National Safe Boating Week kicks off Saturday

LITTLE LAKE HARRIS, Fla.—The unofficial start to summer is upon us and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding boaters to stay safe during National Safe Boating Week that begins Saturday.

Inside Lake had the opportunity to speak with FWC’s Kristen Turner and Chad Weber, along with Hunter Bland of the National Safe Boating Council Friday about staying safe on the waterways. Florida is the “Boating Capital of the World,” with more than 1 million vessels registered in the state, according to FWC.

Florida does have some requirements for boating but common sense and taking simple precautions can prevent a tragedy. A boating safety course is required for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1988; classes are available in classroom setting and also online, FWC-approved courses can be found here.

All vessels are required to have personal flotation device (PFD) for each person onboard and FWC encourages everyone to wear it at all times. In an emergency situation, people often won’t have time to put on a PFD. This reporter and Inside Lake Photographer Bonnie Whicher were required to wear a PFD during a ride-along Friday. The weather cut the ride-along short, but Weber used that opportunity to educate the Inside Lake staff on how to handle changing weather conditions.

FWC Officer Chad Weber PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

“You need to know where you are at. (Bad weather) is one of the hidden dangers (people) overlook,” Weber said. “The best thing to do is get out of the water.”

Bland said often homeowners will let a vessel stay at their dock to ride out a storm and he’s even known people to invite boaters in their home to ride it out.

“There are good people out there,” Bland said.

Filing a “float plan can also save your life, Turner told Inside Lake. Though not required, a float plan is letting someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back. The United States Coast Guard provides a fillable PDF float plan and suggests you provide it to a reliable person, along with a photo of the vessel. While the information would be extremely helpful in an emergency, Bland stressed that something as simple as a text message letting someone know your plans, would suffice.

FWC Northeast Region Public Information Director Kristen Turner PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

Weber also suggested other things to have onboard, such as rain jackets, a cooler with water and a first aid kit; tools and extra fuses can also come in handy, Bland added.

For more boating information from FWC, visit https://myfwc.com/boating/

National Safe Boating Council Program Director Hunter Bland PHOTO: Bonnie Whicher/Inside Lake

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5th Annual Lake County Back the Blue and Red Walk

Photos from the 5th Annual Back the Blue and Red Walk. Organizer Shannon Cook has been supporting law enforcement since 2019 with this walk. This year, firefighters were added to the event, and the name was changed. PHOTOS: Bonnie Whicher/Special to Inside Lake

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“We’re Going to Need Somebody to Come Forward,” is Key to Solving 3-Year-Old Double Murder, Mount Dora Police Detective Says

MOUNT DORA, Fla.—Three years ago, Mount Dora was rocked by the double murders of two beloved store owners who were staples in the community and the identity of the person or people responsible for their murders remains a mystery.

Minh “Tina” Nguyen, 47, and Khiem “Ken” Ba Trinh, 56, were shot around 9 p.m. Nov. 30, 2020, at their popular store, T & N Market, 1345 North Grandview Street, just a few blocks from Mount Dora Police Department. The couple was found behind the counter suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and Nguyen was pronounced dead on the scene. Trinh was airlifted to a Sanford hospital where he succumbed to his injuries just a few days later on Dec. 3, 2020.

Mount Dora Police Department released two surveillance videos showing the gunman’s movements; one was from an outside camera that showed a single gunman running across the parking lot and accosting Trinh at his gray Honda minivan and forcing him back into the store at gunpoint and  later shows the gunman fleeing the building and parking lot. A second video from inside the store shows the suspect—dressed in all black—arguing with the couple and fleeing the store. The suspect’s voice can be heard in the second video and when it was released, then-Interim Chief Brett Meade asked the public to watch and listen carefully to help identify the killer. Video of the actual shooting was not released to the public.


Dozens of people attended a candlelight vigil and balloon release held at the store the day after the shooting and a block party was held in their honor several days after the murders. The store, a staple in the northeast community of Mount Dora, had been in business for more than 30 years and many of its patrons frequented the store since they were children. Today, the storefront is empty.

