It’s time to check in with Sheriff Rick Ramsay

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.

With lobster mini season coming up shortly, some folks could be in for a rude awakening if they try to take lobsters that are not the right size.

Recently, a 37-year-old Miami, FL, man was found possessing illegal fish.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We have a lot of poaching going on from Miami Dade County, people come down there pretty easy. One of the deputies has been making cases every week for people fishing there predominantly and when they’re fishing there, were getting people consistently no fishing licenses, over the bag limits and almost all the fish are undersized. About seven fish, all were about the size, they fit in the palm of your hand. These are baby fish that haven’t even had a chance to reproduce and there’s really almost no meat on these fish because they’re so small. We keep trying to do our part to let people know that we are going to enforce these fishery laws and hold people accountable.”

Another man from Miami-Dade County was taking lobster out of season.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “The lobster he was harvesting were undersized, laid out in the back of his truck, about five lobster, all were illegal. We took action on him. This is a 24-year-old male from the Fort Lauderdale area that was out there harvesting. So we are continuing to try to send the message and hold people accountable and do the best we can to protect our resources, which are so valuable and vital. We want to make sure there’s resources here for this generation and the future generations. Every year there’s less and less and so much poaching going on. It’s just sad to see that stuff going on.”

A 46-year-old Miami, FL, man was charged with spear fishing for lobster, possession of undersized lobster, harvesting lobster without a measuring device and possession of lobster out of season.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “He actually had a spear gun and actually was spearing in a canal. We did find two lobsters which were speared, no license from Miami. He’s in trouble for having a spear gun in a protected sanctuary.”

Keep an eye out for scams – the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office will never, ever call to ask for money.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We see this across the nation and we’ve seen this tons of times down here where people are calling, saying they’re with the sheriff’s office. Sometimes they’re able to clone our phone. So if you look at the caller ID and they even say Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Sometimes they go on our Rolodex or get a name and use the name of an officer. They’re telling people that you got a warrant for your arrest, that you need to send in $200 or $300, you need to get a gift card to take care of it. But we remind our listeners that if there’s a warrant for a person, you just can’t send money and pay for a warrant to go away. Law enforcement is not going to call you for a payment over the phone and law enforcement is surely not going to ask you to go to Walgreens and get gift cards. So we want people to think. These people try to act on your emotion, not logic. They don’t want you to hang up, they don’t want you to think about it. They’re going to keep talking to you, keep trying to keep you on the phone. They’re going to keep you on the phone while you drive to get the money. They don’t want to break connection because they know if you have a minute to think about it, you’re going to say wait a minute. But all these should be red flags. When in doubt, hang up, look for a good number for the place they are saying they’re from, call and ask and verify that there is a problem. 99.5% of times you’re going to find out there is no problem and you’re just a potential victim of a scam. They’re trying to prey on people who are weak or vulnerable, or focusing on your emotional thinking versus logical thinking. So keep trying to educate.”

They may also ask for other information from the caller, too. Some people have been scammed out of tens of thousands of dollars. The perpetrators are often in foreign countries.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “These investigations are so hard. Most time they’re out of country. They’re using throw phones, ghost phones. We have jurisdictional issues. How do you track down a person who calls on the phone, track down who owns the phone, where that’s coming from, who was on the other line of that phone to verify who the target is? Almost impossible. So not it’s not that we don’t want to hold people accountable. It’s just that it’s not that easy. In fact, it’s almost impossible.”

An ongoing investigation into fraud and stolen credit cards and checks found three more men being arrested in the Upper Keys.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “We talked before about theft of mail, people stealing mail and cashing checks illegally. We’ve made four more arrests in that case. We assisted a bondsman who was revoking a bond, had a warrant to recover a person who was out on bond and the Sunset Cove Hotel in Islamorada, a woman and two men living in the apartment were there with them. While we got them all outside, the female under arrest, going through her purse, we find a bunch of drugs, fentanyl, methamphetamines, other drugs. She identifies one of the other males as the person who provided her with the drugs. One of the other males has a computer and asks the deputy if we can put it back in the apartment. So we go in the apartment to put the computer back because we can’t let someone go on by themselves because they may go to grab a weapon or threaten our safety. So they invite us in to bring the computer in. When the deputy goes inside he sees in plain view, stacks of mail, over 100 driver’s licenses, passports, credit cards. We see checks which appear to have been scrubbed, which means they were cleaned all the information has been removed so they can be rewritten. Other stuff indicative of drug use, drug paraphernalia. So we immediately vacate it, get everyone out of there, call in detectives to get a search warrant. We come back inside with a search warrant, we find over 100 driver’s licenses, over 100 credit cards with different people’s names on there. We find machines to help to scrub chests clean. None of the mail belonged to any of these people. None of the credit cards or checks belong to any of these people that were in the room. We find a machine to help make credit cards. When they get a credit card number or something that they can emboss and put the strip on the back to make these credit cards functional. So we found methamphetamines, we found fentanyl, drug paraphernalia. So this whole place was just a crime in progress. Between the three of them, we dropped about 220 charges on these individuals. They’re all sitting in the jail.”

Officially only two went to jail. The third had to be admitted to the hospital because of all the drugs.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “So we had to sit with that person for at the hospital to eventually be released and turned over to the sheriff’s office to be put in jail. But this was a very well organized group. It’s a little surprising, they were so organized with that type of drug usage. With really serious drugs, people like that sometimes have a hard time paying attention, let alone being involved in such a large scale ring. We’re investigating and trying to identify victims trying to work with other agencies, other communities where a lot of the mail was stolen from or victims were from.”

Some of the passports were from people from other countries.

Sheriff Ramsay said, “It appears to be they’re stealing mail, stealing property, identities. So this was a big, big case and there’s a lot of work to be done here and more charges are going to be coming on it.”