Suspect in eastern New Orleans business burglary arrested after pursuit in Chalmette and his brother, an escapee from Alabama, was also caught
St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputies, acting on information that a suspect in an eastern New Orleans business burglary was staying in Arabi, caught the man after a pursuit in which his vehicle struck three sheriff’s patrol cars but didn’t injure anyone, Sheriff James Pohlmann.
Along with the burglary suspect, Matthew Belk, 25, Belk’s brother, James Belk, 22, an escapee from custody in Marion County, Ala., since mid-April, was also arrested with a woman James Belk was with when found.
Matthew Belk, who fled in a vehicle when deputies closed in on him in Chalmette late Tuesday afternoon, struck three sheriff’s cars before he was caught at LaPlace Drive, near East Law Street. He was examined at St. Bernard Parish Hospital after the crashes, then upon release was booked into St. Bernard Parish Prison.
He is being held in lieu of $250,000 bond set Wednesday.
Matthew Belk was booked with aggravated flight from officers, three counts of aggravated criminal damage to sheriff’s patrol cars, aggravated assault, accessory after the fact to harboring a fugitive, who was his brother, James; numerous traffic charges, and was also held on arrest warrants from New Orleans for simple burglary and illegal use of a movable.
Matthew Belk is wanted in New Orleans in connection with the recent burglary of an eastern New Orleans seafood business owned by St. Bernard Parish residents, authorities said.
Agents of the Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Division received information that Matthew Belk was in St. Bernard Parish, the sheriff said.
While looking for Matthew Belk, agents found James Belk, of Guin, Ala., who was arrested mid-day Tuesday while walking on Patricia Street in Chalmette near Valor Drive with a friend, Nora Rizzuto, 26, 1405 Alexander St., Arabi. Matthew Belk allegedly had been staying with Rizzuto.
When approached, both James Belk and Rizzuto said he was Matthew Belk, Sheriff Pohlmann said. James Belk presented officers a Social Security card in the name of Matthew Belk. After receiving a photo of Matthew Belk, officers again confronted James Belk who eventually acknowledged his correct identity, the sheriff said.
James Belk admitted he had been on the run for weeks from Marion County, Ala., after escaping from a sheriff’s deputy while in handcuffs. Belk is wanted there on numerous warrants including escape, theft and receiving stolen property.
James Belk was booked with resisting officers and with being a fugitive from Alabama. He is being held in St. Bernard Parish Prison awaiting extradition to Alabama.
Rizzuto was booked with being an accessory after the fact to aiding and harboring a fugitive, James Belk. She is also being held in St. Bernard Parish Prison and no bond has been set.
After finding James Belk and Rizzuto, agents received information regarding Matthew Belk’s whereabouts in Chalmette. Agents set up surveillance and saw Matthew Belk in a vehicle but he wouldn’t stop and led deputies on a pursuit that included intentionally striking police cars before he was stopped and had to be removed from his vehicle, the sheriff said.
Phone call from witness leads to three men being booked in a car burglary and two had weapons also; Sheriff praises action by the caller
Sheriff James Pohlmann praised the action of a witness who called the Sheriff’s Office when he saw a car burglary taking place in his neighborhood, which led to three men being arrested, two of whom had weapons on them.
“This witness, like so many residents in St. Bernard, was willing to call the Sheriff’s Office in a timely manner when he saw something suspicious happening and it led to three arrests,” Sheriff Pohlmann said. “He helped stop crime in his neighborhood. We always encourage people to help keep their neighborhoods safe and he did.’’
The witness was outside his home about 10:30 p.m. when he saw two men breaking into a vehicle in the 500 block of East Josephine Street in Chalmette and a third man acting as a lookout. The caller, while taking cover so he wouldn’t be seen, called in the description of the clothing they were wearing and which way they headed when they exited the car, the sheriff said.
Acting on the information, Sheriff’s Dep. Joseph Warren, assisted by Dep. Kevin Rickmon, spotted three men fitting the description and stopped them, seizing an 18-inch machete from the hands of one f them, Juan Hernandez, 17, 109 Phillip Court, Chalmette.
Also stopped was David Jones, 22, 3713 Despaux St., Chalmette, who had a stun gun in a pocket; and Austin Jones, 18, 3316 Daniel Drive, Violet.
