The Voice of the Gem City

News September 7, 2021

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Labor Day — the traditional last summer holiday weekend — brought out large crowds to beaches including ones in Flagler and St. Johns counties. In St. Johns crowds at the beaches made it hard to find a parking place. On Monday the vehicle access ramp at Vilano Beach was closed and on Sunday both Vilano and Porpoise Point ramps were closed due to the crowds. Red flags meaning high surf and or tides were up much of the weekend and hazardous surf conditions are expected to continue over the next few days as Hurricane Larry causes ocean swells. Larry is also increasing chances of rain for Wednesday and Thursday.

An investigation into an apparent massive organized scheme to defraud clients is ongoing in Flagler County. Following numerous allegations the Flagler Sheriff’s Office along with Internal Revenue Service and Volusia County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant Friday at Flagler Tax Service of Bunnell, seizing files and computers. The investigation began Aug. 25 when individuals reported they were defrauded by Robert “Bob” Newsholme, 67, of Flagler Tax Service. Allegations include grand theft, organized scheme to defraud and embezzlement, and cases under investigation total nearly $190,000 in missing funds. Newsholme is not a CPA as most of his clients believe and he has a criminal history, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Newsholme on Aug. 24 shot himself in the stomach in what may have been a suicide attempt, say officials. Twelve active cases are under investigation and others who may have concerns, can contact the Sheriff’s Office at 386-313-4911. 

Students in the three-county area are back in school. While wearing of masks continues to remain optional some school districts in the state are moving toward mandating masks after a court ruled Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn’t have the authority to allow parents to make the decision. He’s appealing that ruling. In Putnam County, the school board meets today and the issue is expected to come up for discussion. For now, says Superintendent Rick Surrency, whether students wear masks is up to parents. 

The search for a Volusia County diver has been suspended by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville. Attorney Jim Evans was reported missing just before noon Friday and the search got underway. It has extended from Cape Canaveral to Jacksonville, and by Monday evening about 5,297 square nautical miles searched.A 17-year-old St. Johns County student has died due to COVID-19. Giona Stiles, who died Friday, was a junior at Pedro Menendez High School where he was described by his principal as a “talented actor” with a “wonderful sense of humor.”

Palatka City Commissioners hold a workshop and a special meeting on Thursday. The workshop at 4 p.m. is for the budget, the special meeting at 6 p.m. includes a discussion and decision regarding replacement of roof and sprinkler system what was the Robert H. Jenkins Jr. Middle School gymnasium. The building at the end of North 19th Street has been renamed the Central Academy Neighborhood Facility Center. The city got the gym from the Putnam District School Board for $10. The upcoming budget shows more than $260,000 allocated for maintenance and repair.

Former Flagler County resident Reilly Opelka, who is now a professional tennis player, got fined at the U.S. Open Friday for $10,000. His offense? The bright pink tote bag he carried onto the court was deemed too large. No problems were cited for the much larger bag carrying tennis equipment and emblazoned with the Wilson sports company logo. Opelka wasn’t too bothered. “US Open ticket sales must be strugglin this year 10k for a pink bag, at least it looked fly” he posted. So far he’s won $265,000 at the Open. Best of all he’s made it to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time ever. 

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