The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on February 7, 2009 · Page B002
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page B002

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Saturday, February 7, 2009
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2B pagelabeltag 2B THE PALM BEACH POST SATURDAY FEBRUARY 7, 2009 MAGENTA BLACK Drugs focus of turnpike slayings trial An old drug customer turned informant is set to testify next week. By DAPHNE DURET Palm Beach Post Staff Writer WEST PALM BEACH Prosecutors could within the next two weeks wrap up their case against four people charged in an alleged drug conspiracy that eventually led to the deaths of a young family of four. Danny Varela, Ricardo Sanchez, Daniel Troya and Liana Lee Lopez all face drug charges punishable by life in prison, but a jury could also choose to sentence Sanchez and Troya to death if they are convicted on charges related to the October 2006 shooting deaths of the Escobedo family along Florida's Turnpike. This week jurors in the case heard testimony from several people who said Varela, the suspected head of the group, had been seen with Jose Luis Escobedo both in Florida and Brownsville, Texas, in the months before Escobedo, his wife Yessica, and his their two young sons were murdered. Authorities say Escobedo helped the group move large quantities of cocaine to Flor ida, and Sanchez and Troya killed the family in order to steal the drugs Escobedo was carrying. Jurors also heard testimony this week from federal prison inmate Carlos Rodriguez, who testified that Troya made a confession to his cellmate while they were all housed at a detention center in Miami after Troya's October 2006 arrest. On one occasion, Rodriguez testified, Troya told the cellmate that he has had to kill people before, adding that the incident involved children. Testimony next week is expected to continue with government informant Malik Mullino, a former customer of Varela's who authorities say worked undercover to buy a kilogram of cocaine from Varela after the murders. Defense attorneys on Thursday asked U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley to keep jurors from hearing testimony about Mullino's past dealings with Varela, arguing that jurors should not hear about transactions from before May 2006 because they are not alleged in the indictment. Hurley is expected to rule on the issue Monday. daphneduretpbpost.com Crist touts stimulus plan's benefit for Fla. By GEORGE BENNETT Palm Beach Post Staff Writer RIVIERA BEACH While many Republicans in Washington have blasted the massive economic stimulus package moving through Congress, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a possible U.S. Senate candidate, on Friday touted the billions of federal dollars the legislation could bring to the state. "The dollars could be enormously significant," Crist said after touring the Port of Palm Beach. Earlier in the day, he visited a job-assistance agency near West Palm Beach. At both sites, Crist said the $800 billion House version of the stimulus bill would send about $13 billion to Florida. The Senate is considering a bill with a slightly lower price tag. Crist has said he will decide in May whether to make a 2010 run for the seat of Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, who has said he won't seek reelection. For now, though, Crist made it clear he's viewing the stimulus bill through the eyes of a governor of a state with budget problems. "My perspective is, you know, the CEO of Florida. And what I want to do is help our state as much as we possibly can," Crist said. Earlier in the day, during his stop at the Workforce Alliance center at Okeechobee Boulevard and Military Trail, Crist said he supports the stimulus plan "so long as it's done right. I know that they're now doing a bipartisan effort to try to have more tax cuts as part of it, more of the money directed to stimulate the economy, and that sounds like a good move." The Workforce Alliance, which receives about $14 million in federal money for its three county locations, helps job seekers with counseling, classes and job placement. The governor then toured the port and was briefed on its proposal for an "inland DAMON HIGGINSStaff Photographer GOP Gov. Charlie Crist is greeted by a Workforce Alliance client near West Palm Beach. Florida could net billions from the stimulus plan. port" near Lake Okeechobee that would include warehouses and distribution centers and provide a highway and rail link between ports on Florida's east and west coasts. Backers say the project could eventually bring 25,000 jobs to the Glades. The project would largely be built with private money, port commission Chairman Ed Oppel said, but could require $75 million in public money to build the rail link. georgebennettpbpost.com Candidates qualifying Most cities and towns in Palm Beach County have opened their qualifying periods for candidates in the March municipal elections. These are the most recent candidates to file their paperwork, according to local officials: HYPOLUXO Town council: Richard E. (Dick) Lopez, Richard J. Roney LAKE PARK Commission, Group A: Kendall Rumsey RIVIERA BEACH Mayor: Thomas Masters (i), Fercella Panier City council, District 3: Cedrick Thomas (i) City council, District 5 (at large); Shelby Lowe (i) SOUTH PALM BEACH Mayor: Martin Millar; Murray Fox Town council (two seats): Dr. Don dayman (i); Richard Akin Note: Election day is March 10 in the listed municipalities. The complete list of candidates who have