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Women Accuse Sheriff of Covering-up Criminal Activity, Mafia-style Tactics Used to Silence Victim

HERNANDO – On October 10th, a domestic violence survivor stood before the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) in Brooksville to complain about criminal activity and unhealthy living conditions inside a local shelter. (ORIGINAL REPORT).

Ashley Wieder stayed at the Dawn Center Domestic Violence Shelter on more than one occasion because of an abusive situation with her long-time boyfriend.

RNRF conducted interviews with Wieder and dozens of former Dawn Center occupants over the years, who all complained of drug dealing and use, thefts, violence, prostitution, and even fraud that occurs in and around the facility. Several occupants and neighbors filed complaints with the Sheriff’s Office since we began investigating the issues in 2013, but despite a one year total of having 187 calls to service at the Dawn Center, the Sheriff’s Office refuses to conduct a formal investigation.

But let’s back up to Wieder’s testimony at the BOCC and what occurred the very next day.

At the direction “the Colonel.” According to Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Denise Moloney, Detective Shawn Galarza was directed to investigate Wieder’s complaints mentioned at the BOCC. Keep in mind that Wieder did not ask for the Sheriff’s Office to respond to her residence.

On October 11th, at the request of Det. Galarza, Wieder agreed to an interview at her home. Wieder and Galarza agreed to both audio record the interview (CLICK HERE).

To Wieder’s dismay, Det. Galarza seemed to focus more on why she spoke at the meeting, rather than the problems at the Dawn Center. During the interview, Wieder is asked several times if this reporter [Tom Lemons] and or Commissioner Steve Champion coerced or even paid her to “Raise this kind of stink…” Galarza even threatened to arrest Wieder if he found out that she had lied about the reason she spoke at the BOCC. Wieder agreed to sign her written testimony and turned it over to Det. Galarza. But what is missing from this picture? A case number…

With most investigations a law enforcement agency will generate a case number and give it to the complainant but Wieder was not given one. Because of this exclusion, Wieder believes that Det. Galarza was not there to help but rather to “shut her up” and scare her into not complaining about the Sheriff’s Office’ involvement with the Dawn Center. Of course, this would all be speculation until we contacted the Sheriff’s Office to check the status of their investigation.

On October 23rd I contacted Denise Moloney and asked for an update on the Dawn Center investigation. Turns out, there was no active investigation and it appears they have no intention of conducting one at all. Moloney says, “The contact with Ms. Wieder provided no information not already investigated in the 2015 investigation.” But the 2015 “Investigation” was not an investigation – It was a neighborhood canvass conducted by a patrol deputy, where he talked to several local residents. There were no interviews conducted with occupants or former occupants and the Deputy made no attempt to inspect the facility.

When Wieder found out that she was “Lied to” by Det, Galarza, she decided to speak to the BOCC again yesterday. Joined by at least two other former occupants, Wieder asked why “no one is taking these claims seriously?” Wieder goes on to say they “I don’t get what it is they (Hernando County Sheriff’s Office) are trying to cover-up – besides the fraud and other criminal activity.”

Former occupant Melanie Ladd also spoke and says, “Don’t you think an outside agency should conduct an investigation, being that the Sheriff (Al Nienhuis) of the entire county is the actual one that’s on the board?” Ladd goes on to claim, like so many other women who stayed at the Dawn Center, that “My name was put on things that I never received. And we’re talking about over a million dollars a year in tax money.” Ladd is referring to millions of federal and state tax dollars that the Dawn Center receives each year, and that women are signing for goods and services that they do not receive.

Ladd then turned her focus on Commissioner John Allocco, who during the previous meeting appeared to be smiling during Wieder’s testimony. Commissioner Allocco denies smiling or laughing at Wieder and says, “We (he and his wife Randi Allocco who sits on the Board of Directors for the Dawn Center) are trying to be part of the solution but instead we are being attacked for it. Allocco goes on to explain that the BOCC has no legal authority to order an investigation.

At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Steve Champion condemned the Sheriff’s Office and Det. Gala rza for mentioning his name. Champion says, “…Just because I said we should investigate something doesn’t mean that I’m part of it.” Champion goes on to say, “I resent the fact that some Detective put my name – asking about if I have some involvement.” CLICK HERE TO WATCH FULL VIDEO

We contacted Chief Deputy, Col. Mike Maurer this morning and asked the following questions:

Did you personally direct Det. Galarza to interview Ashley Wieder on or about October 11th, with the intention of opening an investigation into the serious criminal allegations against the Dawn Center and Sheriff Al Nienhuis?

