GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jatavius Jabaré Austin, 24, was arrested May 11, 2023 and charged with money laundering over $20,000 and fraudulent possession of more than five bank cards after he was allegedly found in possession of 24 debit cards that didn’t belong to him and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

Austin was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over on I-75 at about 9 a.m. by an Alachua County Sheriff’s Deputy working as part of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office ACTION Unit.

The deputy pulled over the vehicle for a possible window tint violation and reportedly confirmed that the window tint was too dark. Austin reportedly told the deputy that he had rented the vehicle from someone on Instagram.

The deputy reported that he could smell burnt marijuana coming from the interior of the vehicle, and a probable cause search reportedly produced 25 debit cards, all with different names (one belonged to Austin); most had four-digit PIN codes written on the card in black marker.

Nine of the cards had receipts with them showing that nine deposits had been made to various financial institutions over a span of two hours and 45 minutes on May 9, totaling $12,526. Another $31,712.49 was deposited at two financial institutions over a span of 11 minutes on May 10. The owner of the card used on May 10 told a deputy that she had requested a new card but had never received it.

Two other victims were contacted and also said they had never received debit cards they had requested.

Austin reportedly had $14,400 in cash in his pocket, all in $100 bills and wrapped with rubber bands; when asked how much cash he had, he reportedly said he did not know. More rubber bands and black markers were reportedly found in the center console.

The deputy noted that the debit activity is indicative of money laundering and charged Austin with money laundering over $20,000 and possession of five or more cards belonging to other people.

Austin’s address is listed as Valdosta, Georgia, and he reportedly said he had only been in Alachua County for a day, but two of the victims that spoke with deputies live in Gainesville.

Judge Walter Green set bail at $200,000.

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Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The Florida League of Cities (FLC), the united voice for Florida’s municipal governments, recently recognized High Springs Vice-Mayor Ross Ambrose with a 2023 Home Rule Hero Award for his hard work and advocacy efforts during the 2023 Legislative Session.

“The League and its legislative team appreciate the individual advocacy efforts undertaken by municipal officials throughout the state,” said FLC Chief of Legislative Affairs Casey Cook. “Home Rule Heroes are some of our biggest advocates for protecting local decision-making. They are League members who stand out for their high level of participation, knowledge and effectiveness. This year’s Home Rule Heroes continuously advocated for their communities throughout the 2023 Legislative Session.”

Home Rule is the ability for a city to address local problems with local solutions with minimal state interference. Home Rule Hero Award recipients are local government officials, both elected and nonelected, who consistently responded to the League’s request to reach out to members of the Legislature and help give a local perspective on an issue.

“This is the second time I’ve been honored with this recognition and it means a lot,” Ambrose said. “Public service is hard and complex. Advocacy for the community, even if outside of the public eye, is critical and I do this because our citizens need to be represented. I’m honored that the Florida League of Cities is again recognizing this silent effort,” he said.

Ambrose was elected to the High Springs City Commission in 2021 and elected vice mayor in October 2022. He has been a resident of High Springs since 2002 and is Vice Chair of the Alachua County Tourist Development Council and treasurer of The Heart of High Springs. In addition, Ambrose is president of the Portable Sanitation Association International (the largest trade association in the world supporting the portable sanitation industry), Managing Partner of Porta Serve, providing services to 7,000-square miles of North Central Florida, serving agriculture, industry, construction and events.

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RAY CARSON/Alachua County Today

HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs and Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures (AOA) are calling it quits to their arrangement for AOA to manage the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost after the City found that AOA was launching the majority of their vessels from their other locations. At the May 11 High Springs City Commission meeting, in a somewhat surprising turn of events, City Manager Ashely Stathatos announced the change. Instead, the Canoe Outpost will operate as a city park open to the public.

Both parties agreed to part ways by the end of June. “AOA has agreed to honor all reservations,” said Stathatos. The Canoe Outpost will still serve as a launching point to the Santa Fe River, but there will not be an exclusive agreement with any one outfitter.

City Coffers Get Extra Dollars

In other City business, High Springs will be receiving an additional $3 million from the Suwannee River Water Management District to apply to the expansion of the wastewater treatment facility project. The City had set aside American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, impact fees and reserve funds for Phase 1 of the project. If ARPA funds will not be needed for this project, the funds can be used for other projects.