The couple was well-liked in the community they served; numerous people expressed their sorrow on social media in the days following the tragedy. They left behind two sons, Ryan and Vincent.

A reward of $10,000 was offered for information leading to an arrest quickly after the murders occurred, and is still available, three years later, but MDPD has never received the information it needs to make an arrest. MDPD Det. Gary Hutcheson said the key to solving the case is someone coming forward with what they know.

Inside Lake recently sat down with Hutcheson in a face-to-face interview to get an update on the case.

Mount Dora Police Detective Gary Hutcheson PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

Rumors have swirled for years, and several sources have told Inside Lake—as far back as just a few weeks after the murders—that a man well-known to Lake County law enforcement was responsible for the heinous crime. That man is currently serving a lengthy federal prison term for a gun charge, stemming from a case in another Lake County city. Inside Lake directly asked Hutcheson if he was the culprit.

“He was interviewed as part of this case, but I’ve never had enough probable cause to say he did it,” Hutcheson said. Inside Lake is not naming the man because he has not been charged in this case.

Based on the investigation, police believe the motive was robbery and a lack of physical evidence has been a major barrier in solving the case. It is unknown why the perpetrator murdered the couple in addition to the robbery, especially when he had completely disguised his appearance.

“He (the suspect) was covered head-to-toe, gloves, face mask, full head covering, all black. We don’t have any DNA nor touch DNA,” Hutcheson explained. Police did recover shell casings and projectiles but will not release the caliber of the gun. Tests have been performed on the evidence they do have, and surprisingly, does not match any other crimes MDPD is aware of.


There was no indication something like this might occur in the months leading up to the murders. There was a “neighborhood youth” the couple was apparently having some problems with, Hutcheson said, but there is not enough evidence to charge or clear the youth.

MDPD has received information that a getaway vehicle was waiting on Gorham Street, just one block from the store but police have never been able to verify it, Hutcheson said. There were no cameras on Gorham Street, but the exterior camera at T&N Market does show the suspect running through and out of the parking lot at an angle toward the area of Gorham Street following the crime.

Hutcheson said police have released all the information and evidence they can at this point. They do have persons of interest and have investigative leads they just cannot release because it is information only the police and the perpetrator or perpetrators would know. Releasing information too early could damage their case.

Hutcheson said cases like this are a joint effort and he appreciates the support he gets from other agencies. “I have to give a lot of kudos to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Every time we get a homicide, we give them a call and they show up in force,” Hutcheson said.  “We couldn’t work these cases without their help.”

Mount Dora Police Department investigates after Minh “Tina” Nguyen, 47, and Khiem “Ken” Ba Trinh, 56, were shot around 9 p.m. Nov. 30, 2020, at their popular store, T & N Market, 1345 North Grandview Street. PHOTO: MDPD

In the months following the murders, the was a lot of community chatter about who may be responsible, but no one has ever given MDPD the information they need to close the case. Hutcheson said he has chased down leads when he hears someone may know something, but some people have just refused to speak with him. “We’re going to need somebody to come forward.”

“There are people in this community and the surrounding communities that I know, know something about this case and they’re just not coming forward,” Hutcheson said. “I know the persons of interest in this case have spoken to people and made admissions. We just have to get those people to come forward and tell us. If somebody directly tells somebody that they did something, we can use that.”

If you have information on the murders of “Ken and Tina,” call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS. Callers may be eligible for the $10,000 reward and can remain anonymous.

“We’re Going to Need Somebody to Come Forward,” is Key to Solving 3-Year-Old Double Murder, Mount Dora Police Detective Says Read More »

Benefit for LCSO Deputy Diagnosed with Cancer Scheduled for Saturday

EUSTIS, Fla.—An event to benefit a Lake County Sheriff’s Office school resource deputy who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year is scheduled for Saturday.

What started as chest pain in 2022 turned into a terrifying diagnosis last summer for LCSO Cpl. Adam Tytler. In November 2022, Tytler went to a cardiologist for ongoing chest pain, and after a EKG showed his heart was in good shape, the cardiologist told him the pain was likely gastrointestinal. The next month, on Christmas Eve, Tytler discovered a swollen lymph node on his neck and by February the lymph node had not gotten any better. He was also suffering from a sinus infection at the time and went to his primary care doctor for treatment and mentioned the lymph node. The doctor chalked it up to the infection, but during the spring Tytler’s chest pain continued and had also moved to his back, and then he began to find swollen lymph nodes on his chest.

