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HomeNightlifeHow a Dispute Between Two Fort Lauderdale Performing Mermaids Turned a Federal...

How a Dispute Between Two Fort Lauderdale Performing Mermaids Turned a Federal Case

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Discovering herself vilified on TikTok by a self-styled witch and recognizing a Broward County sheriff’s lieutenant actually climbing her wall, Whitney Truthful was at her wits’ finish.

She had no thought being a mermaid could possibly be so irritating.

The difficulty had nothing to do with the precise mermaid reveals she performs on the historic Wreck Bar on Fort Lauderdale Seashore. The 41-year-old Truthful enjoys swimming in what’s billed as America’s solely underwater burlesque present.

She likes to listen to the viewers when she swims previous the pool’s portholes in her costume fishtail. The truth that she will be able to’t see the bar patrons by the glass relieves a number of the strain of acting on often-packed Friday and Saturday nights.

The part-time job on the iconic ocean liner-shaped B Ocean Resort, previously often known as the Yankee Clipper, additionally gives her and the opposite so-called Aquaticats a daily social outlet.

“I’m a little bit of a homebody and an introvert,” confesses Truthful, who additionally works as a voice actress and yoga teacher. “So this job has allowed me a constant manner of dressing up and being round folks as soon as a weekend.”

It was from the social aspect, nonetheless, that her distress got here, particularly within the type of a fellow Aquaticat named Mia Mellies. “Mermaid Mia,” as she known as herself, joined the forged in 2015, two years previous to Truthful, and had ascended to a management function within the group. The 2 had a falling-out and finally Mia was fired in August 2018.

Mellies’ departure started what Truthful describes as a three-year nightmare of harassment and battle that now could be on its approach to a federal courtroom.

click on to enlarge Broward Sheriff's Office Lt. Jeff Mellies - WSVN-TV (CHANNEL 7) SCREENSHOT

Broward Sheriff's Workplace Lt. Jeff Mellies

WSVN-TV (Channel 7) screenshot

It started with on-line assaults from Mia and her husband Jeff and have become worse when the couple moved in subsequent door to Truthful’s residence in Fort Lauderdale. Greater than as soon as, her safety digital camera captured video of Jeff Mellies on her property, together with a clip that reveals him climbing up a ladder on the aspect of her home and tampering with stated digital camera. One other clip reveals the couple accosting her on the foot of her driveway, the place Mia Mellies later will be heard screaming, “I hope you fucking die.”

Truthful says the scariest a part of all of it is that Jeff has the ability of the badge: He’s a lieutenant with the Broward Sheriff’s Workplace.

“How do you name the cops on the cops?” she asks.

It didn’t make it any much less unsettling that Mia spoke in her TikTok movies of putting spells on her enemies and claimed she and Jeff had been “practising pagans” who carried out nude rituals of their yard. A Coral Springs firefighter by commerce, Mia has additionally described herself as an “initiated first-degree witch within the Celtic custom.”

Truthful says the scariest a part of all of it is that Jeff is a lieutenant with the Broward Sheriff’s Workplace. “How do you name the cops on the cops?” she asks.

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Truthful ultimately went to the police, however the harassment continued. She consulted native lawyer Gary Kollin, who recommended she put in a public-records request for all searches made by police and different officers for her state-protected driver’s license data — one thing all Floridians have a proper to seek out out about themselves.

The outcomes confirmed that Jeff had used his BSO laptop to run Truthful’s identify on the Driver and Car Data Database (DAVID), a confidential state database accessible solely by police and different public officers. The incessantly abused DAVID system incorporates driver’s license pictures, car data, driver historical past, social safety quantity, and different restricted private knowledge.

Federal regulation forbids public officers from accessing driver-license data for something however official functions and gives civil recourse to anybody whose data has been improperly accessed.

And it wasn’t simply Truthful. State data reveal that Jeff Mellies, who has a big tattoo of his BSO badge on his proper bicep, additionally ran DAVID checks on Marina Anderson, who owns the mermaid present, and a fellow performer named Janelle Smiley. All of these searches had been performed in 2018, whereas Mia Mellies was nonetheless swimming on the Wreck Bar.

The lieutenant listed “legal investigation” as the rationale for the searches. State regulation enforcement data additionally present Mellies ran a restricted legal background verify on Smiley; Truthful suspects he did the identical in her case. BSO started an inner investigation of Truthful’s allegations, based on the company’s correspondence.

On February 22, Kollin filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Courtroom on behalf of Truthful and Smiley that alleges Jeff Mellies violated the regulation and the plaintiffs’ privateness rights when he performed his DAVID searches. Additionally named as a defendant is Broward Sheriff Greg Tony, who Kollin claims has did not correctly monitor the company’s DAVID use. (A replica of the grievance is embedded on the finish of this story.)

