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Women Claim Dawn Center Criminal Activity Covered Up by Sheriff’s Office, Complaints Filed with FBI, FDLE

HERNANDO – Last Tuesday, former Dawn Center occupant, Ashley Wieder, stepped to the podium at the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting and made some disturbing allegations about the local domestic violence shelter. (ORIGINAL REPORT)

Wieder, like so many other women who’ve contacted RNRF over the years, say everything from drug abuse, drinking, thefts, violence, and even prostitution have gone on in and around the facility but the Sheriff’s Office refuses to do anything about it – until now.

The day after Wieder spoke to the BOCC, a Colonel with the Sheriff’s Office dispatched Detective Shawn Galarza (unsolicited) to interview Wieder at her home. Our previous report included audio from that interview, where Det. Galarza is heard telling Wieder that if she is lying about her claims, she will be arrested. Det. Galarza goes on to say that “no one uses the term BOCC to describe the Board of County Commissioner,” when in reality, nearly everyone uses that term. Galarza also states that a “Thorough investigation” was conducted after my 2015 report but after receiving a copy of the report from officials, it really didn’t seem that thorough at all.

According to the short investigation conducted by Patrol Deputy, Matthew Spooner, between October 21st and 22nd, 2015, “…there was no evidence located to support the allegations of ongoing criminal activity, specifically related to residents of the Dawn Center.” But Spooner never investigated criminal activity inside the Dawn Center, he only spoke to 10 local residence who live near the facility and its Director, Shannon Sokolowski. Despite several residents testimony, Deputy Spooner still determined that no probable cause existed to investigate further.

After relaying the information discovered in the report to Wieder and another former occupant, Melanie Ladd, they decided to take their complaints to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ladd told RNRF during a phone interview today, “I was supposed to speak to the BOCC alongside Ashley last week but I could not make it.” After watching Wieder’s testimony on the RNRF video segment, Ladd says, “I was so hurt and angered by the look on Commissioner John Allocco’s face during her presentation that I’ve decided to do something about it.” Ladd is referring to what appears to be Commissioner Allocco “smirking” during Wieder’s testimony. When Ladd was made aware that Commissioner Allocco’s wife, Randi Allocco sits on the Dawn Center Board of Directors, she was even more disappointed in his demeanor, and says, “Now I’m starting to see how the political corruption works in this county.” Ladd currently lives in Pinellas County and still struggles to raise her children alone.

Both Ladd and Wieder say they’ve contacted the FDLE to file complaints over what they say is Sheriff Al Nienhuis covering up criminal activity. They’ve also contacted the FBI because they believe the shelter is committing fraud with federal tax dollars, to the tune of nearly 1 million dollars per year.

We spoke with FBI Spokesperson Andrea Aprea who could not comment on the details of specific investigations but says, “As a general matter, allegations of criminal conduct are reviewed by the FBI for their merit, with consideration of any applicable federal laws… When warranted, we take any actions appropriate to the matter, such as seeking further information or referring the matter to a partner agency.”

Ladd and Wieder believe that due to Sheriff Al Nienhui sitting on the Board of Directors, the Sheriff’s Office cannot perform an impartial investigation.

After publishing Friday’s report on the allegations facing the Dawn Center, RNRF received numerus comments from angry citizens who expressed their discontent with both the Sheriff’s Office’ handling of the situation and the Dawn Center’s refusal to make changes.

One letter we received was sent to the Dawn Center by former long-time donors, Rob and Mary Harper.

Here is that letter in its entirety:

Due to the recent allegations and history of numerous complaints, my wife and I hereby withdraw from Saturday’s event (Dash for the Dawn Center) and insist that you refund our fees for participation and accompanying t-shirts.

For one, we have no desire to support an institution that caters to criminal elements while under the pretense of supporting people – strike that – women in need. Secondly, wearing anything seemingly in your support appears now to be at least embarrassing if not outright abetting. 

Your credibility is now as low as Al Nienhuis’ and his band of cowboys who frequently forget that they serve the people of this county rather than rule them. The Sheriff is the first since Nixon to make me squirm at having the same political affiliation. 

I you want to regain some positive aspects of your existence and substantiate your funding with true needs, might I suggest you request and submit to a thorough inspection by a solid organization like the Spring in Tampa. 

Investigation by HCSO and the likes of Det. Galarza is just so much hot air and will never regain you the confidence of the people of Hernando County. 


