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FWC Division of Law Enforcement Weekly Report

This report represents some events the FWC handled over the past week; however, it does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement.

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Patrol, Protect, Preserve

NORTHWEST REGION

FRANKLIN COUNTY

While conducting park patrol within the St. George Island State Park, Officer Nelson performed an oyster size tolerance inspection on a commercial oyster harvester who was returning to the vessel ramp from Apalachicola Bay. The inspection revealed that the harvester was in possession of 52% undersized oysters in the bag that was inspected. Officer Nelson issued the harvester a misdemeanor citation for the violation and 246 oysters were seized and returned to the water alive.

Officer Allen was patrolling Bald Point State Park when he noticed two vehicles in the parking lot. One of the vehicles was not displaying an entry pass. Officer Allen went down to the beach and made contact with the owners of the vehicle. When one of the individuals reached into a bag for some money to pay for the entrance fee, Officer Allen noticed a small bag of what appeared to be marijuana. The individual tried to quickly hide the contents. When asked about the contents of the bag, the individual said it was “weed.” After consent was given to search the bag, Officer Allen found two small bags of marijuana. The individual then gave up a marijuana cigarette. The individual was charged with possession of less than 20 grams.

Officers Allen and Harrison were working in Apalachicola Bay when they noticed a vessel harvesting oysters in an area that was closed to the harvest of shellfish. There were two people harvesting oysters from the vessel, one of which was a juvenile. Officer Harrison issued the adult a citation for harvesting oysters in a temporarily closed area.

Officers Allen and Harrison noticed a vessel with three people harvesting oysters near St. George Island. An inspection of the vessels revealed eight bags of oysters. During a size tolerance inspection of one bag, it was found to contain 52.6% undersized oysters. Each person was issued a citation for possession of undersized oysters. One individual did not possess a valid Apalachicola Bay Oyster License and was issued a citation for the violation.

Officers Allen, Anderson, and Harrison were on patrol in Apalachicola Bay when they noticed several people fishing under the Highway 98 Bridge near Eastpoint. They noticed one individual carry an ice chest up the bank and then return to fishing. The officers conducted a resource inspection and found the individual to be in possession of 13 undersized redfish. Officer Anderson issued the individual a citation for over the bag limit of redfish. The fish were seized as evidence.

Officer Anderson was on patrol in Eastpoint near the Highway 98 Bridge when he noticed an individual fishing from the shore. He conducted a resource inspection and found the individual in possession of 13 undersized redfish and 1 undersized sea trout. Officer Anderson issued the individual a citation for over the bag limit of redfish and undersized redfish. A warning was issued for the undersized sea trout.

Officers Anderson, Mallow, Harrison, and Allen were on land patrol in Eastpoint near the Patton Drive Boat Ramp when they observed a commercial oyster vessel with four people on board returning to the ramp. Officer Anderson conducted a boating safety and resource inspection of the vessel and found six bags of oysters on board. A size tolerance inspection of one bag of oysters showed 69.6% undersized and unculled. Each occupant of the vessel was charged with possession of undersized and unculled oysters. The six bags of oysters were returned to the water alive. One of the individuals had an active warrant out of Gulf County and was booked into the Franklin County Jail.

GADSDEN COUNTY
Officer Johnson cited an individual for taking freshwater game fish by illegal method. The subject was catching bream with a cast net near the Jim Woodruff Dam.

Officer Forehand was on patrol at the Jim Woodruff Dam when he observed two subjects cast netting from the shoreline in a wooded area just south of the dam. With the water high, he knew there was a good possibility of numerous fish being stacked up in the backwaters near the dam. From a concealed position, he watched the subjects cast net numerous game fish and place them in a bucket. After approximately an hour, he made contact with the subjects and found them in possession of over 30 different freshwater game fish to include black bass, striped bass and bream. All evidence was seized and appropriate citations were issued.

LIBERTY COUNTY
Lieutenant Parker cited an individual for running deer with dogs during closed season in the Camel Lake area of the Apalachicola National Forest.

SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Investigators Schafer and Hughes worked a case regarding a group, known as the Gulf Coast Jeep Club, damaging public lands and driving off designated roads in jeeps within the Blackwater State Forest and Eglin Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The investigators were able to identify several of the vehicles, drivers, and locations of the violations from surveillance videos obtained through several different sources. Six citations were issued to five individuals for operating a vehicle off of designated roads within the Blackwater State Forest and the Eglin Wildlife Management Area.

Officer Lewis was patrolling the Blackwater State Forest when he observed a large group of people on a sandbar. While approaching them, he observed one man pass something to a woman. Officer Lewis approached her and asked what she was holding. The woman stated that it was a joint. She further admitted that she had rolled several marijuana cigarettes for her canoe trip and had given several out to friends. Officer Lewis located a Ziploc bag containing 12 cannabis cigarettes along with two hydrocodone pills. The drugs were seized and the woman was issued a notice to appear for possession of not more than 20 grams of cannabis, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a prescription drug without a valid prescription.

OKALOOSA COUNTY
Officers Tison and Yates investigated an incident involving illegal dumping activity along the Choctawhatchee River. They interviewed a subject after Officer Tison received information the subject had discarded building debris into the river. Some of the debris was located and identified as what had been discarded. The subject admitted to throwing the debris into the river. The subject was charged with criminal littering.

NORTH CENTRAL REGION

CITRUS COUNTY
Officers Jenkins and Reese responded to a boating accident in the Homosassa River that involved two jet skies that collided with each other and the operator of one of the jet skies being struck in the chest by the bow of the second. The injured operator was transported to an Ocala Hospital where he died the next night from his injuries. Investigator Thomason was assigned the boat accident for further investigation.

Investigator Thomason was patrolling Citrus WMA when a subject waved him down. The subject was wearing a visible handgun on his side. The subject stated that he was lost and needed directions to his house. Investigator Thomason ran the subject through National Crime Information Center/Florida Crime Information Center (NCIC/FCIC) and found that he was a convicted felon out of Georgia. The subject stated that “he should have been taken care of a long time ago.” The subject was booked into the Citrus County Jail for possession of firearm by convicted felon.

DIXIE COUNTY
Investigator Ayers received a call from an individual stating that there is an ongoing problem with ATV’s trespassing on multiple properties in a Gilchrist County neighborhood. The complainant stated that the occurrence was not in progress, but just wanted FWC to be aware of the issue. Throughout the following day, starting in the afternoon and not ending until approximately 6:00 a.m. the next morning, Investigator Ayers, Officers Hilliard, Wiggins and Cooper worked the complaint. Two individuals on ATV’s were destroying a county road and riding onto many different properties located in the neighborhood. Upon arrival at the subjects’ residence to address the ongoing trespassing, a freshly killed doe deer was observed on the tailgate of a pickup truck and the two individuals were cleaning the deer and covered in blood. By the completion of the interview, the subjects admitted to killing the deer with a gun and light that night. Both individuals are receiving multiple charges that are being filed through the Gilchrist County State Attorney’s Office.

DUVAL COUNTY
While on water patrol just outside the St. Johns River entrance, Officer Geib observed a commercial shrimp boat trawling in state waters. The Florida East Coast shrimp bed is closed to food shrimp during the months of April and May. Officer Geib made contact with the captain of the trawler who stated that he thought the season opened up again in May. The captain of the fishing vessel was issued a citation for the violation.

Officer Troedson observed three subjects consuming alcoholic beverages in Little Talbot State Park. One of the subjects had an active warrant issued by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for marijuana possession. All three subjects were cited with infractions for consumption of alcoholic beverages in a state park. The subject with the warrant fled on foot but was subsequently caught by Officer Troedson after he was seen hiding in the jetties. Officer Troedson was able to gain compliance and the subject was transported to the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Center in compliance with the warrant.

Lieutenant Arkin was conducting fisheries inspections on Bishop Glen Lane at the St. Johns River when, in the course of Lieutenant Arkin’s inspections, it was discovered that one of the subjects had an active felony warrant for child abuse issued by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. The bond issued for this warrant was $50,003. The subject was arrested and transported to the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Center in compliance with the warrant.