Stathatos announced that the City has been seeking a state legislative appropriation for the Priest Theater. “The Senate has agreed to give us additional funds as well so right now, between the House and Senate, they are recommending to the Governor’s Office funding of $1.04 million towards the project,” she said. “This still needs to go to the Governor’s Office, but we anticipate that he will not veto the request.”

Utility Easement Vacated

In other business, the Commission approved vacating a utility easement on first reading at the request of Gary and Patricia Grunder. In 2003, a 50-foot alleyway was vacated by the City and deeded to the Grunders. At that time the City reserved a 15-foot utility easement in the mistaken belief that there was an existing water line in the easement.

The Grunders propose building a garage and attached green house in that area and are unable to do so unless the City vacates the easement. Stathatos said there were no plans to run water lines in that easement now or in the future. City staff recommended the easement be vacated as it serves no public purpose.

Commissioner Tristan Grunder recused himself from voting on this issue as the petitioners are relatives.

New Sign for Historic Building

The Historic High Springs Elementary School and Community Center at 23760 N.W. 187th Avenue will soon be home to a free-standing sign featuring Thomas “Pop” Diedeman and Essie Mae Williams Gassett. The sign will be placed in front and to the left of the main entrance of the building. Lighting and landscaping are also proposed to highlight the sign, which is an unattached mural painted during the recent Walldogs event.

As the building is considered to be part of the Parks and Recreation facilities, the item was presented to the Commission by Parks and Recreation Board Chair Linda Hewlett following their Board’s approval of the action. The request will also be considered by the City’s Historic Preservation Board.

Waste Pro

In other business, regarding commercial recycling, Waste Pro’s Dayna Miller informed the Commission that due to state statutes, commercial accounts may set up their own recycling arrangements directly with Waste Pro.

Waste Pro will be increasing the number of times they are emptying shared dumpsters to help the company gauge how often they need to be emptied in the future.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Jimmy William Hayes, 50, of Trenton and Johnie Steven Hayes, 50, of Newberry, were arrested on Friday, May 19, after Johnie allegedly interfered with Alachua County Sheriff’s Deputies who were arresting Jimmy on a warrant.

Deputies went to a Newberry home to arrest Jimmy on domestic battery and domestic assault charges. He was charged with two counts of aggravated domestic battery in Gilchrist County where Jimmy allegedly rammed the victim with his vehicle. Deputies made contact with Johnie at the back door of the home. Johnie allegedly said that Jimmy is his twin brother and that he was in High Springs at a friend’s house. He said the only other person inside the residence was his mother.

However, deputies at the scene could see through a window that Jimmy was walking around inside the home, and he was also reportedly seen sitting at a table inside the home.

A deputy told Johnie not to go back inside the home. Johnie reportedly replied, “It’s my twin brother, man,” and quickly went inside, locking the door behind him.

After deputies made multiple announcements that both brothers were under arrest, Jimmy came out of the residence and Johnie quickly shut the door behind him. Johnie reportedly continued to refuse commands to come out of the house until deputies spoke with him on the phone. He reportedly came outside shortly after the phone call.

Johnie, who has a federal criminal history, has been charged with resisting arrest without violence. Judge Thomas M. Jaworski released him on his own recognizance.

Jimmy remains in the Alachua County Jail on the Gilchrist County warrant.

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NEWBERRY ‒ In a move that will bring a commercial center and storage facilities to Newberry, the City Commission on May 8 unanimously approved a rezoning application on second reading for property located on the south side of West Newberry Road/State Road 26 between Southwest 218th Street and Southwest 226th Street. The approval amends the City’s Official Zoning Atlas to change the zoning from Commercial General (CG) to Commercial Intensive (CI) zoning district on 8.28 +/- acres of land.

“Plans are for the site to be developed as a commercial center up front and additional boat and RV storage to the south, with possibly mini storage in-between,” said Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas. He explained that Commercial General is usually reserved for small scale commercial, while Commercial Intensive is usually for automotive uses.