Rob and Mary Harper 

Here are a few comments from our Facebook Viewers following last Friday’s report:

Noreen Bigler Sphikas: Unfortunately my daughter spent time there 5 yrs ago, her clothing glasses & money we’re stolen, she was a victim of domestic abuse, she is & was a recovery addict, drugs were common occurrence, needless to say the staff were useless. Woman go there for help & their concerns were only their bottom line! No assistance for recovery no groups for abuse victim’s, it was like an out of control frat house! Shame on them!

Maureen Molloy: Thank you Tom for posting this. The corruption is disgusting. A place like Dawn Center is needed, but it needs a deep cleaning from head to toe.

Donna Proctor: The article states the board is made up of all power-brokers. They’re all also Republican so I’m not that surprised. Personally, if I were this woman I’d be complaining at the state level.

Craig Craig: She needs to call fdle and demand an investigation on the sheriff as he sent out Det.Galarza

Mona York: Started to volunteer there, and had to walk away just couldn’t go along with their ways of running things.

Janet Malley: Good 4 her if this is true, I am a dv survivor and if these woman are going back to their abuser because of all these shenanigans that are going on, then people need to be held accountable.

Lynn Nash: Sad they focus more on ppl who get themselves addicted to alcohol or drugs instead of helping the women in a domestic violent situation . I’d say they most definitely need to be looked into!!! It’s supposed to be a safe place to go an talk with people!! I’ve had to go to them myself for situations an hearing this i don’t think id wanna go back to talk to anyone!!

Erika Lebron: I have heard from multiple sources about what goes on there, which is why I changed my mind about a job interview I had for them. Kind of wish I had gone now so that woman would have someone else on her side.

Shy Pearce: A million a year for what? They don’t do anything for you except let you stay there! I walked to find a job, bought and prepared my own meals, bought my own toiletries & received help from the state through the trike victims fund to move into a place.

Cheryl MyersL Raymer: Dawn Center used to be great back when it started. Wouldn’t contribute anything to them now.

Donna Krauss Schultz: Corruption on every level! Can’t trust anyone anymore. Thank you Tom L for keeping us informed with the TRUTH!

I asked Spokesperson Denise Moloney if they would consider forwarding the investigation to an outside agency, due to the conflict of interest, and she said, “If any person has first-hand knowledge or evidence of criminal activity, we would encourage them to contact the HCSO so their concerns can be appropriately addressed.”

RNRF will bring more on this story as the investigation continues…

It should be noted that Employees and Board Member of the Dawn Center have refused to comment on the allegations since 2013.

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



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  • Tom lemons your news sucks and so do you.. All you do is run smear campaign after smear campaign in every article you write aboutabout withoit knowing the facts! FAKE NEWS is what it should be called.

    Monday, 19 March 2018, 9:22 pm
  • There is good and bad in the world and this needs to be investigated by an outside team. I think this is an important place for people who need assistance but not if it is corrupt the people should be removed.

    Friday, 20 October 2017, 3:57 pm
  • I would like to clarify. I am not anti-law enforcement. I have witnessed and been a victim of extreme misconduct as have my family and some friends. I find it very sad that some corrupt individuals with power can cause many problems for many people even destroying lives in lieu of what is in best interest of society.
    It is not enjoyable to have to fight for our rights when violated, but we must stand up for our families and our children and our communities when others are endangered. When we do this we do it for all not just us. It is selfless to expose ourselves to trying to raise awareness to save the next future victim this hardship.
    The immaturity and gross conduct toward people in these comments raising concerns, stating facts, not bashing, but raising awareness of concerns for public safety and the betterment of society, is sad.
    It is sad and common that this appears to be a competition being bullied and has been mocked and made into a spectator game. Sadly, standard conduct for many on display.
    It is NOT a game. These are very serious issues that need to be corrected and addressed on a multitude of community safety concerns and no one should have an objection to that.
    While some are attempting to turn these concerns into accusations of law enforcement bashing etc. That is not the case, if there are complaints they should be transparently investigated, it is not fun to stand up to these issues. There should be appreciation for those strong enough to at least try to implement correction to system flaws or misconduct.
    The resistance I am seeing and the bashing I am seeing is coming from people who have decided to wage horrible insults against others who are trying to inform the public of very serious issues is heartbreaking yet, expected. Why?
    Instead, of being respected or listened to, we are being attacked, insulted, made fun of, this is the VERY behavior that breeds this misconduct. It is not a game. It is lives. Many lives.
    I will not banter with trolls any further, I pray that we do not find out they are law enforcement behaving in that manner.
    I will continue to stand with those who are truly concerned for public safety in addressing misconduct, public safety or corruption issues.
    Please stop trying to bully us and demean us for speaking up and reaching for help to do the right thing. Attempt to travel the chain of command is what we try to do, over and over and over.
    This display of hatred and battering of victims speaking up, is not an uncommon result for victims. To be dismissed or further re-victimized is unfortunately, quite common. It is not impressive nor does it reflect intelligence to insult us.
    This is EXACTLY what we are trying to fix so future victims are not treated this way.

    Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 9:44 pm
    • Kathleen, please help me understand your point. Please eliminate and general statement and all the he said she said. Please give specifics with names and dates. Base on all the post it appears some of these comments are dated and it’s tough to understand if people are talking about the past or present. If it’s in the past, people need to move forward. The proof will be in the details.

      Thursday, 19 October 2017, 7:07 am
  • At least this forum gives the disgruntled complainers and criminals a place to sound off about how HCSO has wronged them. Fortunately probably 95 percent of residents support our law enforcement.

    Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 7:45 pm
  • So funny reading all the people who got arrested talking shit about the sheriff office.

    Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 4:36 pm
  • Be careful Tom, GALARZA might interrogate U!! Ask u where u got the term ” RNRF ” !! NO ONE uses that term !😝😝😝

    Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 3:10 pm
  • From everything I have heard or read nothing points to a motive for the Sheriff or the Board of Directors to cover-up anything at the Dawn Center. Let’s be honest while it is the purpose of the Dawn Center to take in people that have been abuse and to provide them a safe haven until they get their life in order. They could do a better job at screening people that come into the Dawn Center; it is not a place be drug addicts, alcoholics, and the criminal element. These are the people that create the problems and should be removed from the Dawn Center and never be allowed in. The Dawn Center was never intended to take care of people with addictions and the criminal element. You need to look at the content of the allegations made by this woman and that needs to be investigated. It would appear that the investigation was thorough based on the allegations and no probable cause was found. The Sheriff’s Office is bound by the facts that it found in doing its investigation. It cannot bring charges based on emotion; the law is governed by the facts and all the elements have to be there under state law to bring charges. Too many times people read allegations and believe they are true based upon emotion rather than take the time to investigate whether or not there is any substance to the allegations. Here there is no motive by Sheriff Nienhuis, he has nothing to gain in trying to cover anything up, and actually has everything to lose if he did.

    Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 10:26 am
    • Just as you think the allegations by “this woman” are false, don’t you think that what she claims are not just allegations but the facts? Personally, because the Dawn Center is a place that helps abused women and their children, if I had anything to do with the Dawn Center I would certainly want an investigation. You just can’t sweep things under the rug. I am upset by the allegations because I give very generously to the Dawn Center and I certainly do not want my donations, which should be used to help the abused women and children spent on anything but that. I hope that if others have had bad experiences at the Dawn Center do come forward and perhaps the investigation can get accomplished and the Dawn Center can go back to doing what they’re supposed to be doing and that is helping victims of Domestic Abuse and their children. I would hate to think that the Dawn Center would be “a thing of the past” because God knows, there is a lot of women getting abused here in Hernando County and for them to have to leave their homes in Hernando County and go to another County just would not be beneficial to anyone.

      Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 1:02 pm
    • B.S. They falsify reports and cover things up and conceal evidence and I have proven it.
      Here is ONE example. Live for you.. multiple witness reports falsified, arrest affidavit falsified.. evidence concealed..COVER UP of two murders and two violent predators that I know of BOTH of which included violence against women..

      Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 1:18 pm
    • Ur OBVIOUSLY a pig 🐷!!!

      Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 3:03 pm
      • Not a cop at all, never was in law enforcement and have no desire to become a cop. I just believe in looking at the full pictured based on fact and not allegations. I do respect law enforcement like most good citizens should. With your immature comment I take it that you are a liberal Democrat that has no respect for law enforcement but would be the first one to call them if you had a problem.

        Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 5:16 pm
        • YES!! U got me son….
          It’s true…
          & ur father is really knee-high, I had a speeding ticket ya know….

          Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 7:37 pm
  • went to high school with spooner, he is an idiot and a “yes man”, makes perfect sense

    Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 8:27 am

    Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 8:26 am
  • Galarza is a washed up, has been puppet…who has no opinion of his own …he can only do what the boys make him do. Other wise he knows he is useless and they will just can him… L CAPITAL L on the forehead… LOSER … NOBODY WITH NO POWER OR SAY SO! Once again he is the pawn to the men in the gang… That’s what they are a gang… No different then any other. Look up the meaning of gang…lol

    Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 4:53 am
    • More like “b!tch boy ” GARZA !!
      SUPER LOSER!!!
      Where is HIS pic Tom? We want to know who to spit on in the street!

      Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 3:06 pm
  • This has been going on at The Dawn Center since 1998 that I know of. I needed their help and the situation there was hostile, criminal activities were going on and I felt safer out on the street dodging my abuser. This place should be closed down and thoroughly investigated.

    Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 9:53 pm
  • I’m glad that I’m not I’m not the only one who noticed that smirk on Alocco’s face!
    @ALLOCCO, you should be ashamed of yourself AND you should be ashamed of your wife, as well.
    Everyone involved in the Dawn Center should be fired/voted out come next election!!!
    I will do everything in my power to vote your (ALOCCO) ass out, and Sheriff NeeHigh, as well.!!!!!!!!

    Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 8:49 pm
    • My “smirk” was due to the absurd insinuation that my wife or I had anything to do with something that may have occurred years ago and was investigated years ago at the Dawn Center. This was clearly done for sensationalism as my wife has only been on the board as of June of this year (the author of this story is well aware of that), after deciding that she wanted to be part of the FUTURE of this women’s shelter (she is a registered nurse). I was elected last November and have NEVER been associated with this shelter. This is a totally voluntary board position for my wife and I am proud of her for volunteering her time by attending monthly board meetings and assisting with fund raising to help the many women and families that will need the services this organization provides in the future. It is a sad day when people will attempt to destroy the character others for trying to improve the community they live in. I personally think a new investigation is a good thing. I am pretty sure though that if the Dawn Center is found to be currently run properly, your nasty insinuations about my wife and myself (again I have no affiliation with the Dawn Center) will however, not be apologized for.

      Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 12:40 pm
      • MR. ALLOCCO,

        This response from you is TRULY ABSURD!

        So what you just said here is that you laughed, I’m sorry.. “smirked” at a victim who came to you for help….
        A victim claiming that she was victimized AGAIN by a organization that your wife is involved with AND raises money for…. instead of taking it seriously…?
        Mr. Allocco, “it is a sad day when someone in your position still has a seat on that board after making it so clear that you arent competent enough to seperate your personal feelings from your job!
        That is the definition of biased!

        & Sir, I am really trying to understand..
        I am human and I could just be missing or misunderstanding something…
        Why would that have not made you put a serious face on? Or a concerned face? Especially being that as you said yourself, Your wife is indeed new to this organization?
        Why wouldnt EITHER OF YOU care to LISTEN!
        Or ANYONE for that matter?
        If you truly care about the victims THEN LISTEN TO ME!…
        and all of the others that are pretty much begging you… not for help…. but just a few changes… Just to be heard!
        A few changes there Mr Allocco….and lives can and will have a chance to change for the better
        I was supposed to be there that day too Sir..
        Right in front of you with my story…
        I am from Pinellas County, and I certainly have NO reason to “sensationalize” anything.
        I am so flippin hurt by your reaction Being that I still have my 3 minutes in my notebook that I wrote out before I even knew you or your wife’s name, that was pretty much begging you to just Listen…That could have been me that you laughed or “smirked” at…

        And you know you SHOULD be proud of your wife for volunteering! You really should, , but Sir (respectfully) You REALLY COULD be even more proud of her…. IF she Indeed cared enough to at least listen to somebody When it comes to the organization That she is out there raising funds for… especially now that she has the power to truly change lives…
        I understand that she’s just a volunteer so Maybe she has no clue what happens in there…
        But it IS YOUR JOB to listen and care! not smirk!

        Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 4:15 pm
        • Melanie,
          Believe it or not you are also sensationalizing. When a person hears ridiculous accusations it’s natural to smirk or laugh in disbelief. Telling a person their reaction is wrong, just because its different than yours, makes you appear a little less open minded.

          Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 6:24 pm
      • @JOHN ALLOCCO, I know how long you’ve been in office, I VOTED for BOTH you and STEVE CHAMPION, but I PROMISE you this, I will VOTE AGAINST YOU at the NEXT ELECTION!!

        Regardless of Your EXCUSE for your “smirk” it was uncalled for. YOU should have taken this woman’s allegations as serious as STEVE CHAMPION did. Furthermore, nobody accused you or your wife of making money through the DAWN CENTER!

        I was/am ENRAGED over your ATTITUDE and SMIRK while this woman was speaking. And by the way, this woman did NOT accuse you OR your wife of ANY WRONGDOING, just simply stated names of people involved with the DAWN CENTER!!

        You should take lessons from Steve Champion and agree that there should be an investigation. And the investigation should NOT be done by the Sheriff’s office!!!!

        Lastly, I am a big enough person to apologize when I am proven wrong. HOWEVER, don’t hold your breath for an apology from me. You yourself ADMITTED that you were SMIRKING, so that in itself PROVES ME to be CORRECT!!!

        Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 6:54 pm
        • PS
          When I stated that you should be ashamed of your wife, I meant for being married to a JACKASS like you for “smirking” at the young lady speaking. And your wife should be ASHAMED OF YOU FOR YOUR BEHAVIOR SITTING UP THERE ON YOUR HIGH & MIGHTY THRONE!!!!!!!!!

          Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 7:06 pm
        • I love people with common sense and empathy!
          Took the words right out of my mouth!

          Friday, 20 October 2017, 5:01 pm
  • I you want to regain some positive aspects of your existence and substantiate your funding with true needs, might I suggest you request and submit to a thorough inspection by a solid organization like the Spring in Tampa. 

    NO WAY is The Spring in Tampa a credible agency either. Not sure where you are getting your information from. As a stalking victim in Hillsborough County, in the extreme case of my family being murdered in Hernando and the stalking of my family in Hillsborough the same stalkers had violent histories in Hernando.. The Spring refused to assist us and refused us even advocacy. While navigating this terror, I found from mingling with victims of other agencies that did help us, that many other victims of violence were being rejected as well. I initially filed for assistance through both the Spring and the Family Justice Center.
    So PLEASE do not glorify an agency which does not help victims either. Trust me, I am in a big battle with Hillsborough and Hernando agencies over misconduct, protecting dangerous violent predators and it has been horrific while they have falsified reports and additionally re-victimize victims. I too have met with the FDLE and the FBI over these issues regarding these agencies. It appears it is a state wide issue of misconduct in managing violent crimes against women.

    Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 8:24 pm
    • Kathleen, you seem to be looking for something. I read your posts and it seems like you weren’t sure what you wanted to say. You first say the spring is a facility to be modeled after. Then you say it’s not. You say other organizations won’t help you. Seems like you are leaving something out. Stop looking for a pay day. Go get a job, work hard, take care of your dysfunctional family And stop looking for hand outs.

      Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 5:16 am
      • Care to identify yourself? You are the one hiding something, like your identity? The first paragraph is a quote from the article regarding the spring. I elaborated with much experience.

        Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 1:27 pm
        • Kathleen, I would love to debate this but I don’t follow you’re thoughs.

          Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 6:34 pm
      • SOMEONE OBVIOUSLY DID NOT EVEN READ THE ARTICLE BEFORE ADDRESSING ME. lol smh #pickonsomeoneelseafteryoulearntoread

        *realized I left the quote out of the original comment and some might have special ‘attention seeking needs’ to have things pointed out to them. So here is where that first paragraph came from.

        “Here is that letter in its entirety:

        Due to the recent allegations and history of numerous complaints, my wife and I hereby withdraw from Saturday’s event (Dash for the Dawn Center) and insist that you refund our fees for participation and accompanying t-shirts.

        For one, we have no desire to support an institution that caters to criminal elements while under the pretense of supporting people – strike that – women in need. Secondly, wearing anything seemingly in your support appears now to be at least embarrassing if not outright abetting.

        Your credibility is now as low as Al Nienhuis’ and his band of cowboys who frequently forget that they serve the people of this county rather than rule them. The Sheriff is the first since Nixon to make me squirm at having the same political affiliation.

        “”I you want to regain some positive aspects of your existence and substantiate your funding with true needs, might I suggest you request and submit to a thorough inspection by a solid organization like the Spring in Tampa. “”

        Investigation by HCSO and the likes of Det. Galarza is just so much hot air and will never regain you the confidence of the people of Hernando County.


        Rob and Mary Harper “

        Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 1:46 pm
  • wow the sheriff is covering up criminal activity? no way tell me its not true! lol Thats why he wont allow body cams on his deputies cause it might incriminate the deputies & his department even more that what it is.

    Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 7:34 pm
    • That is absolutely correct…GALARZA needs to be investigated. .his entire record…

      Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 11:31 pm
    • OR it’s because bodycams cost millions of dollars upfront and the on-going cost is expensive to maintain a system of 200+ bodycams and footage. But hey, don’t let reality get in the way of your narrative…

      Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 9:00 am
      • No… It’s because the Hernando County Sheriff Department is corrupt!!! And the word “corrupt” is an understatement.

        Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 1:36 pm
    • Kevin as long as you are ok paying for these cameras I’m sure the sheriff won’t mind if deputies have cameras. Sounds like we need a 1 cent sales tax for police cameras

      Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 1:06 pm
    • That’s the truth! Hernando is the most corrupt police force I’ve ever seen. All the do is lying on police reports. Its sad that they forgot what they’re here for. Cops like this are the problem n why america has such a big problem with them.

      Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 2:42 pm

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