Hernandez and David Jones, who both entered the car, were both booked with simple burglary and illegal carrying of a weapon. Both are being held in St. Bernard Parish Prison in lieu of bonds set at $15,000 each.
Austin Jones, the lookout, was booked with being a principal to simple burglary and was jailed in lieu of $7,500 bond set in the case.
The witness who called about the burglary identified all three men as the ones he saw, the sheriff said.
District Attorney Perry Nicosia discusses plans to target violent and habitual offenders, as well as a new pre-trial diversion program for first-time offenders
District Attorney Perry Nicosia said his office will strike a balance: vigorously prosecuting violent and habitual offenders while having a diversion program for first-time, non-violent offenders which offers them a chance to avoid a criminal record if they stick to the rules and don’t get in further trouble.
“We will target violent criminals and habitual offenders’’ and they will be fast-tracked for trial, Nicosia told the Kiwanis Club of St. Bernard.
But he also said, “We need to determine the truly criminal and those not inherently a criminal,’’ but who are dealing with problems that might be overcome.
Nicosia said a drug or alcohol dependency is often at the root of non-violent crimes and he outlined his new pre-trial diversion plan for first-time, non-violent offenders to help overcome problems leading to crime, rather than simply give them a criminal record.
They would have to go through a set of steps to evaluate their problems and deal with them, he said.
It would be for those who “have a chemical addiction but aren’t really criminals,’’ Nicosia said.
He has also said his office will work to try to get in-patient and out-patient treatment services in St. Bernard Parish for people with drug and alcohol problems.
Someone in diversion has to agree to be evaluated, get treatment and counseling and be regularly drug-tested.
Nicosia emphasized an offender who slips-up in the diversion program would lose the chance to have a case dismissed and, instead, go back into the system on the regular court docket to be adjudicated. “You must stay out of trouble and complete the program.’’
“It is something we can hold over their heads before they have a criminal record,’’ said Nicosia, who began his term Jan. 1 after winning an election last fall following the retirement of long-term District Attorney Jack Rowley.
“The goal is to make sure someone who completes diversion doesn’t come back’’ into the criminal justice system, Nicosia said. While the diversion process would be difficult to complete, it could save lives if it gets them off drugs that led to criminal activity, he said.
Nicosia said diversion could be possible for such cases as thefts and drug possession, traffic violations and DWI cases because the steps an individual has to go through to complete it are harder than simply pleading guilty. He estimated 80 percent of property crime happens because of drug abuse and offenders stealing to support a habit.
Diversion differs from the drug court program, in which a person first pleads guilty to a crime and then receives help if drugs were the cause of their criminal behavior.
The District Attorney’s office has been conferring with Sheriff James Pohlmann about use of the diversion program. Nicosia said an offender won’t be accepted into the program if there is an objection by the Sheriff’s Office.
A St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy seeing a clown mask at the scene of four arrests for disturbing the peace helped lead to the arrests of the same men for an April 11 armed robbery in eastern St. Bernard Parish in which the mask was worn by a robber, Sheriff James Pohlmann said.
The four men arrested for disturbing the peace had also been riding in a vehicle which fit the description of the one the robbers were in when they got out and forced a pedestrian on a street at gunpoint to turn over money and snacks he had, the sheriff said.
Lt. Leander Morgan saw the clown mask in the vehicle the men were in when arrested for disturbing the peace the night of April 20 and remembered it and the description of the vehicle from the statement taken from the robbery victim the night of April 11.
The victim wasn’t injured.
A white man wearing a mask and three black men committed the robbery together, according to the victim, and three black men and a white man were also arrested in the disturbance case.
Morgan contacted sheriff’s detectives the night of April 20 about the similarities of the cases and detectives conducted a follow- up investigation.
That same night, the robbery victim identified the four men being held for the disturbance as the four who robbed him and said he recognized the mask found and the truck they had been in as also used in the robbery, the sheriff said.
Based on the victim’s identifications and information developed by Det. Ryan Melerine, all four of the men were booked with armed robbery in the April 11 case.
One of the four arrested, Jack Tucker Jr., 18, of Meraux, admitted his involvement in the robbery, the sheriff said.