In his recommendation to enact this change on second reading, Thomas said that the CI Zoning District is compatible with the mixture of uses in the area along State Road 26 and is consistent with the Corridor Study and community visioning indicators. This application was unanimously approved by the Planning and Zoning Board on March 6 and unanimously approved again on first reading by the City Commission on April 10.

In other City business, Thomas presented the proposed timeline for revising the Newberry Comprehensive Plan, something the Commission has been talking about reviewing for some time.

The Comprehensive Plan is the community’s expression of its vision for future growth. The Plan is intended to provide guidance from a high-level perspective, while the Land Development Regulations are the tools to implement that vision. Newberry’s Comprehensive Plan has not been thoroughly revised since 2006 and contains elements that are no longer applicable to the current environment, as well as very specific language that is more suitable to being in the Land Development Regulations.

The process will bring multiple public and Commission open houses to provide the community with ample opportunities for input. In addition to public input, the revised Plan will incorporate the recently adopted Mission, Vision, and Core Values that were developed during last year’s visioning workshops.

All workshops and meetings will take place at the Municipal Building and are scheduled to occur from 6 – 9 p.m. Public workshops and meetings will be held May 24, June 6, July 10 (provide update to the Commission) and Aug. 14 for a Commission workshop.

Upon approval by the Newberry City Commission, the Comprehensive Plan will be sent to the state for review and approval, which can take up to 45 days.

In other business, City Manager New announced that the City was awarded a $55,000 USDA Rural Business Development Grant. It will be used to fund a development business plan for the Agtech Park and also to “further develop our stakeholders to get enough momentum to get the initial round of infrastructure constructed and the first facilities, which we think will be the incubator building”.

New also reported that the City was funded for two $1 million grants for a water storage tank and for a wastewater treatment plant expansion by the Florida Legislature in the 2023 Session that ended on May 5. He said the funding “will have to go before the governor’s veto pen”.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ Mark Rochelle Bolen, 46, was arrested on Monday, May 15, and charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling, unlawful possession of a debit card and resisting arrest after allegedly stealing a wallet and car keys from a residence while the occupants slept.

A Gainesville Police Department officer responded to the residence, where the victim said he was awakened at about 12:08 a.m. Monday morning and saw an unknown person inside his residence. He said the person left the house through the side door. The resident then noticed that his wallet and car keys were missing. He said all of the other occupants were home at the time.

While the officer was investigating the incident, the victim received a notification that someone had attempted to use his debit card at the nearby Gate Food Post, 506 N.W. 13th Street. The officer went to the store and asked a store clerk who was outside if someone just used a card that was denied. The clerk advised “yes” and pointed to a black male wearing a blue jumpsuit (later identified as the defendant). Bolen allegedly fled, dropped a Florida driver’s license and debit card and then picked them up. He was arrested after he was found hiding in a pile of construction fencing.

A debit card and driver’s license belonging to the victim were reportedly found near Bolen’s hiding place. The officer reviewed surveillance video footage from the store and reported that Bolen had attempted to purchase $80 of gas, two cases of cigarettes for $199.80, and three packs of cigarettes for $29.97 for a total of $309.77.

Bolen has 20 felony convictions, two of which were violent, and eight non-violent misdemeanor convictions. He has served five state prison sentences, with his most recent release in January 2018. He is on pre-trial release status for two felonies after posting bail in Marion County and is also facing a sworn complaint for robbery in Alachua County.

Bolen was remanded to the Alachua County Jail. Judge Walter Green set bail at $30,000.

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Staff report/Alachua Chronicle

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Timari Deloris Biddle, 20, and Theodore Isaiah Martin, 16, were arrested May 13 and charged with nine business burglaries over a three-hour period.

Cabrera Business Burglary Spree Timari Deloris Biddle 5At about 1:40 a.m. on May 12, the pair allegedly shattered a window at the Dollar General at 1080 N.E. 16th Avenue with a baseball bat, with damages estimated at $1,000. The pair allegedly entered the store and stole about $100 in tobacco products. On the way out, Martin allegedly hit two computer monitors with the bat, shattering them and causing another $1,000 in damage.

