2 facing a felony for balloon pollution in Biscayne Bay; could get time in jail

MIAMIA – A 26-year-old woman and a 29-year-old man are facing criminal charges for disposing of balloons in Biscayne Bay after they were used to decorate a yacht during a marriage proposal.

A witness shared a video on Instagram and environmentalists were outraged. Marine animals often mistake the non-biodegradable deflated balloons for jellyfish. Turtles eat it. Seabirds feed it to their young.

Miami-Dade police officers have also handed out civilian citations with more than $23,000 in fines for illegally dumping into the Bayshore Landing Marina in Coconut Grove. This was a more painful learning experience for Martina Gaspoz and David Torres-Bocanegra, both of whom were on the job.

Officers arrested Gaspoz on Friday and Torres-Bocanegra on Wednesday. They are charged with willful contempt for the environment, a third-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both. Her bail was $5,000.

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Officers arrested Torres-Bocanegra for reckless disregard for the environment, a second-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 or 60 days in prison, or both. His bail was $500. Detective Angel Rodriguez later clarified that a mistake had been made with the charges.

Detectives did not consider the couple who got engaged on Tuesday as the culprits. Instead, officers issued quotes to the two companies — the event planner and the yacht charter — that the groom-to-be had hired.

Also, not everyone who received a $2,510 prize touched the balloons or attended the celebration.

Dessideria D’Caro De Capriles, from Doral, is the owner of the charter yacht. Gabriela Castillo was the event coordinator. Francisco Feo was in charge of the charter company. Officers also named Tulio Capriles, Iulia Tyshchenko, Viacheslav Diadiura and Efrain Hernandez.

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Environmental advocates want Miami-Dade officials to do more.

The Florida Ocean CleanUp Society, a nonprofit organization, has launched a Change.org petition requesting Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, its chief bay officer and commissioners to work out a new ordinance that balloons and confetti in coastal waters.

“The ban on balloons and confetti will not solve the pollution problem. However, we think it is important and necessary to bring about a cultural shift,” wrote the petitioner, adding, “We implore the District of Miami-Dade to pass legislation to protect our ecosystem and raise environmental awareness among boaters and the charter industry.”

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For more stories about protecting Biscayne Bay, visit the Don’t Trash Our Treasure page. Local 10 News Environmental lawyer Louis Aguirre leads the team.

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View the related reports

Do not pollute our treasure: 6 p.m., May 11

Environmentalists have a request to boaters in South Florida: Don’t tie balloons to your boat. These are harmful to wildlife.

Night Report: 11 am, May 11

Tom Rivas said he chartered a yacht for an engagement proposal. Cloud Nine, who specializes in romantic proposals, helped him plan the event. It all went smoothly. She said yes!” But hours later, the fitness coach’s event was linked to pollution in Biscayne Bay. Officers arrested one suspect on Wednesday and issued nine tickets.

Report of the afternoon: 4 p.m., May 11

Investigators want to identify a man who recently cleared balloons in Biscayne Bay.

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