The other three arrested were Jaleel Sino, 18, of Violet; and twin brothers Jarred St. Romain and Darrien St. Romain, both 18, and from Meraux.
Tucker and both St. Romains have been released on bonds of $7.500 each while Sino is jailed in St. Bernard Parish Prison in lieu of $7.500 bond.
Louisiana Teen Challenge offers treatment facilities for alcohol, drug or other life-controlling problems
Its a non-profit, faith-based treatment program providing residential care to men and women with alcohol, drug or other life-controlling problems.
The minimum age for acceptance into the program is 17 but the average person in treatment is in their late 20s or early 30s, said the Rev. Greg Dill, executive director of Louisiana Teen Challenge. Dill spoke recently to the St. Bernard Anti-Drug Coalition board about his group’s program and its availability for people throughout Louisiana.
The group‘s mission statement is to provide youth, adults and families with an effective and comprehensive Christian faith-based solution to life-controlling drug and alcohol problems in order to become productive members of society.
Teen Challenge has been in Louisiana for more than 30 years.
The group has a local induction center at 1905 Franklin Ave., New Orleans, and its phone number is 504-947-7949. The group can be found on the Internet at www.louisianateenchallenge.com.
The length of its residential program is 12 months, Dill said.
The program operates in two phases, Dill said, with a 4-month stay in an induction center and then an eight-month stay in a training phase.
These centers serve as a “front door” for all new or prospective students. Upon entering the Training Phase, students will be relocated to the Mt. Grace Training Center in Dodson, La. Here students will complete the residential phase of the program over an 8 month period, bringing their total stay at Teen Challenge to 12 months.
Upon completion of the residential program, students may choose to stay on with the ministry in a 6 month internship or become active in a church congregation local to their home.
Through committed staff and effective programs, Teen Challenge seeks to produce graduates who function responsibly and productively in society, and who have healthy relationships in the work place, family, church and community, Dill said.
He said the induction phase has a high turnover rate as many find they aren’t committed to the goals of Teen Challenge.”If they make it to the second phase, there is a 72-75 percent success rate,’’ Dill said.
There is no monthly cost to the students, Dill said.
There is a $750 induction fee that Teen Challenge asks of students, Dill said, “but we don’t let a lack of money keep people out’’ who are indigent.
The group relies on fundraising for support, as well as light industry that helps train students and helps fund the program, Dill said. Individuals, churches, businesses, and civic organizations also contribute. Teen Challenge does not receive any type of local, state or federal government funding.
Every applicant must have the desire to both change and be a part of the Teen Challenge program, Dill said.
“We won’t let ourselves be used by people who are just trying to escape going to jail,’’ said Dill, who acknowledged he was a prisoner in jail when he had what he called a “moment of clarity’’ that there had to be a better life for him.
Louisiana Teen Challenge’s minimum age requirement for entry is 17. Anyone younger than that will have to be considered on an individual case basis for entry, Dill said.
Teen Challenge is having a series of fundraisers, including one in Metairie on April 30, with a 7 p.m. dinner at the Landmark Hotel, 2601 Severn Ave. Contact New Orleans Teen Challenge at 504-947-7949 for more information.
St. Bernard Parish Sheriff James Pohlmann said he supports the work of Teen Challenge and encourages parish residents to consider contributing to the group if possible.
Sheriff’s Office seizes 2.2 pounds of high-grade marijuana worth $23,700, some $5,600 in cash and arrests a couple who were dealing the drugs
Nicholas Mendoza, 20, and Codie Shepherd, 24, are booked with possession of 2.2 pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute and with other charges, the sheriff said.
Mendoza, who lives at two addresses, 2109 Mumphrey Road and 3127 Buffon, has been released from St. Bernard Parish Prison on bond set at $30,000. Shepherd, 2109 Mumphrey, has also been released on bond.
Narcotics agents, who developed information that the couple had been receiving and dealing marijuana, arrested them the evening of April 9 and believe they had received the high-grade marijuana from a source in California.
Maj. Chad Clark, commander of the Special Investigations Division, said an investigation is continuing into the source of the drugs.
About an ounce of marijuana was found in a vehicle stopped by officers and the rest inside the Mumphrey Road address when a search warrant was executed there.