Tytler went through a battery of tests and upon reviewing the results, his doctor said it was likely cancer. Tytler sought a second opinion from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and his fears were confirmed when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma in June 2023.

Tytler, his wife Tiffany, and two daughters, Shay 17, Lily, 14, are currently splitting their time between Mount Dora and Tampa for treatment and it is taking a financial toll on the family while already dealing with an emotional roller coaster. Tytler said he came forward with his struggle because cancer affects millions of people and often they go through it alone.

“I would have given up if it weren’t for my faith, my family and the support from the school resource deputy unit,” Tytler said. “I only wanted for those who are struggling to know they are not alone. Not now. Not ever and to never give up.”

Tytler’s struggle inspired Shannon Cook, organizer of Lake County’s annual Back the Blue Walk, and LCSO Lt. Kristin Thompson to create the benefit scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at That Place, 925 North Bay Street, Eustis.

Dinners will be available for purchase, along with an auction of numerous items, including a Back the Blue basket with items from multiple Lake County law enforcement agencies, tickets to various events, like New Kids on the Block concert tickets and Richard Petty Driving Experience, along with a Yeti cooler packed with alcohol, various craft items made by local residents, a high-end fishing pole and numerous other items. A poker scramble is also scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at Gator Harley-Davidson, 1745 U.S. Highway 441, Leesburg, and will include five stops, ending at That Place, Cook told Inside Lake.

Tytler has spent nearly his entire adult life at LCSO, and most recently worked as a corporal in the school resource deputy unit. He prevented a shooting on the Eustis High School campus during the 2018-2019 school year and was awarded the Lake County Officer of the Year in 2019 for his efforts.

He said he is excited he has only one treatment left, and it has been a difficult journey. “Truthfully, it’s been challenging and difficult treatment-wise, not just for me but my family also,” Tytler said.

He will have to wait until after the new year to find out if he is cancer-free, he said.

Tytler told Inside Lake saying thank you to all those who have helped him, and contributed to the benefit will never be enough.

“My family and I are so appreciative and overwhelmed of the outpouring of love and support from everyone. Especially from people I’ve never met,” he said.

For more information on the benefit, visit Corporal Adam Tytler Benefit.

Benefit for LCSO Deputy Diagnosed with Cancer Scheduled for Saturday Read More »

Lake-Sumter State College Foundation Honors Hall of Fame Recipients and Distinguished Alumni Tuesday Night, Including Inside Lake’s Own Marilyn Aciego

LEESBURG, Fla.—The Lake-Sumter State College Foundation honored its Distinguished Alumni and Hall of Fame recipients Tuesday night in a ceremony held at the Everett A. Kelly Convocation Center at the college’s Leesburg campus.

Nine individuals and a community organization were recognized for their achievements and contributions to the community in front of a large crowd that enjoyed a three-course dinner and video testimonials from the recipients.

Each year, the LSSC Foundation Board of Directors select the recipients from nominations made by the public to receive distinguished alumni awards. For the first time its 12-year history, two people were awarded the prestigious Professional Achievement Award, and one of the recipients was Inside Lake’s Publisher Marilyn Aciego.

Aciego discovered her passion for journalism at Lake-Sumter State College after taking a media class and later became editor of both The Angler and The Odyssey, LSSC’s student publications. She was hired by the Daily Commercial while she was still a student at LSSC and worked her way up to the lead cops and courts reporter. She covered numerous stories that gained national interest, including the death of beloved Sheriff Chris Daniels, a murder committed by identical twins and the disappearance of Trenton Duckett. Aciego’s coverage of these stories lead to appearances on Nancy Grace dozens of times and an episode of Evil Twins on Investigation Discovery.

Lake-Sumter State College Foundation 2023 Hall of Fame recipient Toni Upchurch and Distinguished Alumni recipient Marilyn Aciego.