They also allegedly shattered the glass on the front door of the Department of Children and Families office at 1000 N.E. 16th Avenue with a baseball bat, with damages estimated at $500. They allegedly entered the office and smashed multiple computer monitors, knocked down two security cameras, and stole a laptop, a laptop case, and an iPhone. The damage inside the office is estimated at over $1,000, and the stolen items are valued at about $1,600. The laptop and laptop case were later recovered at the scene of another burglary.

At about 1:50 a.m., the pair allegedly broke the glass door of Three Rivers Legal Services at 1000 N.E. 16th Avenue with a bat, with damages estimated at $1,000. The pair allegedly entered the business but were scared off before they could steal anything.

At about 2:00 a.m., the pair allegedly entered Public and General, 1000 N.E. 16th Avenue, through an unlocked front door. While inside, they allegedly stole a tip jar containing $20-$40 and a U.S. Treasury check made out to Public and General.

At about 2:40 a.m., the pair allegedly tried to break the drive-through window of the Popeyes Chicken at 1412 N. Main Street but left on bicycles when the window didn’t break. Damages are estimated at about $500.

At about 2:54 a.m., the pair allegedly broke the glass door of Fly Smoke Shop, 1212 N. Main Street, with a bat, causing damage over $1,000. They allegedly entered the business and stole $500 from the register and “numerous” other items, with the total loss valued at over $2,500.

At about 4:30 a.m., the pair allegedly tried to break the glass door at Smoke City, 2107 N.W. 13th Street, with a bat, but they were unsuccessful. They allegedly knocked down two exterior security cameras, causing damage of about $200.

The pair also allegedly smashed glass on the front of Urban Thread, 1236 N.W. 21st Avenue, causing about $300 in damage. They allegedly entered the business and stole $100 from the cash register.

They allegedly broke a back window at Adam’s Rib Company, 2109 N.W. 13th Street, with a bat, with damage estimated at $200. They allegedly entered the business and stole $170 from the cash register and a Gatorade from the cooler.

TB Goods Pawn Shop at 325 N.E. 23rd Avenue is also listed as a victim, but details are unavailable.

The pair were reportedly caught on video surveillance cameras. Hours later, Martin was reportedly found at the Wash King, 210 N.E. 16th Avenue, still wearing the clothes shown in the video.

Post Miranda, he reportedly admitted to all of the burglaries and implicated Biddle in the thefts.

At about 5:45 p.m. May 13, Biddle was found outside her residence in the 1800 block of Northeast 15th Street, wearing the same clothes shown in the video. She reportedly had the same backpack from the video and had “numerous” stolen items in her possession, including the iPhone and a large amount of cash in mostly small denominations. She was reportedly intoxicated and could not be interviewed.

Martin is listed as a co-defendant on all of the arrest affidavits, but his exact charges are unavailable. Biddle has been charged with seven counts of burglary of an unoccupied structure, two counts of burglary with property damage over $1,000, four counts of theft, three counts of property damage over $200, two counts of property damage over $1,000, and two counts of grand theft over $750.

Biddle was previously arrested in January 2021 and charged with five car burglaries with a different juvenile co-defendant. She entered a plea of nolo contendere to the charges and was sentenced to three years of probation, with adjudication of guilt withheld; she was also ordered to pay restitution to the victims. She was arrested again in January 2022 and charged with threatening to shoot another student at A. Quinn Jones School. She was found incompetent to proceed with trial by reason of intellectual disability and was committed to an Agency for Persons with Disabilities training facility. In October 2022, she was found competent to proceed with trial and was released to the care of a family member after entering pleas of nolo contendere to making a threat to kill and five counts of probation violation; her previous probation was revoked, and she was sentenced to two years of probation with a Mental Health Plan.

After she was removed from her mental health treatment group in January 2023 for being uncooperative and for “escalating” behavior including a physical altercation, she was re-arrested for violating the terms of the probation. She was released with a new Mental Health plan in February 2023.

Biddle is currently on probation on the January 2021 and January 2022 charges, which includes a requirement to not violate the law. Bail information was unavailable.

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Articles about arrests are based on reports from law enforcement agencies. The charges listed are taken from the arrest report and/or court records and are only accusations. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

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