I was listening to the BOCC in the background while at work at my desk. I heard the young lady speaking and heard her mention that she was aware of criminal activity at the Dawn Center. At my direction I told Det. Galarza to watch the video and attempt to confirm the ID of the young lady and interview her, regarding her statements of criminal activity. 

When listening to the audio recording of their interview, it is apparent that Det. Galarza’s focus was on why Ashley spoke to the BOCC and who prompted her to do so. Was this your directive or that of another commanding officer within the Sheriff’s Office?

It was at my direction since she was making criminal allegations at the BOCC Meeting.

Did Sheriff Nienhuis Direct you to handle the Dawn Center issues because of the potential lawsuit that exists regarding a defamation case that I am involved in? (The Dawn Center has a poster of RNRF [Tom Lemons], stating “Do not contact this reporter.”)

I am not aware of any such lawsuit. I took the action on my own, I am the Chief Deputy and I give instruction as necessary.

The 2015 investigation that Det. Galarza states was “Thorough” was not thorough at all. It was a patrol deputy’s canvass of the neighborhood and interview with 10 neighbors.

I received conflicting information from Denise Moloney regarding the “investigation.” Ashley Wieder was told that a “serious investigation would take place” and I was advised of the same on October 16th. On the 23rd I was advised that an investigation was never opened and none was conducted – which makes since because Ashley tells me that she never even received a case number. And as you know, with every investigation there is a case number.

In your position of authority, will you now order an investigation into the alleged criminal activity and unhealthy living conditions inside the Dawn Center? If not, why?

Detective Galarza’s instructions were to interview the young lady and see what first-hand knowledge she has that we could use to evaluate whether or not we need to open a criminal investigation. It is my understanding that none was developed.

There is growing speculation that because Sheriff Nienhuis is on the Board of Directors that a conflict of interest exists and that it may be the reason he refuses to ever investigate the allegations. Is that the case? That is not the case.

I have worked with Sheriff Nienhuis for several years now. We have had to make difficult decisions to expose and prosecute our own employees. To date, no first-hand knowledge of criminal activity has been presented to HCSO to pursue.

Is the Sheriff’s Office covering up criminal activity in the Dawn Center?

No, we have repeatedly asked for anyone with first-hand knowledge of criminal activity to report it. To date, we have not received any.

Because of the direct connection between Sheriff Nienhuis and the Dawn Center, will you now request that an outside agency to investigate the issues. Would it be in the best interest of all to do so?

I would not recommend such action unless we get definitive first-hand information, if that transpires, I have confidence that our detectives can investigate without bias. (ie; Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department Case)

RNRF has provided the Sheriff’s Office with information from occupants and former employees of the Dawn Center for several years, so it raises the question as to what evidence it takes to open an actual investigation. On several occasions the Sheriff’s Office has requested that I provide information on potential criminal cases, so it’s not unusual to use information provided in my reports.

Melanie Ladd says she’s contacted every media outlet in the Tampa Bay area and all of them have ignored her except for RNRF. Ladd says ABC Action news told her “We are the Domestic Violence Network and we would not be interested in a story because we have dealings with the dawn center.”

The only news agency to investigate a local domestic violence shelter is the Tampa Bay Times. Their investigations revealed similar issues with the Spring of Tampa.Tampa Bay Times reports: Inspections and Violence

It should be noted that the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Dawn Center Board of Directors, The Hernando County School Board (who partners with the Dawn Center) and anyone associated with the facility, has refused to answer questions or comment on the issues.

So the question still remains, will there ever be an investigation into the Dawn Center or are they protected by the power brokers of Hernando County?

Follow these links for past articles and videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P79m7-py_og

https://www.rnrfonline.com/women-claim-dawn-center-criminal-activity-covered-up-by-sheriffs-office-complaints-filed-with-fbi-fdle/

https://www.rnrfonline.com/father-of-missing-child-says-dawn-center-helped-ex-wife-hide-daughter-during-search-planned-escape-to-canada/

https://www.rnrfonline.com/sokolowskis-dawn-center-house-of-horrors-women-speak-out/

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ™2013 – 2017 RNRF Incorporated.

 


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  • anyone here tell me……………who is the 1 with the smirk?? that’s 1 hell of a smirk! irritating smirk for sure.

    Thursday, 26 October 2017, 10:43 am
  • Most non profits and charitable orgs. get audited periodically. Sounds like it’s a good time for one. An audit by an outside investigating company to go over the books and also take a look at the procedures that are in place. This much noise over something needs to cause concern.