Officer Troedson observed a subject consuming alcoholic beverages in Helen Cooper Floyd Park by the Little Jetties. Consuming alcoholic beverages is prohibited in the park. The subject tried to conceal the alcoholic beverage by hiding it behind his leg. Officer Troedson made contact with the subject and ultimately discovered that the subject was wanted for a Writ of Bodily Attachment/Contempt of Court in reference to failure to pay child support with a purge amount of $4,000. The subject was arrested and transported to the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Center in compliance with the writ. On the following day, Officer Troedson was conducting fisheries inspections at the same location and came across yet another subject with an active misdemeanor warrant. This subject was also arrested and transported to the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Center in compliance with the warrant.

GILCHRIST COUNTY
Officer Hilliard and Investigator Ayers were patrolling in Gilchrist County when they received a complaint of a gator being run over near the intersection of County Road 340 and State Road 47. Upon arrival, two complainants informed the officers that they observed several persons killing the alligator intentionally with their vehicle and then fled the scene. Both complainants provided sworn written statements regarding the occurrence. Officer Hilliard and Investigator Ayers left the scene and went to the residence of the individuals in question. Officer Hilliard and Investigator Ayers were then dispatched to a Search and Rescue on the Suwannee River where two individuals had fallen out of their boat while attempting to get through the flood waters to their house. Officer Hilliard and Investigator Ayers followed up on the alligator investigation the next day. After a thorough investigation, multiple interviews and many lies, they were able to get full confessions and sworn written statements from all parties involved in the taking/harassing of the alligator. Charges are being filed through the Gilchrist County State Attorney.

NORTHEAST REGION

VOLUSIA COUNTY
Officer Yetter was on land patrol in the area of Lake Dias when he noticed a pine box dumped at the tree line on the side of the road just north of the ramp. Closer inspection of the box revealed that it was a coffin. Concerned that it may be a possible crime scene, Officer Yetter backed up and secured the scene until a Volusia County Sheriff’s Deputy could respond. Once the Deputy came on scene, he turned the coffin over, opened it up and found 47 edged weapons contained in the coffin. The deputy seized the coffin and contents as found property.

Officer Yetter was on water patrol in the Highbanks area of the St. Johns River when he made contact with an 18’ Answercraft for a boating safety inspection. During the inspection, Officer Yetter observed signs of impairment from the vessel operator. After completing the inspection, Officer Yetter began a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) investigation. Based on the results of field sobriety exercises, the operator was placed under arrest for BUI. Another officer responded with the Intoxilizer 8000; however, the subject refused to provide a breath sample. The subject stated he would be willing to provide a sample, but not for a while. The subject was transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail.

BREVARD COUNTY
While on patrol of Sebastian Inlet State Park, Officer Lightsey observed a vehicle driving in a careless manner in the parking lot area. A check of the driver revealed that he had an active warrant out of Indian River County. The warrant was due to a probation violation stemming from a drug arrest the previous year by Officer Lightsey. The FWC dispatch revealed that Indian River County Sheriff’s Office would extradite. The man was placed under arrest and delivered to the Brevard County Jail awaiting extradition to Indian River County.

While conducting resource inspections at Sebastian Inlet State Park, Officer Lightsey approached a female near the north catwalk area. Upon inspection, the female was found to not have a valid fishing license. A check through FWC dispatch revealed that the female had a warrant out of Orange County for felony grand theft of an automobile. Contact was made with Orange County Sheriff’s Office which advised they would extradite the female to their county. Officer Lightsey placed the woman under arrest for the warrant and issued a warning for no shoreline fishing license. The female was booked into the Brevard County Jail awaiting extradition.