She left the Daily Commercial in 2009 and began working for an international media organization in an entry-level position and was named Florida bureau chief just three years later. In 2010, she joined recently-retired attorney James Hope to write local stories for Hope’s Lake Legal News magazine, rising to editor-in-chief and then partnering with Hope to start the online edition that focused on breaking crime and public safety news.

In 2021, Aciego and Hope dissolved their partnership and Aciego rebranded Lake Legal News to Inside Lake and began covering general news along with crime news.

“Lake County was becoming a news desert,” Aciego said. “I knew it was time to start Inside Lake.

It was these achievements that earned Aciego the prestigious Professional Achievement Award and Tuesday night she shared that honor with Sandra Wilson, a 1989 graduate of LSSC.


Lake-Sumter State College Foundation Distinguished Alumni and Hall of Fame 2023

  • Marilyn Aciego—Distinguished Alumni, Professional Achievement Award
  • Sandra Wilson— Distinguished Alumni, Professional Achievement Award
  • Pat Atley— Distinguished Alumni, Scholar Award
  • Christine Boodhoo— Distinguished Alumni, Valor Award
  • Juliana Green— Distinguished Alumni, Community Engagement Award
  • Andrew LoFaro—Distinguished Alumni, Graduate of the Last Decade Award
  • Toni Upchurch— Hall of Fame, Faculty Award
  • Kevin Yurasek— Hall of Fame, Staff Award
  • Patrick Ryan— Hall of Fame, Athletics Award
  • The Live Well Foundation of South Lake— Hall of Fame, Community Partner Award

Lake-Sumter State College Foundation Honors Hall of Fame Recipients and Distinguished Alumni Tuesday Night, Including Inside Lake’s Own Marilyn Aciego Read More »

Ham Radio Field Day at Lake County Institute of Public Safety Showcases Lake Amateur Radio Association’s Ham Communication

TAVARES, Florida—The Lake Amateur Radio Association (LARA) hosted its annual Ham Radio Field Day event June 24 and 25 at the Lake County Institute of Public Safety, drawing enthusiasts from far and wide. The event, captured in a captivating photo, featured the club’s president, Glenn Casselman, and his spouse, Laura, who is also a Ham radio enthusiast. The picturesque location provided the perfect backdrop for a day filled with showcasing mobile command vehicles from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Fire Rescue, and, of course, the Lake Amateur Radio Association.

Established in 1952 by a group of Lake County/City radio amateurs, LARA has steadily grown over the years and now boasts a membership of more than 130 dedicated individuals. Not only do they own their own property, but they have also constructed a state-of-the-art clubhouse onsite. LARA’s primary focus lies in the fun hobby of Ham radio and service to the community. Furthermore, the club’s three VHF repeaters and three UHF repeaters, some of which are linked to Echolink, DMR and the IRLP network, enable worldwide communications, amplifying the club’s impact and reach.

PHOTO: Mark O’Keefe/Special to Inside Lake

The Ham Radio Field Day event at the Lake County Institute of Public Safety serves as a testament to LARA’s commitment to promoting the invaluable role of amateur radio in emergency situations. The event not only highlighted the association’s advanced communication capabilities but also fostered a sense of camaraderie among radio enthusiasts and local public safety agencies. As LARA continues to expand its membership and community involvement, their dedication to serving as a vital link during times of crisis remains unwavering. For more information, visit www.k4fc.org

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Law Enforcement Agencies Need Your Vote for K9 Grant

LAKE COUNTY, Florida—Several local law enforcement agencies are counting on the public to help them grow their K9 units with a grant from a national biohazard clean-up company.

Five agencies in Lake County are competing for a $2,500 grant that can be used for their K9 units, such as purchasing equipment and other needs for their pups. The grant will be provided by Aftermath Service LLC, a national company that provides biohazard clean-ups from incidents such as crime scenes and unattended deaths.

Eustis Police Department, Fruitland Park Police Department, Lady Lake Police Department, Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Tavares Police Department are all competing for the cash for their K9S. TPD has not had a K9 officer in nearly 20 years, newly-appointed TPD Chief Sarah Coursey told Inside Lake.

