Ump Punchers, Luggage Carousel Riders, and Alligator Wranglers: Seven Weird Criminals in Miami

Miami is unique. No other major city on Earth is wedged between the ocean and an endangered river of grass. No other metropolis in the United States was founded by a woman. So it makes sense the Magic City's criminals are also an unusual breed.

New Times has scoured police blotters over the past several months to find the strangest criminal charges. Yesterday we brought you Part 1 of our strangest findings. Here are seven more of the most bizarre lawbreakers:

Weird Criminal #1: The luggage carousel rider. Maybe our favorite is the case of 22-year-old John Spell, who was caught riding the luggage carousel into, and back out of, a secured area of Miami International Airport just before midnight June 3, 2016. While waiting for his luggage, Spell decided to lie on his back on the belt at Carousel 26. When it began to move, Spell took a ride through the flaps and into the secured area of the airport before coming out the other end. Though he didn't get off the belt in the secured area and likely amused some of his fellow jet-lagged passengers, not everyone at the airport thought his ride was harmless. Someone notified security because "No trespassing, restricted area" signs are posted above the opening he passed through, and security called the cops. Miami-Dade Police showed up and arrested Spell. The kid spent the night in jail and paid a $500 bond to get out. Luckily for him, prosecutors later dropped charges of tampering with airport security.

Weird Criminal #2: The dog whistler. Cops were on the hunt for a fleeing suspect in Homestead while accompanied by their canine officer Milo around 1 p.m. August 3, 2015. Then 23-year-old Tevin Mangham began whistling at Milo, who was in the back of a pickup truck. Cops told Mangham to cut it out, but he continued trying to get the dog's attention. Then Milo attempted to hop out of the truck toward the whistling man. So cops arrested Mangham and charged him with harassing a police dog, a misdemeanor. Charges were dropped a few weeks later. Messing with a police dog (or horse) is against the law in many states. In Florida, it's a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in prison.

Weird Criminal #3: The brazen briber. Italo Mele strode into the Bal Harbour Village Building Department in March 2017 confident he could get what he came for: a rush job on building permits. The mustached 57-year-old walked up to a female clerk whose last name was Andrade and asked that his armful of documents be approved as soon as possible. He admitted he was supposed to have submitted them three months earlier. Then Mele asked the clerk to tell the project's owner the permits would be ready by week's end. The clerk refused to lie. Thirty minutes later, Mele returned with a wad of cash stuffed into an envelope (the report does not list how much) and handed it, along with the project docs, to the clerk. When the clerk tried to return it, Mele allegedly said, "Don't worry, keep it," the police report states. The clerk chased him into the foyer and threw the envelope at him. Mele picked it up and left. He was later arrested for trying to bribe a public official, a felony. The charges were dropped after Mele agreed to enter a diversion program.

Weird Criminal #4: The ump puncher. Lazaro Sanchez was working as an umpire at a little-league baseball game at Brothers to the Rescue Park on the corner of Coral Way and Sunset Drive August 23, 2015. Jorge Carrion was coaching one of the teams when he became involved in a "heated argument with Sanchez over a call, which subsequently caused him to get ejected from the game," a Miami-Dade Police officer wrote. Immediately after the game, Carrion returned to the field and pushed Sanchez, prompting another umpire to intervene. Then Carrion, a tattooed 38-year-old from New York, was "able to get away from [the second umpire's] grasp and swung at Sanchez with a closed fist, striking him in the mouth and causing minor swelling." Five days later, Sanchez turned himself in to Miami-Dade Police and was booked on charges of battering a sports official, a felony offense with its own statute under Florida law. The charges were dropped months later.

Weird Criminal #5: The alligator enthusiast. John Hazzard thought he'd make a bundle when he posted an ad on OfferUp to sell a giant sea turtle skull for $125. Instead, the 31-year-old was arrested last year after cops tracked him down at his home near SW 128th Place and SW 216th Street. When they searched the place, they found two turtle skulls, two turtle shells, and a live alligator. He was charged with possession of an alligator and alligator poaching — a felony and a misdemeanor. Charges were dropped this past August after Hazzard completed a pretrial diversion program. There are licensed alligator farms and even a state-sanctioned gator-hunting period in Florida, but you have to follow the rules. Hazzard was apparently creating a hazard.

Weird Criminal #6: The epic-party host. When cops responded to a call about a group of people fighting on June 17, 2017, they didn't expect to find a gigantic block party on SW 137th Court just off Florida's Turnpike. But, wrote an officer named Espinoza, "upon arrival, over 1,000 people were observed gathering within a seven-block radius, and loud music was heard from over three blocks away." People were drinking and smoking weed, so scores of cops were called to clear everyone out. Freddie James, a 51-year-old who was apparently throwing the party, didn't have a permit, so they nailed him for unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor. Two months later, prosecutors dropped the charge, which Florida law defines as "three or more persons meeting together to commit a breach of the peace." It's a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail. So if you plan to make a ruckus, keep the head count to two.

Weird Criminal #7: The angry gator poacher. On July 22, 2015, investigator Guy Gilbert received a call from a Broward cop who was having problems with his nephew, who had allegedly stolen a baby alligator and kept it outside their home. Police showed up and found the gator tied up in fishing line inside a cage. Then 37-year-old Terrence Rogers, who had only one arm and a tattoo of praying hands, berated his uncle and grandmother for bringing "police into the home over a gator." He then allegedly threatened to fight his uncle and make "him pay for every dollar he was missing out on while spending the night in jail." On the ride over, cops wrote, "Defendant continued to make threats and statements about his uncle, stating that he would ruin his car and break all his windows, he was going to kill all of them." In March 2017, Rogers entered a guilty plea. Adjudication was withheld, and he was placed on probation for the offense.

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