New Instances‘ request for remark from Sheriff Tony was expressly rejected by BSO. “The Broward Sheriff’s Workplace makes it a apply to not touch upon pending litigation,” emailed sheriff’s spokesman Cary Codd.

Kollin's grievance additionally alleges that Jeff Mellies introduced Truthful and Smiley “into public scandal with nice humiliation…within the type of disgrace, degradation, psychological struggling and…broken reputations.”

Messages left on Mia Mellies’ cellphone for remark from her and her husband weren't returned. New Instances additionally unsuccessfully sought remark from Jeff Mellies by the BSO's media relations division. An in depth voice message left with the lieutenant’s lawyer, Tamatha Alvarez, additionally went unreturned.

To grasp how the conflict of mermaids turned a federal case, although, it helps to return to the sting of the Wreck Bar pool and a 2018 squabble between the 2 girls that troubles the waters to today.

A Poolside Squabble

Like most of her fellow underwater performers, Truthful doesn’t take the mermaid facet of the present very severely. For Mia Mellies, although, being a mermaid was a lifelong dream.

That’s how she characterised it when she was featured in a 2014 Solar-Sentinel story about “merfolk” — those that revere the fictional creatures and have fun “mermaid tradition.” The article got here out a 12 months earlier than Mia started performing on the Wreck Bar, however she was already working events and occasions as “Mia Mermaid.”

A cosplay fanatic together with her husband, Mia informed the newspaper her mermaid persona was an offshoot of her pirate re-enactment group. She stated she’d been fascinated with mermaids since she was somewhat woman in Puerto Rico — a lot in order that she “virtually drowned” in a pool on the age of 10 after placing duct tape on her toes to emulate a tail.

“I believe all ladies are fascinated with being a mermaid,” Mia informed the Solar-Sentinel. “It’s the mysterious girl who’s unobtainable, who’s alluring to males.”

She was absolutely a head-turner on the mermaid present. Truthful says it wasn’t simply Mia’s putting bleached-blond hair, full determine, and expertly utilized make-up that made her stand out, but in addition an unmistakable charisma.

Whereas Mia recognized with a fiery Puerto Rican persona, Truthful cultivated an aesthetic extra of the California selection (a state the place she lived for a 12 months after rising up within the Midwest). Whereas Mia was into Wicca, Truthful engaged a secular religious aspect. She believes wholeheartedly in karma and tellingly selected the identify “ZenDen” for her not too long ago established Airbnb firm.

The 2 girls bought alongside high quality at first. Truthful says it wasn’t till a 12 months into her tenure, in July 2018, that the 2 got here into battle. It started in earnest when Truthful left a casual group chat led by Mia. She felt the texts, full of criticism of Anderson and different Aquaticats, had develop into poisonous.

However leaving the chat solely raised the stress. Truthful discovered herself arguing with Mia over little issues — like a part of a dressing up Truthful had retrieved when it was left behind after a present. Mia, who organized the costumes for the group, texted Truthful to drive it over to her home in Plantation immediately. Truthful refused, saying she’d return it earlier than the subsequent present.

“You’re making an enormous mistake,” Mia texted.

“Are you threatening me?” Truthful replied.

Mia texted again “lol,” earlier than writing, “No snowflake I’m not threatening you, I’m simply stating the apparent.”

On July 18, 2018, Truthful tried to reconcile with Mia by way of a 13-minute, 45-second voice memo.

“We’re getting one another overrated in regards to the mistaken issues, like about detrimental issues,” Truthful says on the recording, which she saved. “Continually complaining, which once more I’m responsible of, we’re all responsible of. …It’s one thing that I don’t need to be part of.”

In rehashing the problems, Truthful informed Mia that Jeff, who accompanied his spouse to the reveals and infrequently videotaped her performances, had been uncharacteristically unfriendly and had filmed Truthful whereas she launched the present to Wreck Bar patrons in a manner that she felt was “intimidating.”

In her personal voice-memo reply, Mia claimed her husband “by no means got here from a detrimental place.” Quite the opposite: He cared in regards to the Aquaticats and watched out for them in the course of the present.

“Jeff is extraordinarily protecting of all of you,” Mia contended.

click on to enlarge Mia Mellies, erstwhile Aquaticat - SCREENSHOT VIA TIKTOK

Mia Mellies, erstwhile Aquaticat

Screenshot by way of TikTok

Truthful says the stress solely grew, resulting in a poolside altercation on the fringe of the pool.