    Thursday, 26 October 2017, 9:32 am
    • The audit also should be verified with victims in person with ID and full verification .. much is buried in the paper trail.. if no one verifies victims actually received services it is moot.. too easy to bury victims voices…

      Thursday, 26 October 2017, 11:10 am
  • If, as the article says, there is fraud involving federal monies, then a complaint to the F.B.I. would be in order, if there is sufficient evidence that there is fraud. Merely ‘suspecting’ fraud, or disagreement on how monies should be allocated and spent does not constitute fraud.

    Thursday, 26 October 2017, 7:18 am
  • As the old saying goes, you can’t fight city hall .

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 11:14 pm
  • If you have nothing to hide why not call in a Federal Agency and let the chips fall where they may? Maybe it’s getting hot in the kitchen time to retire?

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 9:36 pm
  • 3 letters folks, turn the HCSO upsidedown…FBI. Call them Tom.

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 8:36 pm
  • 187 calls for service is somewhat misleading. Yes, every call takes up a deputy’s time but it’s not 187 criminal calls. Every woman who goes there must be driven or escorted in by a deputy to ensure the location is kept private. How many of the 187 were escorts in Tom?

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 6:19 pm
    • I went to DV shelter with no escort.. that is not a valid argument. Just because the victim does not receive an escort, does not mean they did not go to shelter..

      Thursday, 26 October 2017, 11:05 am
    • You bring up a great point.. there is another issue that should be audited.. how many victims were refused an escort to shelter?

      Thursday, 26 October 2017, 11:07 am
      • Karhleenkellybostick, are you just making reason up? Either prove what your saying is true or move on.

        Thursday, 26 October 2017, 5:56 pm
        • An investigation into facts regarding tax payer funds and how they are being handled or not and how victims are being bullied by these agencies should be done to prove it. I am raising awareness. Do NOT tell me to move on. I will not stop raising awareness to corruption when lives are being taken daily. Obviously, you have much time on your hands why are you using it to try to silence me? Truth hurts eh? Whoever you are concealing your identity, why do you not contribute to the investigation instead of throwing around useless comments and insults? Your dismissive tone says much, trust me, we are used to people like you. It does not impact those of us who have spent countless hours or years fighting for our lives. Save your breath. You are dismissed.

          Friday, 27 October 2017, 9:14 am
  • Too much drama for me.

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 5:39 pm
  • Melanie,
    Often times, people who are trying to expose corruption run into serious roadblocks. Especially when elected officials are involved. You will not get any recourse at the county level. I know this for a fact. You need to get the attention of your state legislators, and the governor, and they can put some pressure on the county. So how do you do that? Start a petition and get signatures. There are many online platforms that allow you to create petitions for free. Get a bunch of signatures and ship them to the legislators and the governor. Ask for an appointment when you so, and sit with them face to face. Then maybe you will be able to get someone to listen and investigate.

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 5:31 pm
  • Too bad you couldn’t take part n their investigation Tom! To make sure they do it right!!!

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 5:14 pm
  • It’s truly sad that Hernando County does not have a safe place for Abused Women and Children to go. It is even more sad that the appointed officials IE the sheriff’s department and his Detectives have seen fit to give a black eye to this community and instead of protecting those who need it they’re turning a blind eye to what’s going on it makes one question who is really on the right side of the law here? The police department should not be policing their own Department we need an outside agency to come in and investigate.
    It would not be the first time it corrupt sheriff and his cronies have intimidated innocent people we see it here every day welcome to the Deep South ladies and gentlemen regular laws don’t apply here unless you’re one of the good old boys you don’t have a voice and you certainly don’t matter and God forbid you cross any of them they will make you Rue the day.. I say it’s time that an investigation is launched against the entire Hernando County Sheriff’s Department.

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 5:05 pm
    • I full heartedly agree with you. I’ve lived here all my life and I hit the nail on the head! It will definitely take an outside source to come in and investigate the sheriff department and that definitely needs to happen soon! I was trying to file a complaint on a certain detective and the deputy decided to jump off my complaint and try to flip the switch on me and tell me not to call n complain again

      Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 8:02 pm
    • Supposed to say U hit the nail on the head!

      Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 8:03 pm
  • The Sheriff needs proof, first hand information. I don’t believe they can just go in and start interrogating people in a shelter for abused women, based on someone’s testimony who was there a year ago.

    It’s easier to just blame the sheriff, corruption, but in all your reports, the only thing strange is Galarza’s interview. While I can’t speak to his motives, it’s obvious to anyone who’s met him that he cares deeply about our community.

