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Posted Saturday, April 24, 2004

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Key West, Florida, Saturday, April 24, 2004


T-shirt merchant Rothschild back before judge

Still on probation for theft, clerk is cited in tourist rip-off case

By Timothy O'Hara
Citizen Staff Writer

KEY WEST -- In February, the city wrapped up a crackdown on Duval Street T-shirt shop owners with nearly a dozen merchants convicted of violating city regulations designed to protect tourists from fraud.

One of those T-shirt vendors, who is on probation for bilking customers last year, is again accused of padding credit card bills.

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David Irving comments:

I WROTE once before about these scams used by the 100-percent Jewish T-short stores in Key West's main tourist thoroughfare, Duval Street.
   There are currently about twenty of these stores along a one-mile stretch. The brave Key West Citizen exposed the real nature of their trade four or five years back in a series of special articles: they are all owned by the same Israeli family, and all are laundering money for the Israeli international narcotics trade in the opinion of the local prosecutors.
   "Anti-Semitism!," shrieked the owners at the newspaper, and "Holocaust!," until they were hauled off before the courts.
As for the scams they operate, see my Radical's Diary for August 2002, which relates at first hand the methods they use, including the Hebrew word saf ("rip-off!") hissed from the shop floor to the guy at the cash register, indicating this is a tourist they can scam.

Have a happy stay in Key West, folks; and stay out of Duval Street. That seems to be the message.

Months of bitter public hearings ended with shop owners asking for mercy and pledging to change their business practices in order to stop fraud. Yet police have been called to Duval Street T-shirt shops four times in the past two weeks on complaints from angry customers who say they were ripped off.

State prosecutors are investigating store clerk David Rothschild, who previously was arrested for -- and later pled guilty to -- theft charges. Those charges stemmed from a complaint by a Japanese tourist couple who said they were overcharged $600 late last year.

The latest investigation of Rothschild, a clerk at Bikini Key, comes after code enforcement officers cited him for violating the city's custom wearing apparel ordinance, which is designed to protect customers from being quoted one price and charged another.

An English tourist visiting Key West purchased bathing suits and T-shirts from Rothschild on April 10, according to a Key West police report. The tourist "was led to believe the sale was for $200," the report states. Rothschild rang up the sale and the tourist signed the credit card receipt, then placed his copy in a shopping bag. He later looked at the receipt and realized he was charged $1,798.89. None of the items had price tags on them, the report states.

Code enforcement officers cited Rothschild for violating the apparel ordinance, and he is slated to go before a judge Monday.

Rothschild, contacted by phone Friday, declined comment.

State prosecutors are reviewing the case to see if criminal charges should be filed, said Monroe County State Attorney Mark Kohl. If found guilty of violating the apparel ordinance, the charge could be a violation of Rothschild's probation, and a judge could order him to jail, Kohl said.

Rothschild initially was charged with grand theft in the case involving the Japanese couple. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of petty theft. On Feb. 5, he was sentenced to six months probation and 20 hours of community service, fined $250 and ordered to pay $150 in court costs, court records show.

Duval Street T-shirt shops have earned an unflattering reputation as havens for fraud, which led the city to revamp its ordinances regulating businesses that put decals on shirts.

The custom wearing apparel ordinance states shop employees must give customers a written estimate of costs, telling them how much T-shirts will cost after customized lettering and other work is done.

The city commission voted 4-1 in February to uphold a 10-day suspension of a city-issued business license and a $1,000 fine for the owners of eight shops -- including Bikini Key. Commissioner Jose Menendez was the lone dissenter and commissioners Harry Bethel and Merili McCoy did not attend the meeting.

"Apparently they didn't get the message," Mayor Jimmy Weekley said Friday. "This is destroying Duval Street. I'm infuriated by it."

Commissioner Carmen Turner questioned whether the next step needs to be to the revocation of occupational licenses of repeat offenders.


David Irving, Radical's Diary for August 2002.

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