Unincorporated Lake

Head-On Collision Kills Umatilla Man, Shuts Down SR 46 Friday

SORRENTO, Fla.—The Florida Highway Patrol is on scene of a crash that killed a Umatilla man and shut down State Road 46 in both directions.

The preliminary investigation revealed a 2009 Hyundai Sonata being driven by a 42-year-old Umatilla man was traveling westbound on State Road 46 near Wekiva Pines Boulevard around 5:40 p.m. when he veered into the eastbound lane and collided with 2022 Ford E-350 being driven by a 49-year-old Deltona man, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said.

The Umatilla man was transported to HCA Florida Lake Monroe Hospital in Sanford, where he was pronounced deceased. The Deltona man and his passenger, a 14-year-old male, were also transported to HCA Lake Monroe Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The crash shut down State Road 46 between County Road 46A and Osprey Hammock Trail and it was still shut down at press time.

Operation Poison Control Results in 21 Arrest Warrants, 50 Charges

TAVARES, Florida—A six-month long undercover drug investigation targeting fentanyl traffickers has wrapped up with the arrests of 15 people and six more are on the run, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

A joint operation between LCSO’s Special Investigations Bureau, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the City County Investigation Bureau— which includes police officers from Clermont, Eustis, Leesburg and Mount Dora—uncovered a variety of illegal narcotics being distributed throughout the county, including trafficking amounts of deadly fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA.


Law enforcement developed information from the public to aid in the investigation and obtained warrants for 21 individuals on a total of 50 charges that range from trafficking in narcotics to minor possession.

“Operations like this and the many we have done in the past save lives. I’m proud of the dedication and commitment of our undercover agents to keep Lake County safe,” Said Sheriff Peyton Grinnell.

Six people involved in the case have eluded authorities and are still being sought: Scottie Crosby, George Medina, Jason Simpson, Kourtney Smith, Tyson Smith and Derrick Walker.


Motorcyclist Killed After Running Stop Sign in Unincorporated Leesburg

LEESBURG, Fla.—A Leesburg motorcyclist was killed Monday after he ran a stop sign in unincorporated Leesburg, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The 84-year-old man was riding a 2007 Harley-Davidson motorcycle eastbound on El Presidente Boulevard when he failed to stop at the stop sign at U.S. Highway 27 while attempting to make a left turn around 2:10 p.m., Trooper Migdalisis Garcia said in a press release.

The motorcycle entered the direct path of a 2015 Toyota Corolla traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 27 and being driven by a 31-year-old woman of Stone Mountain, Georgia. The front of the Corolla struck the left side of the motorcycle, fatally injuring the motorcycle rider. He was transported to Orlando Health South Lake Hospital- Blue Cedar, where he was pronounced deceased. The driver of the Corolla was not injured.

Astor Store Manager Arrested for Refund Scam

ASTOR, Fla.—The manager of a Dollar General store is facing a felony theft charge after being arrested by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office for a refund scam, according to an arrest affidavit.

On Friday, LCSO responded to Dollar General, 24150 State Road 40, Astor on a report of a theft. When the deputy arrived, a loss prevention director told the deputy she began investigating Nancy Marie McDonald, 51, of Astor, for an unusual amount of refunds totaling $925 that were processed in July and August.

The loss prevention director said McDonald admitted to taking items of the shelves, processing refunds and pocketing the cash. McDonald said she had been doing it since March and provided the loss prevention director with a written statement, according to the affidavit. Video surveillance also showed McDonald’s scam.

McDonald admitted her misdeeds to the deputy and said she gave the money to a former employee, but the former employee did not know where the money was coming from. McDonald was arrested for grand theft and transported to the Lake County Jail, where she was released on $2,000 bond.

Man, 18, Struck and Killed on Busy Road Near Clermont

FOUR CORNERS, Fla.—A Davenport man was killed while walking in the westbound lanes of U.S. 192 late Monday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Just after 10 p.m. Monday, a 2014 Toyota Camry being driven by a 58-year-old Clermont woman was traveling westbound on U.S. 192 approaching Town Center Boulevard in the outside lane when the Davenport man walked into the westbound lanes, FHP Lt. Tara Crescenzi said in a press release.

The Camry struck the teen, and he was pronounced deceased on the scene. The Clermont woman was transported to AdventHealth Four Corners ER with minor injuries. The crash remains under investigation.

