 1992 brutal attack on a 17-year-old who survived. That case was solved using familial search of the state DNA Investigative Support Database, where the profile and patrilineal linkage hit to Crum’s son, who was in prison at the time. 
Crime lab analysts assist with violent Niceville robbery and murder investigation
Three men were indicted by a grand jury for first-degree felony murder, second-degree felony murder and robbery with a weapon after a shooting in an ale house parking lot in Niceville that left two victims dead.  The case could have easily gone cold without FDLE labs.  Analysts in the Pensacola biology and DNA, friction ridge, questioned documents and seized drugs disciplines all worked on the case which was complicated due to the number of individuals involved. Results from the forensic analyses allowed the state attorney to pursue this case.
Seminole County man receives life sentence for 1986 rape and murder
Re-examination of a 1986 cold case in Orlando resulted in a DNA match to Danny Lynn Emitt, who was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and burglary with assault in May 2023. Emitt’s DNA had been added to CODIS for an unrelated case, and the analysis of the old evidence with current technologies yielded a profile that resulted in the match. He was extradited to Florida from Tennessee, where he had a lengthy arrest history for burglaries. DNA and a palm print on a window analyzed by FDLE crime labs played an important role in bringing Emitt to justice.
Training Florida’s Law Enforcement Community
Sworn Training Unit
FDLE’s Specialized Training Unit trained nearly 1,330 law enforcement officers from more than 25 local and state law enforcement agencies in Active Assailant Training and Officer Ambush and Sniper School courses.  Classes, developed by the unit, are offered at no cost to law enforcement agencies across Florida.  Courses consist of classroom work, firearms training and staged, but realistic, scenarios each officer must complete. 
Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC)
FDLE members working in Criminal Justice Professionalism assisted the CJSTC in developing several new courses for Florida law enforcement officers.  The new courses include mental health and wellness for officers and a separate course on how to recognize and respond to mental health and substance abuse emergencies.  FDLE members, over a three-year period, working with 21 subject matter experts, developed an updated firearms course to reflect the needs of officers in the field.  A top priority is to help keep officers safe in the face of increasing threats to citizens and officers. 
FDLE Protective Operations Academy
FDLE graduated its first class of agents from its new Protective Operations Academy.  The class’s ten agents were sworn in on November 17.  The four-week program emphasizes the full spectrum of protective operations including: doctrine and terminology, coordination and mission planning and protective service motorcade operations.
Responding to Emergencies
Hurricane Idalia
Following Hurricane Idalia, FDLE members deployed at the Emergency Operations Center and across the Ben Bend coordinating Florida’s law enforcement response.  FDLE’s Emergency Preparedness Unit coordinated dozens of missions to help local law enforcement agencies in the impacted areas. 
Supporting Florida’s Jewish Community
In September, FDLE announced the arrests of four neo-Nazi demonstrators for hanging swastikas and other antisemitic banners along the Daryl Carter Parkway Bridge in Orlando. Following the arrests, FDLE provided safety information to the Jewish community throughout Florida related to synagogues and schools. In October, after Hamas attacked Israel, FDLE began coordinating with local law enforcement agencies to enhance police presence in the Jewish community at schools and places of worship. FDLE law enforcement analysts reviewed all information regarding suspicious activity and events to provide an overall awareness to law enforcement throughout Florida. Agents began working suspicious activity investigations and assisting local law enforcement agencies.
Providing Security for Florida’s Gubernatorial Inauguration
FDLE had the primary responsibility of coordinating the safety and security for all 2023 gubernatorial inaugural events.  Planning started in January 2022.  Previous inauguration ceremonies accommodated 3,000 attendees, but this year the attendance was estimated to be over 5,000. The security effort for all events was noted on Glenn Beck’s podcast.
Improving FDLE
FDLE’s leadership team made a series of changes to the aviation unit to enhance safety and efficiency.  The unit has been reorganized and procedures have been developed regarding the use of state aircraft. A mechanic and safety officer have been hired and a training schedule has been established for the pilots.
Office of Inspector General
FDLE reorganized its Inspector General’s Office. The reorganization brings FDLE into compliance with Florida laws by moving the customer complaints unit under the IG and moves internal investigations back into the office, a critical step to becoming reaccredited.  In addition, the new Office of Strategy and Accountability is part of the office.  
Pensacola Regional Operations Center
FDLE members of Pensacola’s Regional Operations Center moved into their new 78,000 square-foot facility.  The new building is named after former FDLE Commissioner James T. Moore. The move was completed on-time and under budget.
Member Wellness
FDLE’s Cordico Wellness App is available to all members, their families and retirees. The confidential app provides a variety of wellness services including self-assessments, stress management techniques, physical and mental health tools, workouts, financial wellness and weight loss information. 
For Further Information Contact:
FDLE Office of Public Information
(850) 410-7001

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Priorities

FDLE is composed of five areas: Executive Direction and Business Support, Criminal Investigations and Forensic Science, Criminal Justice Information, Criminal Justice Professionalism and Florida Capitol Police. FDLE’s duties, responsibilities and procedures are mandated through Chapter 943, FS, and Chapter 11, FAC. To learn more about these areas, read our Statement of Agency Organization and Operation or visit our Open Government page.