In the early morning hours, Officers Rutherford and Lightsey observed a vehicle parked on the side of U.S. 1 in the area of Palm Bay. The officers observed two people wading in the water and attempting to take shrimp with a dip net. One of the individuals kept going back to shore and into the cover of the brush. After watching the two for approximately two hours, the anglers returned to their vehicle. The two (one man and one woman) had numerous pieces of equipment with them and kept stopping to talk in a hushed tone with one another. Due to the early time of morning and the other suspicious activity, a pat down was conducted for officer safety. The woman was found to be in possession of one bag of methamphetamine. When asked what it was the woman admitted to having methamphetamine in her possession. After a thorough search was conducted, the man was released with a verbal warning for no shoreline license and the woman was placed under arrest for felony possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia and turned over to the Brevard County Jail.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
Officer Zamonis observed a 19-foot pontoon vessel with eight people on board sinking in the channel in Indian River County. He called for backup, and proceeded to the vessel. He could see the eight passengers on the port side of the vessel trying to keep it from rolling over. He pulled alongside the vessel and directed everyone on board to put on a life jacket. He secured dock lines to the submerged pontoon, forward, mid-ship and aft, keeping the vessel secure and preventing it from sinking. He assisted six of the passengers onto his patrol vessel. Officer Horst arrived at the scene and pulled along the port side of the vessel and assisted in securing the vessel. They towed the vessel to the first spoil island north of the Wabasso Bridge. He checked to see if any of the passengers needed medical attention, and they all said they were okay. Officer Horst secured the pontoon boat to shore. The vessel had all the required safety equipment on board and no injuries were reported. The owner of the vessel was given a self report accident form.

OSCEOLA COUNTY
Officer Mendez was advised by FWC dispatch of a person who had set steel traps in the Cypress Cove Campground. The FWC dispatch received a call from Osceola County Animal Control stating that someone had set steel traps and caught a cat in one of them. That afternoon, Officer Mendez arrived at the residence and asked if they knew anything about the traps that had been set by the house. The suspect said he had set the traps to keep wildlife out from under his trailer. Officer Mendez advised the suspect of his Miranda Warning which he acknowledge and understood. The suspect provided Officer Mendez with a written statement saying he set the traps for wildlife that were damaging the duct work under his trailer. Officer Mendez issued him a notice to appear for setting steel traps to take or attempt to take wildlife.

COP (Community Oriented Policing)
Officer Trusley assisted Adams Ranch and the Lake Marian Hunt Club in putting together their annual appreciation luncheon. The luncheon included officers from Osceola County, surrounding counties, neighboring regions and employees from the clerk’s office. It was a great opportunity for these individuals to gather in a relaxed atmosphere and discuss current issues, and give praise for well-handled situations of the agency and its employees. The constituents showed a huge amount of appreciation to the agency as a whole.

Officer Arendas attended a youth Fishing Tournament at Corner Stone Church in Saint Cloud. The church sponsors the fishing tournament every year. This year, there were approximately 85 youth under 16 years old and approximately 40 adults. Officer Arendas spoke with most of those who attended and answered several questions.

SOUTHWEST REGION

MANATEE COUNTY
Officer Hinds was patrolling the Bayshore Gardens area for fishing activity. He saw an individual putting his cast net away and securing a cooler. Officer Hinds asked if he had any luck and asked to inspect his catch. The individual said “Really! You want to check my fish?” Inside the cooler was a twenty-six- and twelve-inch snook. The individual was issued citations for possession of snook during the closed season, taking snook by illegal method and possession of undersized snook. The same individual was cited a week earlier by Officer Hinds for a fresh water game fish violation.

PASCO COUNTY
Investigator Paul and Officer Beckman responded to a residence in Moon Lake, New Port Richey in reference to a gopher tortoise complaint. Two landscape workers were directed by the property owner to excavate a tortoise burrow and, subsequently, relocate said tortoise to a nearby retention pond. Although the excavation was in progress, the tortoise was not yet located. Investigator Paul issued a notice to appear to each landscape worker for the damage to the tortoise burrow.

PINELLAS COUNTY
Team Guardian, composed of Officers Wells, Beeler, Freemon, Smith and Thompson, worked extended offshore patrols the first week of May. Two patrols were on the FWC vessel Guardian and two patrols were on another large FWC vessel. The officers worked from Manatee County north to Hernando County multiple miles from land. The officers documented 25 marine resource misdemeanors on recreational as well as commercial vessels. In addition, the officers documented numerous boating safety and resource warnings. Some of the violations included possession of gag grouper during the closed season, possession of undersized red grouper, possession of undersized vermillion snapper, interfering with the duties of an FWC officer, reef fish not in whole condition, and possession of undersized stone crab claws.