LCSO Issues Purple Alert for Young Woman Last Seen in Leesburg

LEESBURG, Fla.—A Purple Alert has been issued for a young woman last seen in Leesburg earlier this week.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s assistance in locating the woman, who suffers from an intellectual disability, according to LCSO Lt. John Herrell.

Lesley Perez, 21, ran away from LifeStream Behavioral Center, 2020 Tally Road Leesburg earlier this week; she was on foot, and last seen wearing a sports bra, shorts and no shoes.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s website, “The Florida Purple Alert is used to assist in the location of missing adults suffering from a mental or cognitive disability that is not Alzheimer’s disease or a dementia-related disorder; an intellectual disability or a developmental disability; a brain injury; other physical, mental or emotional disabilities that are not related to substance abuse; or a combination of any of these and whose disappearance poses a credible threat of immediate danger or seriously bodily harm. Purple Alerts engage the public in the search for the missing person and provide a standardized and coordinated community response.”

If you have information on Perez’ whereabouts, call LCSO at 352-343-2101.

Yalaha Man Accused of Striking his Neighbor, 79, with a Golf Cart

YALAHA, Florida—A man apparently upset because he believed his neighbor was telling people he is “bipolar” was arrested Monday after the 79-year-old victim told a deputy the man knocked him off his bicycle with his golf cart, according to an arrest affidavit.

The victim told a Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputy, he was riding his bicycle on Magnolia Lane in Yalaha when Charles Dean Ingram, 60, of Yalaha, accused him of telling neighbors he is bipolar. An angry Ingram then struck the victim with his golf cart, knocking him to the ground, the victim said, Ingram did not stop the golf cart following the collision and left the man on the ground, the affidavit states. The victim suffered lesions on his left elbow, ankle and knee.

LCSO spoke with Ingram at his home on Oak Street and he admitted confronting the victim and said he must have fell off his bicycle “by hitting a curb or altered terrain,” the affidavit states. The deputy asked to see Ingram’s golf cart and he observed scrape marks consistent with the height of the bicycle’s pedal and found green paint on the bicycle consistent with the golf cart.

Ingram was arrested for aggravated battery on a person over 65 and transported to the Lake County Jail, where he was released on $10,000 bond.

School Safety Officer Accused of Child Rape Held on No Bond

GROVELAND, Florida—A Lake County Schools school safety officer assigned to Mount Dora High School has been arrested for multiple sex offenses involving a child, according to Groveland Police Department.

James William Wolfe, 50, of Groveland, was arrested Friday after the Department of Children and Families (DCF) reported allegations of sexual abuse to GPD, said Sarah Panko, spokesperson for GPD.

“After a thorough investigation, Groveland Police detectives were able to confirm elements of the allegation and 50-year-old James Wolfe was arrested and charged with sexual battery, engaging in sexual battery with a child under 18 years of age and giving obscene material to a minor,” Panko said in an email.

The abuse may have spanned for several years and similar crimes may have occurred in Altamonte Springs and GPD is working with Altamonte Springs Police Department to identify more victims, according to Panko.

“Allegations of this kind are deeply disturbing, and officers acted swiftly to make an arrest,” Panko said.

Mount Dora High School PHOTO: Mount Dora High School/Facebook

Wolfe was hired by Lake County Schools (LCS) in August 2021 and worked as a custodian at Seminole Springs Elementary School and later at Pine Ridge Elementary. On Aug. 9, of this year, he began working as a school safety officer at Mount Dora High School, according to LCS.

Wolfe is facing 10 counts of engaging in sexual battery with a child over 12 and under 18, 10 counts of sexual battery and one count each of giving obscene material to a minor and lewd or lascivious touching of a minor.

GPD is asking anyone with information about Wolfe to call them at 352-429-4166 or Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.

Homeland Security Investigation Reveals Eustis Man’s Possession of Child Pornography

EUSTIS, Florida—A Eustis man out on bond for a prior arrest for possessing child pornography has been arrested again after he allegedly received child pornography in an online chat room being monitored by an undercover Homeland Security agent.

Eric Allen Bozeman, 42, who was arrested in 2021 for four counts of possessing child pornography, was arrested again Tuesday at his job, Advance Auto Parts, 2505 South Bay Street, Eustis, by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents. He refused to speak with agents and invoked his right to an attorney, according to an arrest affidavit. He was arrested for two counts of possession of child pornography and is being held on no bond; his bond in the 2021 case has also been revoked.

