Minister Fred Luongo © The
FL - Fred Luongo, a minister and food bank owner of more than 20 years
from Vero Beach,
Florida has been "forced" to
close down his non-profit food bank. Fearing for his life, Fred hasn't
even lived at his own home for over a year. His problems began in 2002
when his new neighbor opened up several businesses surrounding his
home and non-profit food bank which are located on the same street.
Since the arrival of Jeff Gomez, Fred's neighbor, also the owner of
Coast to Coast Landscaping among other businesses, life has been, "anything
but normal" according to Fred.
Fred continued, "The
neighborly relationship started out like you'd expect, friendly and
respectful. Mr. Gomez first approached me
offering to trim some bushes between our businesses. He was a landscape
guy, and I was okay with that. Everything seemed normal."
It wasn't long
before problems ensued. Sprinklers from Mr. Gomez's property were
onto Fred's property, constantly
hitting his food bank cargo truck. After addressing the issue in a
respectful way, Fred thought the problem was resolved, yet “the
sprinklers continued." The continuous spraying of Fred's truck
caused rust, eventually requiring new paint. At this point, Fred wondered, "why?" Unable
to resolve the problem peacefully, Fred contacted code-enforcement
and filed a complaint.
the complaint, Mr. Gomez entered Fred's food bank and confronted
Fred. Gomez asked
that Fred, "personally contact
him with any future problems," according to Fred. It wasn't long
after Fred noticed his truck was still being sprayed by Mr. Gomez's
Mr. Gomez, attempting to handle the problem like neighbors, but once
Gomez of the ongoing problem, like he was asked
to do, Mr. Gomez allegedly responded, "I don't have time for that." Mr.
Gomez then, "slammed his door, nearly severing my thumbnail," Fred
(owner coast to coast landscaping)
It was now obvious
to Fred that Mr. Gomez, "wouldn't peacefully
resolve the problem."
As time passed,
Fred grew increasingly worried about Mr. Gomez's businesses. It was
that Gomez owned around 40 large work trucks that were
constantly speeding down the dirt road they shared, creating large
amounts of dust. Fred was also concerned for the safety of others as
some of the truck driver's consistently failed to make a "full
stop" at the stop sign by Fred's food bank. The drivers were also
constantly honking their horn(s), creating more concerns.
Next, Fred noticed
that his plants were, "being hacked with machete's
by Gomez's employees."
Looking back, Fred
recalled a time when Mr. Gomez inquired about buying Fred's property.
originally claimed that he wasn't interested
in selling. Fred responded to the request, "the food bank
will stay open until I retire."
Was Mr. Gomez purposely creating problems with Fred to force the sale
of Fred's property?
Fred finally offered
to sell above market value. The price Fred wanted reflected the pay-off
for the land along with the cost to reimburse
contributors of the food bank. As Mr. Gomez rejected the offer, Fred
remembered Gomez saying, "I'm gonna take it from you and there's
nothing you will be able to do about it."
Soon after, Fred's
plants at his food bank started dying. Unable to determine why they
dying, Fred re-planted them. They died again.
Fred re-planted again. They died. Eventually, Fred "discovered
employees of Mr. Gomez were spraying my plants with what appeared to
be poison." Fred eventually contacted the EPA, resulting in an
investigation that led to, "confirmation of poison present
on his vegetation."
During the time
Fred's plants were "being sprayed," Fred
suffered from several health complications before he found out about
the "poison he was constantly touching on his plants."
In 2007, prior
to discovering the poison on his plants, Fred had a temperature of
104.1 on his birthday, but was not able to pin
the exact cause. Fred was hospitalized temporarily.
He had fluid in his lungs, which confirmed an infection. Coupled with
a high fever and wheezing while breathing, he was prescribed an antibiotic.
Fred was bedridden for several more weeks. After the prescription ended,
Fred was still ill, so he went to the emergency room three more times
over a period of six or seven months. Fred also went to several other
doctors in the meantime, trying to find out the exact cause of his
illness. In total, Fred sought help from seven other doctors/specialists,
but nothing was confirmed as the cause for his failing health. His
appetite was extremely less than normal, urine was burning for four
consecutive years, bloating on minimal amounts of meals, the more he
consumed, the worse he felt. Fred began waking up with severe acid
reflux, to the point he had to go to the emergency room again. Fred
had never had any problems with acid reflux.
His eyesight was
dramatically affected. He went from only using reading glasses to
in a short period of time. Fred was finally
diagnosed with blepharitis and conjunctivitis. His eyes were constantly
burning, sensitive to light, sore, itchy and dry.
Was the spraying
of his plants causing Fred's health problems? Fred was continuously
vegetation without knowing his plants
were “contaminated with poison."
Indian River County Sheriff's Deputy, Teddy Floyd
In early 2009,
Fred's plants were killed again. He contacted law enforcement to
file a complaint
for trespass and destruction of his property. Fred
thought the only person(s) possibly responsible for the damage were
Mr. Gomez, or his employees. Responding to the claim, Deputy Teddy
Floyd arrived at Fred's property and allegedly convinced Fred to drop
the complaint. According to Fred, Deputy Floyd stated, "forgive
the driveway (damage), forgive the plants, you're a man of faith." Fred
reluctantly agreed with Deputy Floyd, giving Gomez the "benefit
of the doubt."
the situation was resolved, Mr. Gomez arrived. Having had "no
luck" dealing with Mr. Gomez, Fred began walking
away to avoid any conflict. As Fred walked away, Deputy Floyd attempted
convincing Fred to, "stay and fix the problem like men." Fred
continued to walk away. He stated that Mr. Gomez shouted, "that's
okay, my wife's at the courthouse right now getting an injunction on
you. You threatened my kid on Saturday morning!" According
to Fred, he's never threatened any child, furthermore, he's, "never
knowingly talked to Gomez's kid."