SARASOTA COUNTY
Officer Laskowski was patrolling the Whitfield flats area, when he saw an individual walking back to his vehicle with a bucket and fishing pole. Officer Laskowski asked if he had caught any fish, and he said “yes.” In the bucket were six spotted sea trout. The individual said he did not know the regulations on sea trout. The individual was issued a citation for possession of over the bag limit of spotted sea trout, and a written warning for possession of undersized spotted sea trout; only one trout was of legal size.

Officer Babauta was patrolling the Upper Lake in the Myakka River State Park. Officer Babauta saw an individual throwing a cast net and went to check his catch. In the individual’s cooler were some bream and a snook. The individual was informed that the thirty-five bream and nineteen-inch snook were illegal to possess and catch with a cast net. The individual was issued citations for taking fresh water game fish by illegal method and having no fresh water fishing license. He was also issued several written warnings for the snook violations.

COPS (Community Oriented Policing)
Officers Adams, Still and K-9 Officer Collazo participated in an outreach event at Bok Tower in Lake Wales. K-9 Jasmine, an FWC airboat, an FWC outboard motorboat and an alligator were displayed. Both the alligator and K-9 Jasmine were big hits with the approximately 1,000 students from surrounding schools who were in attendance.

SOUTH REGION A

HENDRY COUNTY
Officers Greene and McLendon received information about a subject in possession of an illegal alligator. The officers met with the reporting parties, who lived with the subject. The reporting parties stated that the subject brought home a freshly killed alligator head and a bag of alligator meat that was still in the freezer. They wanted the subject to remove the parts from their house, so they wouldn’t get in trouble for sharing the house. The subject texted the reporting party and said “not to worry, it’s only an alligator.” Officers Greene and McLendon seized the alligator head and meat as evidence. The subject has an extensive history for game and fish violations in the past. The officers are meeting with the State Attorney’s Office and charges are pending.

ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officer Irwin coordinated a boating and public safety joint detail with local and federal law enforcement partners. The United State Coast Guard, Customs and Border Patrol, Saint Lucie Sheriff’s Office, Fort Pierce Police and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Marine units concentrated their law enforcement efforts on inbound vessels to the Fort Pierce Inlet. Numerous vessel checks were conducted by all agencies resulting in the discovery of boating safety violations and the possession of illicit drugs. Several citations and warnings were issued for violations. Two subjects were arrested for drug possession and booked into jail.

COPS (Community Oriented Policing)
Lieutenant Rogerson, Investigator Turner and Officer Irwin participated in the annual Coast Guard Station Fort Pierce Open House. They manned a booth which made available to the public multiple brochures ranging in topics from Boating Safety requirements to fishing regulations. A 22-foot Pathfinder flats boat was available on display as well as a 24-foot Edgewater and a 27-foot Donzi. The two larger vessels were available to be viewed from the dock as they were ready to be used on a call. The event was well attended and the three officers were kept busy fielding a wide array of questions from the public.

SOUTH REGION B

COLLIER
Investigator Haney and Officer White were on water patrol and stopped a vessel with improper navigational lights. The officers detected signs of impairment, but the operator was not cooperative and refused to submit to any sobriety tests. However, the officers made the determination that he was under the influence. The operator was issued a citation for the navigational light violation and arrested for boating under the influence.

The entire Collier County FWC Officer staff, along with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, participated in the Great Dock Canoe Race Detail in and around Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Marco Island and Naples Bay. They enforced boating safety and habitat rules and regulations by conducting high-visibility patrols, boating safety inspections and sobriety checks. The officers made 4 arrests for Boating BUI, issued 44 warnings and 15 citations. The event was very successful this year with no accidents reported with injuries.

Lieutenants Barrett, Mahoney and Officer Barringer were at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park protecting mating manatees with the help of state park staff. The lieutenants remained on the beach while Officer Barringer utilized a patrol vessel around the pass in order to protect 14 manatees, which started in the pass and moved towards the beach. Large crowds gathered around the beach, but the officers were able to keep everyone from interfering with the manatees for approximately 2 hours. The manatees were then able to move offshore into deeper water. The officers had the opportunity to make 200-300 educational contacts with most of them getting their closest experience ever to a Florida manatee.