In this most recent case, Bozeman is accused of receiving two child pornography images in an online chat group through the Wickr application. Wickr encrypts chats and media files, “Other communications platforms store or share their users communications with governing bodies or third-parties. Wickr does not. We will never share the communications of Wickr users. In fact, Wickr does not have access to any encrypted communication conducted on our platform and conversations are never stored on our servers, thanks to our privacy-first architecture. Wickr enables enterprises to implement their own message archival and monitoring regimes in accordance with internal policies and government regulations,” Wickr’s “About Us” section states on its website.

According to the affidavit, in May, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Monterey, California, began targeting online chat groups that included members who shared child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and discussed the sexual abuse of children. In a group named “mostly taboo” Bozeman, under a username so vulgar Inside Lake Cannot publish it, was observed by an undercover HSI agent interacting with other users who were sharing CSAM. Bozeman received two images that were so graphic, Inside Lake cannot publish the descriptions of the images. The two images included four juvenile females believed to be approximately 5 years old.

Bozeman posted sexually graphic comments on both photos.

In early June, the HSI undercover agent, acting as an individual sexually attracted to children, began communicating with Bozeman and asked him what ages he is into. He reportedly replied 6-15, the affidavit states. Bozeman told the agent about a juvenile female he claimed to abuse and said he lost the videos and photos of the abuse when he dropped his phone in the toilet. The following day Bozeman identified himself as “Eric from fl” and said he was 41. Bozeman was 41 at the time of the message; he has since turned 42.

The above photo is intentionally blurred due to possible undercover work and the nature of the cases investigated by the law enforcement officials pictured here. PHOTO: Jolie Fowler/Inside Lake

A few days later, the HSI agent sent Bozeman a link to a Snapchat account the agent said belonged to a 12-year-old girl; the agent was actually running the account, pretending to be the girl. The account then received a friend request from eric_bozeman23, according to the affidavit. The agent accepted the request and told Bozeman they were “only 12.” Bozeman communicated with who he believed was the 12-year-old girl and sent inappropriate sexually-charged messages to the “girl,” along with a selfie agents used to match to his driver license photo.

Bozeman also continued to communicate with the undercover agent on Wickr and sent a photo of a juvenile, smiling and wearing a black t-shirt with “Queen Squad” in gold lettering and black pants. Bozeman told the HSI agent he was sexually involved with the juvenile; she has not been identified by law enforcement.

On June 21, the agent, acting as the 12-year-old girl, sent Bozeman a phone number and said she wanted to communicate by text on the phone. Agents then subpoenaed records belonging to the phone number Bozeman was texting from and found he was the subscriber for the phone since February 2020 and the billing address was Pelican Street in unincorporated Eustis—Bozeman’s residence.

The information about Bozeman was then turned over to FDLE and an FDLE agent—the same agent who investigated Bozeman’s 2021 case— received the information about Bozeman, including his address and recognized it from 2021.

“(Special Agent) recognizes the address of 26750 Pelican Street, Eustis Florida from a previous investigation involving Bozeman. In August of 2021 Bozeman was arrested for possession of child pornography and is currently still out on bond pending trial,” the agent wrote in the affidavit.

Bozeman is represented by attorney Bryan Hugo of Maitland in the 2021 case.

Former Lake County Firefighter Found Guilty of Sexually Abusing Young Boy

TAVARES, Florida—A jury has found a former Lake County firefighter guilty of sexually battering and molesting a young boy 15 years ago.

Steven Trent Ellis, 52, of Umatilla was arrested in July 2019 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after a tip and subsequent search warrant revealed multiple images of child pornography on his computer. Following his arrest, “several” individuals came forward and reported he had sexually abused them, according to a probable cause affidavit.

FDLE met with a victim in 2019 who said he had been abused by Ellis four to five times in 2008 when he was under 12 years old; his exact age is redacted from the affidavit. The boy and his family reported the abuse to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in 2008 and the case remained open for more than 10 years pending further corroborating evidence.

Steven Ellis is seen here in his 2019 mugshot.

The statements the victim made in his original complaint in 2008 were consistent with statements he made in 2019; he told agents what Ellis did to him in great detail and said it happened at the home Ellis lived in on Fishermans Road in Paisley at the time.

In October 2019, Ellis was charged with sexual battery on a child under 12 and lewd or lascivious molestation, in addition to the child pornography charges. In 2020, he pleaded no contest to the child pornography charges and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in April 2021, and on Monday, Ellis stood trial for two counts of sexual battery on a child under 12 and one count of lewd or lascivious molestation. He was found guilty by a jury on all three counts and sentenced to life in prison.

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