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Mining the Store

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Every once in a while, Riptide hears about an average blue-collar Miami-Dade citizen engaging in some inexplicably absurd, devious behavior. One example is the criminal case against Franklin Knowles and Larry Martinez, two gents who earn their keep by stopping shoplifters and identity thieves from plundering the Home Depot at North Kendall Drive and SW 127th Avenue. Knowles is the store's loss prevention manager, and Martinez works as the loss prevention investigator.

Two Miami-Dade Police detectives say Knowles and Martinez aided the escape of a woman who might have been guilty of credit card fraud. The men, who remain employed by Home Depot, were recently charged with two felony counts of obstruction of justice. Knowles and Martinez could not be reached for comment.

Knowles and Martinez's defense lawyer, Daniel Lurvey, declined to comment, as did Home Depot spokesman Dan Ogden.

According to police reports, around 3:30 p.m. on August 23, Knowles ran into a Miami-Dade Police officer at the Home Depot. Knowles relayed that he and Martinez were questioning an employee named Christy whom they believed had committed about $10,000 to $15,000 worth of credit card fraud. The officer instructed Knowles to detain the woman.

But when two detectives arrived, Knowles and Martinez claimed they did not want the police involved. "Who called you and why are you here?" Knowles allegedly asked the detectives. Home Depot had not decided whether to pursue criminal charges against Christy, he added.

The officers explained it was their duty to investigate and then warned Knowles and Martinez to neither release Christy nor leave her alone. "We stressed to [them] that we were obligated by law to take her into custody," one of the detectives wrote.

Knowles and Martinez assured the police they would follow their orders. But then a half-hour later, Martinez led the investigators to an employee lounge and revealed Home Depot was terminating Christy's employment, but would not file criminal charges. He told the detectives they could question Christy as long as it was not on Home Depot premises.

"Shocked and in disbelief, we inquired as to the employee's whereabouts," one of the detectives later jotted. "We were told she had been released, free to go out the back door to an area where employees park their cars."

The cops ran the length of the store to the back stockroom, where they caught Christy just as she was walking out the door.

Knowles ordered the police to leave the store. He said they would need a subpoena to obtain the information about Christy.

Later that day, officers questioned Christy at the police station. They released her because there was no evidence to dispute her claims of innocence.

During a recent interview, Det. Ivette Perez contended that Knowles and Martinez deliberately withheld pertinent information. The following morning, police arrested the pair.

"These two guys made a mountain out of a molehill," Perez said.

On Friday, September 22, prosecutors decided not to charge the pair. Cops suggest, just maybe, Home Depot wanted to fire Christy but had no proof. -Francisco Alvarado

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