qualified is at PalmBeachPost.comelex2009 Town of Ocean Ridge Two town commission seats are open, and three candidates are vying for them. Seats are at-large; the top two vote-getters win. Mayor is elected by commission members. Commissioners serve three-year terms; there are no term limits. Commissioners are paid $1,200 per year; there is no car allowance. At Name: Nancy L. Hogan Age: 61 Professional: Certified public accountant and real estate broker. Education: Master's degree in public administration. Personal: Married to Stephen, two adult sons. Political experience: Town commission member, 2005-08. Issues: Fiscal accountability for town finances. Ongoing cooperation with nearby towns and cities on environmental and other regional concerns. Name: Ken Kaleel (incumbent) Age: 48 Profession: Attorney. Education: Ohio State University, B.S. in business administration; University of Miami School of Law. Personal: Married to Rema, four children. Political experience: Town commission member, 13 years; mayor, nine years. Issues: Maintaining the town's budget during tough economic times through efficient management. That includes continuing to pay for the new town hall and $6 million drainage project to improve water flow in the low-lying beach community. Name: Geoff Pugh (incumbent) Age: 46 Profession: Pool and spa contractor. Erl siifn CI f- r i ito Luubauuiii vj i auuaic k of Atlantic Hieh mt M SchooL H Mm Personal: Married to Lisa, two children. Political experience: Town commission member, six years. Issues: Keeping the budget within reason so the town can pay off its drainage project and new town hall. When the economy improves, he would like to continue with a proposed natural gas line that would allow residents some independence from all-electric homes during power outages. Lona O'Connor Weather, traffic, breaking news and special reports PalmBeachPost.comLocal Three suburban West Palm Beach men who wanted to have fun making explosive devices and blowing them up found Palm Beach County's bomb squad in front of their home Thursday night and wound up in jail, authorities said. Preston Randall Kemp, 22, Justin Smith, 21, and Cory Payne, 20, were arrested. According to a Palm Beach County sheriff's report, deputies were called about 9 p.m. to 2353 Wabasso Drive. Neighbors said they heard two loud explosions coming from the back yard. Kemp, the homeowner, and the other two confessed to making the devices by filling plastic bottles with Pyrodex, a smokeless black powder compound, and then attaching fuses. A Boynton Beach man accused of defrauding a Tampa company of more than $800,000 over a five-year period surrendered at the Palm Beach County Jail on Friday. William Rolland Baugh, 50, is charged with grand theft stemming from claims made to EnviroCap, a company that finances the cleanup of contaminated sites, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. As president of the consulting firm Custom Solutions International, Baugh billed EnviroCap for work that was not performed or was incomplete from 1999 to 2004, the FDLE said. PORT ST. LUCIE - Fort Pierce police officer Troy Giovengo, 42, was arrested on charges of stalking his ex-girlfriend and booked Friday into the St. Lucie County jail. Giovengo, a school resource officer with the police department, was arrested in the driveway of his ex-girlfriend's home in the 1100 block of Southeast Proctor Lane, Port St. Lucie police spokesman Tom Nichols said. Giovengo and the woman dated for about nine years but broke up about three to four months ago, Nichols said. Since that time Giovengo has been calling and text-messaging her and going by her home uninvited, he said. Monday is the last day for voters to register for the municipal elections that many Palm Beach County cities, towns and villages will hold March 10. The county's elections offices will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. Applications can be downloaded from www.pbcelections.org. Applications must be submitted to the office by 5 p.m. Monday or be postmarked by midnight Monday. For more information, call (561) 656-6200. WEST PALM BEACH -The state's deal to buy 180,000 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. will push its September closing deadline because of legal delays in financing the $1.34 billion purchase. A Palm Beach County Circuit Court hearing Friday over whether the South Florida Water Management District can borrow up to $2.2 billion to finance the deal was continued until March 16. The November death of Pioneer Park Elementary Principal Peggy Nelson has been ruled a suicide. The medical examiner found four drugs in her system at levels high enough to contribute to her death and the presence of eight others plus alcohol. Nelson was credited with bringing the Belle Glade school's state grade from a D to an A. Nearly 850 people sought refuge from the cold at shelters in Palm Beach County in less than a month, according the Greater Palm Beach Area Chapter of the American Red Cross. Since Jan. 20, the shelters were opened seven days. A public relations coordinator said the 174 people on Wednesday were the most the Red Cross ever handled in one night in Palm Beach County. Allied not blamed in workers' deaths HARB0URSIDE from IB missing link to make Jupiter a destination. I'm confident we can do the job." Allied is a privately held company based in Palm Beach Gardens that was incorporated in 2004, according to state records. On Dec. 1, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelly approved a judgment requiring Allied