At this point,
Fred immediately contacted his attorney and was advised to "lock
my (Fred's) door and stay in my house." Sure
enough, the next day, deputies knocked on Fred's door and served
him with a temporary
injunction (restraining order). Fred claimed that Deputy Teddy Floyd
lied on his report, which likely attributed towards the granted injunction.
was for "500 feet." How could Fred work at
his food bank, which was obviously much less than 500 ft. away? Eventually
the injunction was modified to "50 feet," but soon after, Fred wasn't
even willing to go back to work, in fear of being falsely arrested.
According to Fred, false claims from, "flipping off Gomez," to "drawing
religious symbols in the dirt with a garden hose" have all resulted
in him being wrongfully arrested.
Having back problems
and a previous back surgery, his false arrest(s) have worsened his
problems. Fred stated he was, "hand-cuffed
and put in a small chair by Deputy Henry Makaruo for eleven hours during
Thanksgiving weekend (2009)." Fred alerted the deputy that he
was hurt and tried to stand up, only to be told that if he, "kept
getting up" he'd be, "bound in a wheelchair hand and foot
and his (Fred's) mouth would be gagged.” All of this was a direct
result of, "false allegations and arrests" according to Fred.
In all, Fred has
spent over 10 days in jail, for "five false
arrests." He's lost his business and he hasn't lived at his personal
residence in fear of being wrongfully arrested. Multiple Indian River
County Sheriff's Deputies have "aided in Fred's false arrests." One
deputy stated to Fred that, Mr. Gomez, "knows somebody at the
Sheriff's Office," which allegedly was the reason why Fred was
having numerous unresolved problems with Mr. Gomez.
Indian River County, Fl.
Lt. Kent Campbell
Fred recently went
to trial for "violation of injunction" and, "resisting
arrest." The crime he allegedly committed - "flipping off
Mr. Gomez." Who arrested Fred for his alleged crime? Lieutenant
Kent Campbell of the Indian River County Sheriff's Department. What
is the significance of Lt. Campbell arresting Fred? Kent Campbell is
a Lieutenant. It's not common for someone holding that title to make
an arrest for violating an injunction order. You see, according to
Lieutenant Kent Campbell, he is, "in charge of the entire county
(Indian River) at night." Lt. Campbell also stated he was responsible
for 2 Sergeants, a K-9 unit, patrol, and 18 deputies. Lt. Campbell's
car wasn't even equipped to transport criminals during Fred's arrest.
Even more troubling, there was, "no video or audio evidence
gathered from Lt. Campbell's car or person that supported Lt. Campbell's
of our vehicles are equipped with dash cameras." -
IRC Sheriff Eric Flowers
During a conversation
with Sergeant Eric Flowers, an Indian River County Sheriff in charge
media relations, he stated, "all of
our vehicles are equipped with dash cameras. We have several deputies
who are wearing body cameras in a trial phase." He continued, "the
policy is that if they're (deputies) involved in an incident ah, you
know, they, they are required to record it. It is part of the policy." Going
even further, Sergeant Flowers stated that, "dash cameras
have been used by the (IRC Sheriff's) department for over 11 years."
Is Lt. Campbell
exempt from department policy? Why wasn't there any video footage
from his person
or his vehicle, after all, he was the
arresting law enforcement officer. Shouldn't he, the person "in
charge of Indian River County" be setting the standard for other
Causing even more
doubt, Lt. Campbell, "knows" Mr. Luongo.
He knows him well enough to refer to him by his first name, "Fred." Are
they friends? Doubtful. Furthermore, Lt. Campbell's wife works for
Jeff Gomez. Yes, Lt. Campbell has a direct connection to Gomez, who
made the complaint. According to Lt. Campbell, he is also, "friends" with
Jeff Gomez. Conflict? Apparently not.
I found it interesting
that Fred's attorney, Jacob Noble asked Judge Joe Wild during Fred's
trial to give a particular instruction
to the jurors while they deliberated. The particular instruction according
to Judge Wilde, "the fact that the witness is employed in law
enforcement does not mean that his testimony deserves more or less
consideration." It was obvious that Lt. Kent Campbell was seemingly
biased, thus the need for that particular instruction. Judge Wild continued, "Okay.
You are the first person to ask for that." Not one other attorney,
according to Judge Wild, has asked that testimony of law enforcement
be given, "more or less consideration because of the job title." Despite
that instruction, Fred ended up convicted of, "resisting arrest
without violence," and, was acquitted of the injunction violation.
There are many issues with Fred's conviction, which will be addressed
during his appeal.
that the alleged police abuse leveled against Fred, and others alike,
increased distrust between law enforcement and
the public. Fred Luongo had, "never been arrested in his entire
life (44 years)" until Jeff Gomez moved next door. What is to
come of Fred Luongo, a minister who ran a food bank for more than two
decades while preaching the word of God to the homeless? This writer
believes that Mr. Luongo has a bright future ahead. The US~Observer
is actively investigating this case and will continue to keep the public
Editor's Note: Do you know Jeff Gomez? Are you a resident of Vero
Beach, Florida? Do you know Deputy Teddy Floyd, or Lieutenant Kent
Campbell? Have you been, or do you know others who have been abused
in Indian River County? Call 541-474-7885 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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