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 4:30 pm
    • THEY HAVE 1ST HAND INFORMATION!

      & I don’t think I’m asking for anything to be done that all of you wouldn’t ask for.
      And seriously? NO I do not expect, Or even want them to go in there and “interrogate women”
      I would like someone to INVESTIGATE THEM! Not the women!
      I want them to look at the programs they CLAIM to offer and receive taxpayers money to provide and figure out why they are sending made up numbers to the programs and/or people that give them money or services…
      BUT MOST OF ALL I WOULD REALLY LOVE is if someone went in there (like the commissioners ALL asked them to do…….and told those people at the dawn not to tell women that if they take that scary first step to leave their abuser, life, and everything they have behind with their children,
      that they have someone that works closely with each victim according to their specific situation,
      and that they have counseling for me and my babies, and support groups and legal assistance and all of the bases covered… etc etc
      That’s what I want….
      Don’t tell mothers that are literally TERRIFIED OUT OF THEIR MINDS AT THE TIME that we are going to be ok if we just take that first step.
      UNTIL YOU GET SOME PEOPLE IN THERE THAT WILL START PUTTING (OUR) MONEY WHERE (THEIR) MOUTH IS!

      SIMPLE IF YOU ASK ME!

      SHOULD HAVE BEEN SIMPLE!

      And I would think that since the sheriff sits on the board HE COULD AND SHOULD WANT an investigation into this!

      SO MANY PEOPLE NEED JOBS!
      GET SOME HONEST PEOPLE IN THERE SHERIFF!!!!
      They are robbing somebody! PERIOD!

      COME ON…SERIOUSLY THOUGH…
      What the heck do I have to gain from saying this?
      And
      I would also like them to let me know exactly why and also how many times the dawn center advocates turned in a receipt to places that fund them with my name and my 2 girls name on it… for things we never got???????,
      Something that I saw in Black and white (first hand)

      Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 9:20 pm
      • You sound so bitter. Are you looking for a payday? Stop the handouts! How long did you stay at the dawn center? Another option would be volunteering. You could start your own organization. Or better yet you could make better life choices. Either provide proof or find someone who can provide proof.

        Thursday, 26 October 2017, 6:47 am
      • Then you have a name you can give them. It’s simple. The conspiracy is to steal tampons?

        Thursday, 26 October 2017, 9:08 am
  • Thank you for exposing corruption!!

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 3:23 pm
  • Melanie just show your proof and stop showboating in the news. produce your evidence for Tom to post and prove that you’re right. Otherwise this is just a he said she said and both sides lose credibility. If you have no proof then yes this story needs to die

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 3:15 pm
    • That’s right. I heard they are dealing drugs out of XYZ restaurant. The sheriff should invest millions investigating this.

      I’m sure there are drugs in the shelter. Perhaps the shelter should clean up, require mandatory drug testing or something.

      Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 4:33 pm
    • My house is robbed. The police come. How do prove I was robbed– prior to the robbery, the police have never been in my house. Citizens go to the police to investigate and if there is enough evidence, prosecute. Doesn’t sound like they even opened a file to investigate and/or if nothing, so note reasons not to pursue. The Detective’s interview was confrontational–why?

      Thursday, 26 October 2017, 7:46 am
  • this whole thing is a black eye to Hernando County, where do we go from here?

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 2:13 pm
    • The bottom line it is silly to think the sheriff’s department would investigate themselves, we had got to stand up as a community and make them!

      Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 2:56 pm
  • FOR ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT THE DAWN CENTER…..
    To the ones that accuse Tom of only covering and investigating the criminal, fraud, and straight corruption at the dawn center because of a “personal agenda” or whatever reason you think he might have…..
    THANKS A LOT FOLKS! IT IS BECAUSE OF YOU that ONCE AGAIN…I am now in a fight for my voice to be heard!
    How can any of you label something false when you aren’t even listening to the people who were there… begging to be heard?!
    INSTEAD of standing up like a community SHOULD!
    You sit there and call it “fake news”
    Well here is how this REALLY works…. well for me anyways
    Heres how I got here!