“I saw a need in my community for this essential unit, which will better aid the officers in locating and removing dangerous narcotics from our city and tracking missing or endangered persons,” Coursey said.

Tavares Police Officer Zack Barclay will serve on TPD’s K9 Unit PHOTO: Tavares Police Department

 Most agencies have taken to social media to ask for the public’s help getting votes, and TPD has been posting to its popular Facebook page each day since voting began. TPD does not have dogs yet but has already chosen its two officers that will become handlers, Officer Ben Carter and Officer Zack Barclay and have posted their photos on Facebook in hopes of drawing in votes. A quick glance at the comments shows Barclay has been quite popular—especially with the ladies.

“Our Facebook page has always been an excellent source of information when solving crimes; the community has always stepped up to the plate with valuable information and now we are asking them to throw us a bone,” Coursey explained.

Members of the public can vote up to three times a day by visiting Aftermath Service LLC’s Facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/AftermathCares, its Instagram page  @AftermathK9Grant and its website at https://www.aftermath.com/2021-florida-k9-voting/. Voting ends Monday.

Law Enforcement Agencies Need Your Vote for K9 Grant Read More »

“It is Black Friday Every Week,” at New Leesburg Store, the First of Its Kind in Lake County

LEESBURG, Florida—Shoppers have a new place in town to hunt for bargains.

The first of its kind in Lake County, Bin Pickin, 1015 West North Boulevard, Leesburg, is a new concept for the area, Jennifer Wooten, who owns the store with her husband, Jamie, told Inside Lake this week.

The Wootens purchase truckloads of overstock and returns from Amazon, Kohl’s and CVS Pharmacy and offer all the items for one price three days a week, Wooten said. Fridays, each item is $10, Saturdays, items are $7 and Mondays, they are just $3.  Items are placed on large tables and shoppers can pick through the tables hunting for treasures. “It is Black Friday every week,” Wooten said.

GRAPHIC: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

Not all items are worth $10, and Wooten suggests coming back on $7 day or $3 day to purchase those items. Big-ticket items are often snatched up at the $10 price point and shoppers can miss out if they do not buy the item when they see it, Wooten said.

“It may not be there on $7 day; most likely it won’t be there,” she said.

Bins are topped off and replenished Saturday morning before $7 day, but $3 days are the items that are leftover from Fridays and Saturdays.

“Fridays and Saturdays are all new stuff,” she said.

They have a large variety of items, and they change from week to week with each new truckload. Friday marks Bin Pickin’s third week and shoppers have found everything from makeup, to video games, telescopes and home décor. Electronics have been popular and Wooten said so far the most expensive thing they have seen is a mini PC that retails for as much as $800.

Photo courtesy of Bin Pickin

The store has gotten off to a fantastic start, Wooten said, with lines wrapped around the building on Fridays, more than an hour before they open; and there are always at least 15 to 20 people in the store the entire time they are open.

“The community has been great,” she said. “We have loyal customers already.”

Items are sold “as is” and Bin Pickin does not accept returns, but it offers a box opening station where shoppers can take a box to an employee and the employee will open it up to ensure all pieces are there. If not, the customer is not obligated to buy the item, according to Wooten. Employees will also plug electronic items in to make sure they power on, she said. Amazon items that are in plain boxes have small labels that can be scanned with the Amazon app, right from a cell phone and customers will know what is inside the box.

Photo courtesy of Bin Pickin

Earlier this week, Wooten opened on Tuesday for $1 day to clear out some of the lower-ticket merchandise and Bin Pickin will be adding a few $1 days per month in the future, she said. She may also add a few nighttime events to accommodate more people who have daytime work schedules, she said.

On Thursdays and Fridays, Bin Pickin posts short videos on its Facebook page to preview some of the items it will have that week. Shoppers can watch the videos by visiting the Bin Pickin – Leesburg Facebook page or by clicking here.

“It is Black Friday Every Week,” at New Leesburg Store, the First of Its Kind in Lake County Read More »

Fruitland Park First Friday Market Set to Begin this Week

FRUITLAND PARK, Florida—A new, daytime monthly market is set to begin this Friday in Fruitland Park.