and Park Marbella LLC to pay $1.25 million to the Marbella Villas Townhomeowners' Association. The owners in the North Palm Beach town-house development sued the developers, saying they did not complete work on the clubhouse, roads and other common areas. "The front gate has never worked properly. There are structural problems with the buildings. Landscaping is incomplete. These are problems the developer should fix, not the townhome owners," said David Core, attorney for the homeowners association. Mastroianni said he had no plans to appeal because he has done nothing wrong. "We did everything we were required to do at Marbella. Lawyers file lawsuits all the time," said Mastroianni. "Our work is done there." In July 2004, Allied was the developer of the Tranquility townhouse development off Bridge Road in Hobe Sound, where two men were killed while pouring concrete. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration faulted the subcontractor, Mac's Construction & Concrete Inc. of Boca Raton, and fined it $79,200. The state later ordered Mac's to stop doing business in Florida, stating that it was operating without workers' compensation coverage. Mastroianni keeps a photograph of the crashed building tacked to the wall in his third-floor office at Golden Bear Plaza. Mac's "was found at fault. I did nothing wrong," he said. "I think of that accident every day." Allied has two other proj- N Beach Rd. 3v 03 Jupiter Indiantown Rd. STAFF GRAPHIC ects in Jupiter that have no record of complaints, according to town records. Tierra del Sol, a town-house development on U.S. 1, has been sold to Tierra del Sol LLC and is moving forward. Water Pointe is a development Allied is proposing for the vacant site of the former Elks Club on U.S. 1. In 2003, before his involvement with Harbourside, Mastroianni was charged by the U.S. Department of Labor for diverting more than $100,000 from the retirement fund of his Rhode Island-based firm, Interstate and Design Construction Inc., for personal use. A year later, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court ordered him to pay $136,318 in restitution to the retirement plan after he signed a consent agreement, which is neither an admission nor denial of guilt. Mastroianni paid the restitution, said a Department of Labor spokesman. Mastroianni blamed an administrator appointed after he put the company in receivership. The administrator didn't pay the fund contributions, he said. "I never used the retirement money for personal use," he said. "I signed the consent order to put it behind me. How do you fight the federal government?" Staff researcher Niels Heimeriks contributed to this story. billdipaolopbpost.com Resident welcomes 'tentative victory' ROAD from IB the state, said residents' concerns led district transportation staff to recommend against widening. The district now is waiting for approval from department headquarters, he said. The department hopes to have final plans in place by March 2010, with construction to begin by early 2011. Joanne Jaimedes, president of the Parker Ridge Neighborhood Association, said she was thrilled. "We feel like we have a tentative victory in hand," she said. Jennie Brown, president of the South End Neighborhood Association, said no consensus has been reached on whether the city should take over the road or trucks should be banned. But on one point, everyone at the meeting agreed, she said: The state should not widen the road. "What they would create with wider lanes is a more unsafe situation," she said. tonydorispbpost.com Seat 1, Seat 4 candidates tout selves as outsiders HOPEFULSramis lage By the Sea." Seat 1 challenger Shelly Petrolia and Seat 4 challenger Phil Colnon billed themselves as the unconventional outsiders who are bucking the long-standing trend of commissioners rising through the city's political ranks by sitting on appointed boards. "In this environment, I'm not sure that's such a bad thing," Petrolia said. Colnon called himself the "lone wolf," a name appropriated from a golf game in which the player working alone has the greatest risk but the potential for the largest reward. Colnon said he will accept campaign contributions only from family members and close friends. The insinuations didn't sit well with incumbent Seat 1 Commissioner Gary Eliopou-los, who argued that board appointments weren't the only way to gain experience in city matters. Eliopoulos is a former planning and zoning board member but also served on the school advisory board at Pine Grove Elementary and committees to create design guidelines in Pineapple Grove and along the beach. "If you want a piece of this, you need to get involved," Eliopoulos said. "This isn't something you decide on doing over a weekend." Seat 4 incumbent Mack Bernard said he has shown strong leadership, which has proven beneficial in these "tough economic times." He said bringing new jobs to Delray Beach is a top priority. Seat 3 candidate Joseph Ferrer said the next commission should be encouraging residents to get involved in city projects and events. He also praised the current commission but erred in calling the commission seat a volunteer position. Commissioners earn $9,000 a year; the mayor, $12,000 a year. Opponent Adam Frankel said the commission should have a more visible presence in the community, establish stricter regulations for substance-abuse halfway houses and create a more efficient construction permitting process. The election is March 10. donjordanpbpost.com

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