Local man accused of conning pickers

OKEECHOBEE — An Okeechobee man has been arrested and charged with allegedly conning a group of Mexican men and women into paying him for the right to pick saw palmetto berries on someone else’s land.

Assistant state attorney Ashley Albright said Thursday, Feb. 2, that Timothy Sherman Courson, 24, told the 11 men they could enter the property on Sept. 10, 2016, and pick all the palmetto berries they wanted.

COURSON, TIMOTHY

He then charged them $50 per head. When they were done, they had picked over $4,000 worth of berries.

The berries were seized by law enforcement after deputies caught the group trespassing on private property.

The property in question is the Triple Diamond Ranch, 100 N.W. 224th St.

Courson, N.W. 42nd Ave., was charged with one felony count of grand theft and two felony counts of cheating at common law. He was also arrested on one misdemeanor charge of petit theft.

He is being held in the Okeechobee County Jail on a bond of $80,000.

According to Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) arrest reports the total of 11 men and women scaled a fence on the ranch property and picked the berries for two days.

OCSO Deputy Cody Hurst’s report said the seven men and four women from Immokalee ranged in age from 18 to 60. They were all arrested on a misdemeanor charge of trespassing.

Mr. Albright said those charges have been dropped.

When the pickers were arrested they had two notes in their possession.

The first note read: “I, Sam Klemens, give these four Spanish people permission to pick berry (sic) off Double Diamond.”

The second note read: “I, Sam, give these 10 Spanish people permission to pick berries.”

“He did this over two different days,” said Mr. Albright. “He said he was a representative of the ranch manager.”

But, he obviously wasn’t.

The pickers then paid him in cash and scaled a 6-foot fence onto the property owned by Triple Diamond Ranch. The property is posted with no trespassing signs in both English and Spanish, noted the deputy’s report.

Basically, pointed out Mr. Albright, Courson told the people here’s the berries — go pick them.

The prosecutor went on to say his investigation into this incident is continuing.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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