As they had been about to begin a present on August 25, 2018, Truthful says, she overheard Mia speaking about her close by with one other Aquaticat, repeatedly referring to her as an “asshole.”

This time, Truthful boiled over.

“I’m uninterested in listening to you yap, yap, yap, yap,” she recollects telling Mia.

“Effectively, you hate everybody right here,” Mia responded.

“I don’t hate everybody right here,” Truthful retorted. “I hate you since you’re a bitch.”

“That’s it, you’re executed,” Mia stated authoritatively.

Truthful then stated the phrases she says she has crushed herself up about ever since.

“Effectively, why don’t you lose a couple of kilos after which name me?” she informed Mia.

That was over the road and all of the mermaids knew it. Truthful says the phrases got here out of her mouth solely as a result of Mia continuously spoke of “shedding a couple of kilos.” She says she didn’t contemplate Mia to be chubby, however she knew it was a verbal blow that may land.

“I simply snapped,” she says. “I’d been gaslit and bullied.”

The argument was shortly quelled, but it surely marked Mia’s final day as an Aquaticat. Anderson, the proprietor of the mermaid present, fired her for what Truthful says was an accumulation of points. Anderson declined to remark for this story.

Mia herself recounted the blowup and her firing in a video posted final 12 months. She claimed Truthful, whom she routinely known as “Loopy Eyes,” was a “twist” who had instigated the dissension within the group. She stated Truthful made the load remark realizing that she has physique dysmorphia, a situation that causes its victims to obsess over perceived flaws of their look.

“Fucking evil cunt,” Mia stated of Truthful. “Anyway, I used to be so pissed off, I jumped out of the pool, and I didn’t swim. I known as [Anderson] and informed her what occurred. Couple days later, I used to be fired. That bitch continues to be swimming.”

After the firing, Mia and Jeff started attacking each Truthful and Anderson (and, to a lesser diploma, mermaid Smiley) on social media. In November 2018, Jeff printed a Fb publish that Truthful discovered significantly mortifying.

“And to suppose we had all of [the mermaids] in our residence and handled them like household,” he wrote. “We by no means held the truth that Whitney was a convicted-felon drug seller who frolicked in jail in opposition to her.”

In a subsequent TikTok video, Mia claimed Truthful was restricted from proudly owning an organization due to her legal report.

“She will be able to’t actually have a enterprise in Florida,” Mia claimed within the video, “as a result of she has had earlier regulation enforcement entanglements which required her to spend so much of sleepy overnights at an enormous establishment with jail bars in them. You already know what I imply? Like, I’m not speaking about ‘I bought arrested on a weekend.’ I’m speaking about arduous time.”

Truthful, nonetheless, does personal a authorized enterprise in Florida. She’s registered to vote and hasn’t executed “arduous time.” She says the one arrest in her life was a marijuana cost on the age of 18 that concerned a small quantity of hashish — a couple of quarter-ounce. It occurred throughout a site visitors cease on a street journey from California within the tiny panhandle city of Guymon, Oklahoma, the place the ebook was thrown at Truthful and a buddy; she says each spent a couple of week within the native jail.

A part of the deal, she says, was that the felony case could be expunged after two years — which means the report is now inaccessible to the general public. Legislation-enforcement personnel, nonetheless, would probably have entry to it by way of the restricted Nationwide Crime Data Middle database.

Truthful suspected that Jeff used his law-enforcement standing to entry the hidden data and smear her with a distorted model of it. When she requested the DAVID data from the state final 12 months, she additionally submitted a request from the Florida Division of Legislation Enforcement for legal background checks performed on her. FDLE refused to launch the outcomes, citing an lively legal investigation. Neither Truthful nor Kollin is aware of what that investigation is perhaps.

Truthful suspected that Jeff used his law-enforcement standing to entry hidden data and smear her with a distorted model of it.

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Smiley, the co-plaintiff in Truthful’s lawsuit, did obtain her FDLE outcomes, and so they confirmed that Jeff Mellies had run a legal background on her the identical day in March 2018 that he’d run the DAVID verify.

Regardless of repeated on-line assaults from Jeff and Mia, Truthful didn’t return fireplace in sort. As a substitute, she says, she did her greatest to keep away from the couple utterly.

Then in November 2019, greater than a 12 months after Mia’s exit from the Aquaticats, the unthinkable occurred: The couple moved right into a rental residence proper subsequent door to Truthful in Fort Lauderdale.

Out of the blue solely a six-foot-high fence separated her from the Mellieses.

“I used to be like, this can be a actually unhealthy joke, as a result of already presently I used to be wanting over my shoulder on a regular basis due to these folks,” Truthful says. “I used to be already scared.”