Lieutenants Barrett, Mahoney and Officer Barringer responded to a medical call on Vanderbilt Beach located near Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park involving a local woman that had shown signs of heat stroke. Officers and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) all responded and assisted the woman. The woman was treated by EMS and released.

MIAMI-DADE
Officers Hunter and Delgado were dispatched to the area of NW 24th Avenue and 131st Street in reference to an alligator in a back yard. When the officers arrived they spoke to the complainant who expressed her concern about having an alligator in her back yard. The officers searched the area, but didn’t find the alligator in question. A few hours later, the same call was again received by the FWC’s dispatch center. Officer Delgado again responded to the location and found the 7-foot alligator. Officer Delgado, with the help of two brave Miami-Dade police officers, managed to trap the alligator. The alligator was relocated to the Everglades where he was released unharmed.

Officer Martin was patrolling the area of the Haulover Inlet in northern Miami Dade County when she saw a vessel with several people on board returning from a day of fishing. Officer Martin conducted a fisheries inspection and discovered a large catch of grouper, barracuda, snapper, grunts and triggerfish. Most of the catch was in compliance with state law; however, the captain of the vessel admitted to catching several undersized trigger fish. The captain was cited accordingly.

Officer Martin and Lieutenant Pomares were patrolling Biscayne Bay when they stopped a commercial shrimping vessel for operating at night without properly functioning navigational lights. A fisheries inspection revealed that the captain of the vessel was improperly storing approximately 220 quarts of shrimp in water consisting of 3 round blocks of ice. The captain was cited for improper refrigeration and was issued a warning for operating his vessel without navigational lights.

MONROE
Officer LaRosa was patrolling the Card Sound Lobster Sanctuary in North Key Largo when he observed a man snorkeling from shore without displaying a divers-down flag. As Officer LaRosa approached, he noticed the diver trying to conceal his catch bag on the ocean floor. The diver was asked to retrieve the catch bag but refused to do so. Officer Larosa proceeded to secure his gun belt and enter the water. It wasn’t long before Officer LaRosa found the dive bag in question full of lobster and a spear gun. The catch bag contained 26 lobster tails. Officer LaRosa cited the man accordingly.

COPS (Community Oriented Policing)
Lieutenant Shea was invited to Naples High School for their Army JROTC career week to give presentations to seven JROTC classes. Lieutenant Shea’s 35-minute presentation included the FWC recruiting video, an overview of the agency and the daily responsibilities of an FWC Officer. There were 148 JROTC cadets in attendance over the seven classes.

Officers Miller and Reith gave a presentation at the Naples Sailing and Yacht club about boating safety. The officers stressed the importance of having all the necessary equipment on board, the importance of knowing the area that they will be boating in and other various related topics. Also, the officers cleared up any questions the audience had in regards to officer duties and responsibilities. Officer Reith demonstrated how effective and comfortable Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) can be and gave a live demonstration of how a self-inflating PFD functions by submerging himself in water.

Lieutenants Caraker and Walsh participated in Career Day at Gulf Coast High School. The lieutenants met with Army JROTC cadets who displayed an interest in pursuing careers in criminal justice and the officers were able to inform them on the necessary requirements to become a FWC Officer. An estimated total of 240 cadets received this information.

Officers Futch and Tolbert participated in the Immokalee High School Criminal Justice Advisory Board. The officers were able to share information pertaining to FWC law enforcement with the board enabling them to tailor some of their curriculum towards fish and wildlife conservation law. They also met with prospective students that were interested in pursuing careers in Criminal Justice.

Officers Futch and Thurkettle provided a recruitment presentation for the Police Academy held in Fort Myers. There were approximately 50 students in attendance, many of which showed an interest in having a potential career as a FWC Officer.

Officer Dube was a presenter at a career day at Marathon High School in the middle Keys. Officer Dube’s presentation was targeted towards juniors and seniors that wanted to further their education and possibly join a career in law enforcement. The presentation was given to approximately one hundred students. Officer Dube showed a short DVD about the FWC and explained the agency’s core mission.

Contact:
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