As well as the charges relating to intent to distribute, Mendoza and Shepherd also were both booked with possession of 400 grams or more of marijuana, illegal use of a controlled, dangerous substance in the presence of a minor and possession of drug paraphernalia, including scales, a sealer machine and a roll of sealer bags.
California man pleads guilty to conspiracy to distribute about two pounds od methamphetamine in a case started by the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office
in June 2014, St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office (SBSO) deputies investigating methamphetamine distribution in Arabi, arrested two men who were selling methamphetamine on West Judge Perez Drive. Through their investigation, deputies learned that their source of methamphetamine was Djuga, a resident of Reseda, California.
SBSO narcotics agents coordinated with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New Orleans Field Office, and between June 26th and 27th, 2014, federal agents and SBSO deputies intercepted four packages containing methamphetamine being mailed through Federal Express to Arabi. In total, the packages contained more than one kilogram of methamphetamine, or more than two pounds.
According to DEA laboratory analysts, the methamphetamine in all four packages had a purity level of over 99%, with one shipment testing as 100% pure methamphetamine.
On July 15, 2014, DEA agents assisted by Los Angeles Police Department officers and a St. Bernard Parish sheriff deputy arrested Djuga at his residence in Reseda, California, pursuant to a federal arrest warrant. At the residence, agent also executed a search warrant and located plastic bottles similar to ones used to package the methamphetamine that was seized in Louisiana.
Agents also seized from Djuga’s office a notebook that appeared to be a drug ledger; a receipt for a package being shipped to Arabi and three cellular telephones. Agents also located a BMW that was registered to thesuspect.. In the trunk of the car, agents found a box cutter with residue. The residue was field tested which resulted in a presumptive positive result for the presence of methamphetamine.
A subsequent search of Djuga’s cellular phones pursuant to a warrant revealed text messages discussing shipments of packages to Louisiana and a photograph of a FedEx tracking label destined for Louisiana.
Djuga faces a mandatory minimum term of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment, a $10 million fine, and at least five years of supervised release. Sentencing is scheduled for July 23, 2015.
The case was investigated by the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistance was provided by the District Attorney’s Office for Louisiana’s 34th Judicial District, the DEA Los Angeles Field Office, and the Los Angeles Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Payne and Brandon Long handled the prosecution.
Kerry G. Lemoine of Chalmette, 53, was killed early Tuesday in a single-vehicle crash on Louisiana 46 near Pelitere Drive in Chalmette. which was investigated by Louisiana State Police.
Preliminary investigation revealed Lemoine was driving a 1997 Ford truck west on LA 46 and, for reasons under investigation, veered off the road and struck a utility pole. Lemoine was transported to St. Bernard Parish Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Speed, weather and impairment are not considered factors however, toxicology results are pending an autopsy. Lemoine was not restrained at the time of the crash.
Troopers would like to remind motorists that proper seat belt usage is required by Louisiana law for all occupants of a vehicle. The primary purpose of a seat belt is to keep the occupant in the seating position, preventing ejection.
A seat belt also protects the internal organs, brain and spinal cord by spreading the crash forces across the strongest bones in the body and allowing the body to decelerate at a slower rate. Please ensure that all occupants are properly buckled, this will limit injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash.
James Johnson, 43, 2317 River Queen Drive, is being held in St. Bernard Parish Prison in lieu of bond set at $400,000.
Johnson was arrested April 10 on a warrant issued by a judge following an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office after the boy told a family member Johnson had forced him to commit a sex act, Sheriff Pohlmann said.
The incident happened the night of April 9.
Irish, Italian, Islenos parade rolls despite rain; Sheriff James Pohlmann and wife, Monique, were King and Queen of the event
It sprinkled off and on but the Irish, Italian, Islenos Community Parade rolled in Chalmette on Sunday, with Sheriff James Pohlmann and wife, Monique, serving as King and Queen.
Thousands of pounds of produce was thrown from the more than 40 floats involved.
It was the 14th annual year for the parade. This year’s theme was Let’s Geaux.
A number of units from the Sheriff’s Office rode in the event, including the mobile command post which led the parade, McGruff the Crime Dog and a D.A.R.E. program car.