Orange Blossom Market Co. has partnered with the City of Fruitland Park to create the Fruitland Park First Friday Market. The market is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the first Friday of each month at Fruitland Park City Hall, 506 West Berckman Street and will run through May, taking a break during the sweltering summer months and kicking back off in September, Orange Blossom Market Co. Founder and Organizer Sheena Willis told Inside Lake.

“The market will be a place where locals can come together with small businesses from within their community to purchase fresh foods and unique finds in an atmosphere where guests will look forward to attending again,” Willis said.

More than 30 vendors will be on site with produce, handmade wares, baked goods and food trucks. Some of the vendors include Bite Out Of Hunger, specializing in dips and salsas, Sugar Valley Farms with its full line of maple products and Lady T Lemonade with its specialty fruit-infused lemonades.

Vendor spots are closed for the inaugural market this Friday, but Willis is accepting applications for the April market, she said. If you are interested in becoming a vendor at future Fruitland Park First Friday Markets, visit, Fruitland Park First Friday April application.

Fruitland Park First Friday Market Set to Begin this Week Read More »

Hundreds of People Come Out for Eustis African American Heritage Celebration

EUSTIS, Florida—The crowds were large Saturday and the weather was beautiful for the 28th Annual Eustis African American Heritage Celebration.

Beginning with a parade of nearly 150 entries, paradegoers were treated to candy and appearances by Parade Marshal Verma Evans, the Eustis African American Heritage Festival Committee, Eustis Junior Panthers players and cheerleaders, Magic Boyz, along with Eustis City Commissioners, Eustis Police Department, Eustis Fire Department and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. For the second year running, Inside Lake participated in the parade.

PHOTO: City of Eustis

The fragrance of all the scrumptious food available at the festival wafted through the air during the parade enticing festivalgoers. Turkey wings, BBQ ribs, chicken, macaroni and cheese, collards and baked beans were being served up at many of the food tents and food trucks set up at the festival.

PHOTO: City of Eustis

There was a bounce house and snow cones for the kids and signups were available for Eustis Junior Panthers football and merchandise from numerous vendors was available for purchase. Darius Kerrison, organizer of the House of Laughter was out promoting his Eustis Hometown Comedy & Music Festival scheduled for April 1 in Ferran Park. Free tickets are available and VIP tickets are available for $25; for information and tickets, visit Eustis Hometown Comedy & Music Festival

Numerous vendors were at the Eustis African American Heritage Celebration Saturday. PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

The Eustis African-American Heritage Celebration began in 1995 as UNITY—United Neighbors In Touch with the Youth, founded by Vivian “Carla” Mitchell, Patricia Wright and Kimberly Kelly Cameron in the wake of the tragic kidnappings and shootings of Dorothy Lewis and her daughters, Jamilya, 7 and Jasmine, 3. Dorothy survived her horrific injuries, the two sisters did not. Last month marked 30 years since one of Lake County’s most horrific crimes.

The tragic event shook the community to its core, Mitchell, who serves as president, told Inside Lake in 2022. “Our whole world stood still. The leaves weren’t even blowing on the trees. The community just stood still; we were in a state of shock.”

The trio of ladies came together and formed UNITY which included a parade down Bates Avenue and ended with a festival, celebrating the achievements of African-American residents of Eustis and nearly 30 years later, the core values and core events of the celebration are still in place today. In 1995, the celebration committee members began holding a banquet to commemorate the honorees and provide youth with the opportunity to attend a banquet. The youth ticket comes at a price, however, Mitchell said. Each child who wanted to attend the banquet is required to attend an etiquette class at Mitchell’s home.

Mitchell, who has lived all of her 79 years in Eustis, still carries the inspiring words her great-grandmother gave to her many years ago, “Be Strong, be educated and be a part of the decision-making process. I try to live up to that.”

Inside Lake participated in the Eustis African American Heritage Festival parade Saturday. PHOTO: Marilyn M. Aciego/Inside Lake

Hundreds of People Come Out for Eustis African American Heritage Celebration Read More »

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