Two Palm Beach residents and a property manager on the island who were arrested this summer on charges of illegally disturbing sea turtle nests will not be prosecuted.
The state attorney’s office confirmed Monday it had declined to prosecute Barbara Stoia, Frank Herz and Eduan Morales for violating state statutes that protect Florida’s marine turtle habitat.
Herz, 52, was arrested by town police July 28, and Stoia, 58, and Morales, 39, were arrested Aug. 5.
Herz and Stoia, who also goes by Barbara Meister, live in Palm Beach. Morales, a Loxahatchee resident, is Stoia’s property manager.
In all three cases, Assistant State Attorney Michael Kridos wrote in a memo to Town Police, there was probable cause to make an arrest, but the evidence couldn’t prove all legally required elements of the alleged crime and was “insufficient to support a criminal prosecution.”
Sean Shecter, Stoia’s Fort Lauderdale-based attorney, welcomed the decision by the state attorney to not pursue charges against his client.
“It is the just and right decision,” he told the Daily News Monday. “Ms. Meister did not break the law, and the investigation and arrest by the Palm Beach Police Department was shocking in its injustice.”
Rob Melchiorre, an attorney who represented Herz in the case, said his client was “vindicated” by the decision.
“He never did anything wrong,” Melchiorre said of Herz.
Morales could not be reached.
Stoia, who made repeated calls about people illegally disturbing sea turtle nests along the island’s coastline earlier this summer, was accused of the same crime.
According to a July 24 complaint submitted by D.B. Ecological Inc., the town’s turtle monitoring consultant which works as an agent to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, photos taken that morning on the beach near Seminole Avenue showed ‘hand scrapes’ at an emerged turtle nest and shoe prints throughout the same emerged nest site.
The individual leaving the shoe print most likely removed pre-emergent hatchlings from nest site locations, the FWC wrote in the complaint.
A female later identified as Stoia was observed standing in the water and looking at something before returning to shore, according to the complaint. She then walked off the beach.
Three days later, based on complaints from the community as well as concerns that Stoia was suspected to be handling sea turtles without the proper state permit, undercover detectives from Palm Beach’s Organized Crime, Vice and Narcotics Unit conducted surveillance of an undisclosed location on the island.
During that surveillance, Herz and Stoia were observed searching the beach near her home on Seminole Avenue and stopping at sea turtle nests, according to a probable cause affidavit released by police.
After Stoia walked away, Herz picked up a small object and appeared to examine it before walking toward the shoreline.
Detectives approached Herz, who placed what they confirmed to be a sea turtle hatchling in the sand, according to the affidavit.
Herz told police he was recording the hatchling with his cellphone, and when asked whether he had a permit to transport a hatchling, he said no, the affidavit said.
Herz was escorted off the beach by police and detained.
Also on July 27, police conducted an interview with Morales in response to the original FWC complaint.
Morales confirmed that Stoia walks along the beach to look at turtle nests, takes videos of them and “helps the turtles out of their nests.”
Based on the information collected, police requested and obtained a search warrant for Stoia’s property.
During their search of the property July 27, they discovered a white laundry basket in the garage that contained approximately 10 wooden stakes with “Do Not Disturb Sea Turtle Nests” signs attached, as well as a hard drive storage unit.
On Aug. 3, police reviewed video from the hard drive — which was recorded July 24 — and saw Stoia “harassing and molesting” sea turtle nests and the hatchlings inside on multiple occasions, and then filming them as they crawled from the beach to the ocean.
Stoia was on the beach for about 85 minutes, according to the affidavit.
During this time, Morales was observed attempting to cover the hand-pry marks and shoe prints near the nest.
Stoia and Morales left the beach once they spotted a turtle monitor in the area.
They were arrested two days after police reviewed the video.
Lesley Blackner, a Palm Beach attorney who represents the environmental nonprofit Bear Warriors United, chastised the town for its “absolutely outrageous” treatment of Stoia.
Stoia is a member of Bear Warriors United, whose stated mission is striving to preserve and protect bears and all of Florida’s natural resources and wildlife.
The organization recently gave the town a 60-day notice of intent to sue based on violations of the federal Endangered Species Act. Bear Warriors United claims the town is not enforcing its own light-restriction rules to protect leatherback, loggerhead and green sea turtles during nesting season.
In addition, mechanical beach cleaners leave deep ruts in the sand that impede hatchlings from reaching the ocean, improperly marked nests are trod on by tourists unaware of what a white stake in the ground means, and unleashed dogs harass nesting females and new hatchlings, according to the notice.
“The arrest was uncalled for and has been very damaging to Ms. Meister,” Blackner told the Daily News. “It’s frightening to be arrested, and really frightening to be arrested when you haven’t done anything except be a champion for wildlife.”
how to cheat on family island nteh itzehoe de
hay day hack for free diamonds and coins 2023 gaming pirate
litmatch free diamonds hack unlock vip s profile muck rack
myths of moonrise redeem codes january 2023 desktop gamer
pull the pin mod apk 0 138 1 unlocked happymod
evony mod apk 4 38 3 download unlimited gems 2023 tricksvile
dice dreams free rolls dice peoplesgamezgiftexchange
project makeover hack cheats unlimited gems genera s profile
beach buggy racing for android download the apk from uptodown
Mastering TikTok Coins: Expert Insights
Coin Master Free Spin Generator Scams: What to Avoid
Free Avacoins in Avakin Life: Elevating Your Virtual Lifestyle
The Power of Credits in Bingo Blitz: Explained
Coin Master Spins Farming: What Every Player Should Know
genshin impact step into a vast magical world of adventure
ZEPETO Zems Farming: Tips for Success
generator coins and trophies free for match masters soultricks
Unlimited TikTok Coins: Myth or Reality?
Brawl Stars Gems Hack: Boost Your Game for Free
how to get free gems in dragon city 2023 dontruko
family island hack free rubies energy cheat new pexels
free hay day diamonds generator no survey without verification
litmatch diamond hack download apk for android apkproz itpyv
home pin mod apk 3 7 9 unlimited money free on android
working updated evony the kings return gems generator
dice dreams free rolls ios 2023 unsplash
download project makeover free gems coins android on pc
beach buggy racing mod apk v2023 01 11 unlimited money
Maximize Your TikTok Earnings with Free Coins