The real Charlie Free

Hazen You may have read Sunday's story about Jack Hazen (left), a man who robbed a Pompano Beach 7-Eleven back in 1975, escaped from prison, then lived 32 years on the lam under the name Charles Danny Free until being caught again in 2008.

 He's being released today from Dade Correctional Institution in Florida City and will be paroled to Panama City, where he'll have a job and his wife and grown daughters will take care of him.

A colleague who read my story raised a good question: Has anyone ever tracked down the *real* Charles Danny Free, the man whose ID Hazen lifted in order to start his second life? 

A few keystrokes later, I found Charles Danny Free, 63, a nice Southern gentleman living in his hometown of Anderson, S.C. He picked up on the second ring. 

 "I lost my driver's license, and several people used it as their own," he said, explaining he had never been to Jacksonville, where Hazen said he picked up Free's ID at a motel.

Hazen's quiet life as Charlie Free in Las Vegas turned out to be the least of the real Free's problems. Free was a truck driver, and he got fired from two jobs because other people who stole his identity racked up several DUIs.

"It took several weeks to clear that up, but by then they had taken my truck away from me," Free said.

He didn't seem too impressed by Hazen's double life.

"What he did doesn't concern me," Free said.

Hollywood PD sends cards to naughty

Holidaycard_page_1_2Gang members in Hollywood will get holiday well wishes from an unlikely source - the
police department.

The greeting cards (at left) are being sent to about 50 "at risk youth'' who said they were in a gang at the time of their arrest.

Along with the typical holiday pleasantries, the cards include addresses and phone numbers of the local Boys & Girls Club and Police Athletic League. It's the first year the department has sent the cards.

This from the press release sent out by the police department:

"The card contains a public service announcement in the form of a simple message. The message states that there are safe places to spend their free time and lists community based programs geared towards at risk youth.''

Thief turns stolen hearse into family car

A man strolled into his parents' Hallandale Beach home Wednesday morning, grabbed a Bible and a cross and then asked: Who wants to go for a ride?

He wasn't talking about taking a spin in the family station wagon.

Instead, he was joyriding in a hearse he stole outside a Carver Ranches church -- where a funeral was taking place, according to authorities.

The wild jaunt through Broward ultimately ended back at the church, 5212 Pembroke Rd., but not before the man behind the wheel tried to run over sheriff's deputies, causing one of them to fire at least twice, according to Sheriff Al Lamberti.

Read on ...

'Tis the season to protect Jesus

18235027_240x180 Holy cow, there's a lot of crime news out there with religious twists:

Example 1: Someone stole two bags of cash from a church in Washington, D.C., and the Rev. Bill Hegedusich darted out of the 11 a.m. Mass to chase the crook. The priest recovered one bag with about $60 inside, but the thief got away. 

Example 2: Churches are keeping a close eye on their Baby Jesus and Virgin Mary figurines after a rash of Nativity-scene thefts last holiday season. Some are even installing expensive GPS devices and hidden cameras to deter pranksters. 

Example 3: A church vs. state battle is playing out in Oakland Park, where city officials want a Catholic mission to take down a concrete Jesus statue (left) they claim is hindering passing motorists.

*Thanks to Andrea for the tip

Police want uniform

Help20wanted From Most Wanted to Help Wanted:

They say a down economy leads to more crime. Perhaps that's why the Hollywood Police Department is looking to beef up its officer ranks.

During a recent spin down Hollywood Boulevard, a colleague of ours passed a flashing police sign -- you know, the ones that usually remind you to slow down or buckle up -- advertising openings in the department.

The HPD salary range is $42,000-$66,000 for officers, plus an array of benefits. Interested? Call 954-967-4372.

Lamberti goes hard-core for abuse victims

Lamberti_al_sheriff Over on the mothership, I've got a story about a joint PSA from the Broward Sheriff's Office and Women in Distress.

As I mentioned in the story, the video is graphic, to say the least.

Do these types of messages make an impact?

Check it out, judge for yourself -- and feel free to comment.

Police webmaster fired for porn-surfing

Stevenrloiacono_web The South Florida Times' Elgin Jones has a scoop this morning about the Fort Lauderdale Police webmaster fired for visiting porn websites on his work computer.

Steven Rocky Loiacono (left), 42, of Coral Springs was hired in 2001 and had been in charge of the police department's website and IT duties, pulling in about $91,000 a year.

The chief put Loiacono on paid suspension July 14 and said he will be officially terminated on Monday. An investigation revealed Loiacono spent a "significant" amount of time surfing hardcore sex sites during work hours, and he took steps to try to hide his Internet tracks, according to the Times.

There was no criminal activity involved, but the actions violated the police department's work policies.

Don't touch the gators

Florida_alligator Three airboat captains have been arrested after an undercover sting caught them feeding and getting too comfy with alligators, WPLG Channel 10 reports today.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sent officers posing as tourists on July 12 at Everglades Holiday Park in Western Broward County.

The officers rode with captains Randy Rothermel, 49, Armando Horta, 43, and John D. Pieper, 58, and photographed them feeding the 'gators and letting tourists lean over the boats to take close-up photos.

Our pumping party past

Pump Today's story about a Miami-Dade man accused of injecting people with silicone at underground, off-the-record parties brought up memories of South Florida's infamous pumping party death.

Vera Johnson, an office secretary from Carol City, died in March 2001 after attending a pumping party at a Miramar apartment, where she and others paid several hundred dollars each to have industrial-grade silicone injected into their breasts and butts. The silicone got into her bloodstream and caused her death, experts testified at trial.

Two men -- Mark Hawkins and Donnie "Viva" Hendrix -- were charged with Johnson's murder. The couple (Hendrix was living as Hawkins' wife) became well known for their South Florida pumping parties.

Their 2003 trial was colorful, with several transgender and transvestite witnesses and a prosecutor who at one point told jurors such people could not be trusted.

Hawkins was convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison, then his conviction was reversed and he was granted a new trial. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was released from prison in 2006. Hendrix was acquitted of murder charges but served a five-year sentence (in a prison for male inmates) for practicing medicine without a license.   

Granny said heroin was for Ft. Lauderdale man

I found the four-page federal charging document filed against Maria Resfa Garzon de Arenas, the 74-year-old who allegedly tried to bring 6.5 pounds of heroin through the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport last week.

Read the PDF here: Download garzon.pdf

As you can see in the complaint, signed by Special Agent Jorge Gomez of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Garzon said she knowingly smuggled the heroin from Bogota, Colombia. She intended to deliver it to a man in Fort Lauderdale for $23,000 (investigators had estimated the heroin's street value at $180,000).

Prosecutors are asking that she be held without bond. Garzon's public defender will argue against that Wednesday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, where she's scheduled for a 10 a.m. hearing in front of Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer.

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