    After contacting all the news stations I could possibly think of!
    As far as that hopeless effort goes…..
    When I spoke with Tampa’s ABC action news I really had my hopes up when I started talking to the 1st gentleman that answered the phone, he told me that he was going to speak with Lissette Campos because their network is the actual domestic violence network and that she would be calling me back…
    Soon after I received a phone call from that same man Explaining to me that “BECAUSE they are the domestic violence network and they Have dealings with the Dawn center that they would not be intrested in hearing my story”
    Oxymoron!
    I THEN contacted and sat down with Tom lemons…..(which by the way the ONLY reason I knew of him is because The dawn center themselves had his face plastered in their office) He was also the ONLY one to EVER listen…. or allow me to use my voice! After the interview I did with him
    I noticed that for some reason this very real issue was not being taken seriously by ANYONE due to the fact that the dawn center seemed to do one hell of a straight character assassination on this man… I didn’t feel like myself or any of the other MANY women were taken seriously at all….
    SO I THEN decided to send the link to my interview with Tom Back to ABC in hopes that maybe at that point it would be easier for them to just watch and see a video… I then called and asked to speak with Jackie Calloway who promptly called me back..
    I THEN told her I was STILL waiting for lissette Campos to call me and let her know that the statement that I was told lissette campos made after I asked for help, was not only disgusting and disheartening but
    HELLO!!!!!THATS AN OXYMORON if I’ve ever seen one!
    So again to the trolls…
    Thanks so much for taking my voice away!
    And….please oh please keep following it either way…..
    BECAUSE I WONT STOP AND I WILL EVENTUALLY PROVE THE DAWN CENTERS LIES!

    Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 2:11 pm
    • Melanie Ladd……I don’t personally know any information about the Dawn Center and just began following the issues there when Tom posted his first story and the female (I don’t know if it was you or someone else), talked to the BOC. I just read your post and I have a question for you……If they disregarded you and laughed when you told your story why did you agree to let them come to your house to talk to you? Personally, if they tried to make a “laughing stock” of me while I talked in front of the BOC, I wouldn’t have let anyone come to my house unless it was someone who was REALLY interesting in hearing my concerns for the Dawn Center and certainly not anyone from the Board. Off hand, I don’t know the name of our Congressman or Congresswoman for this District but have you tried contacting a Congressperson? I have had several instances where no one would help me with a few issues and I contacted the Congress Persons Office, I was very successful in getting what I wanted. I believe, just by what I have read and what I have heard, this issue should be investigated by an impartial individual who has nothing to do with the Dawn Center. I wish you the best in seeking assistance with your concerns. TO OTHER WOMEN WHO HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF THIS ISSUE….Please, you need to contact Melanie Ladd and see how you can contribute to her fight to make things right at the Dawn Center. Getting The Dawn Center to be a valuable place where woman and children can go is so important because in many cases, woman end up being killed due to not being able to get the proper help.

      Wednesday, 25 October 2017, 6:14 pm
    • Melanie, you are addressing many issues I have addressed to no avail. But I want you to know you are not alone.
      I have for many years asked where is all of this funding going. I could not get help. I have twin predators with a long history of violence against women. I was refused assistance despite their history. Then my family members were murdered. I fought for our lives and was retaliated against.
      I was refused advocacy and threatened. I have said that there should be IRS audits into these non profits and there should be VERIFIED with victim audits. Victims must show several forms of ID and every service claimed to have been provided by these agencies should be investigated.
      I was told I did not meet criteria to receive assistance. Extreme stalking and double homicide and then my brother was brain injured and they wrongfully arrested my son and falsified the arrest affidavit when I continued to raise my voice.
      I met you at the meeting and the reason I was there was to say, you girls are brave and you are not alone and I have walked this walk of familiar poison for 11 years now.
      The way women are treated trying to protect their families is inhumane and it showed. My heart broke for you when you were so courageously speaking in that meeting.
      You bring up strong issues and that is why you are met with resistance. I know this road well. I was there to verify, there is an enormous epidemic of violence and what about the children??? These poor children are caught in the crossfire of this gross negligent misconduct.
      Evil. I pray that someone hears us all. Bill Nelson’s office has written on my behalf and you can contact his office as they are familiar with the issues surrounding the misconduct on our cases. Please inform his office of the issues you girls are having. Write a letter you will have to consent to them getting involved. Call them, let them know actually talk to his staff then do the consent provide the issues and then follow up. He was most active in addressing issues for me. I hope it helps..
      We must keep standing together. It is really hard and it takes great courage my gosh to stand up to violence then corruption is double trauma I know all too well. You can contact me any time.. I wish you well. You are courageous to stand up, I know it was scary and I am proud of you for being strong enough despite fear you overcame that and made your voice heard. Good girl!!! Keep it up!
      You all inspire me and I stand with you..

      Thursday, 26 October 2017, 11:26 am

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