Individually, each Jeff and Mia Mellies have claimed — Mia in movies, Jeff in a police report — that the transfer was coincidental, however Truthful says she felt as if she had been being hunted. She initially appeared for different locations to stay.

“That is tremendous bizarre and it’s tremendous scary,” she remembers considering. “But it surely’s clearly taking place for a cause, and I’m not going to run from these folks. So I stayed.”

What the Safety Digicam Noticed

Truthful put in a safety digital camera on the aspect of her home that confronted their property, a choice that itself resulted in additional battle. Mia complained in one among her TikTok movies that she felt “violated” by the presence of the digital camera, partially as a result of she and Jeff had been typically “skyclad” — a time period for nude related to witchcraft — whereas within the yard.

“We're two practising pagans, so we do ritual work and apply and have fun holidays again there,” Mia stated. “Generally skyclad — you recognize what I imply.”

Truthful says she by no means spied on the couple subsequent door, however in August 2020 the digital camera did seize Jeff on her property at evening, then scrambling again over the fence again into his yard. She says one other video caught him wanting over the fence in an space close to her bed room.
A number of days later, the identical digital camera caught the BSO lieutenant not solely on her property however scaling a ladder he discovered there up the aspect of her home. The video clearly reveals the bald, white-bearded Jeff, carrying a military-style T-shirt, climbing as much as the safety digital camera and putting duct tape over the lens.

Truthful says that though she discovered this terrifying, she didn’t go to the police as a result of she feared they may defend one among their very own. She did, nonetheless, take away the tape from the digital camera and affix a “No Trespassing” signal to the aspect of her residence.

On Thanksgiving 2020, the digital camera captured somebody on the Mellieses’ aspect of the fence reaching over with a rake to knock down the signal.

That was when Truthful determined to go to the Fort Lauderdale Police Division.

“I had no alternative,” she tells New Instances. “It was getting worse.”

The division issued Jeff a verbal no-trespass warning — which means that if he got here onto Truthful’s property once more, he could possibly be criminally charged with trespassing. She additionally went to the Broward Sheriff’s Workplace’s inner affairs division, which in January 2021 despatched Truthful a letter confirming that BSO was investigating her grievance.

The subsequent main flare-up occurred on April 4, 2021, when the Mellieses confronted Truthful at about 8 p.m. on the foot of her driveway, complaining about coloured lights Truthful had put in on her property.

Truthful was accompanied by her enterprise associate, Pablo Caceres, who recorded the confrontation on his telephone. When Caceres introduced up Truthful’s trespassing allegation, the lieutenant went on the verbal assault.

“Trespassing is a misdemeanor, you silly fuck,” he stated. “You possibly can’t do something about that. It's a must to present intent.”

Mia piped up, “He’s a cop, you douchebag.”

Jeff then known as Truthful a “nefarious fucking cunt.”

“Mendacity piece of crap,” Mia added. “Felon.”

“Do away with these lights as a result of they're bothering us,” Jeff demanded. “We’ve executed nothing to you. If you need your own home to appear to be a fucking whorehouse, do it on the opposite aspect of the property.”

Caceres informed Jeff he was intimidating Truthful.

“How’s it intimidating?” Jeff responded. “You’re a pussy. You’re a pussy. We will’t discuss amongst ourselves?”

“I can discuss with any person that isn't screaming at me,” Caceres countered.

Because the couple walked away, Truthful’s safety digital camera captured Mia yelling again at Truthful.

“You fucking soiled sullen cunt!” she screamed. “Oh, by the way in which, how was jail, Whitney? What number of months did you do in jail, you piece of shit? I fucking can’t stand you. I hope you fucking die!”

The encounter marked the primary time they’d interacted for the reason that fracas on the Wreck Bar pool.

The next day, Jeff approached Truthful as soon as extra, this time strolling onto her property, the place he once more complained in regards to the lights. When the allegation about being on her property at evening close to her bed room window arose, Jeff known as her insane and informed her she wasn’t “fairly,” based on subsequent police reviews.

Believing it was an express trespass on Jeff’s half, Truthful once more known as the Fort Lauderdale Police Division (FLPD). As a result of she didn’t need the Mellieses to see her with the cops, she met Ofc. Kerri Hagerty on April 5 on the Galleria mall. There she informed Hagerty your complete story and voiced her opinion, then unconfirmed, that the Mellieses had used restricted law-enforcement data to assault these whom they didn’t like.

Truthful additionally shared the brand new developments with BSO inner affairs. On April 8, the company issued a letter to Jeff Mellies ordering him to stop and desist from any contact in any way with Truthful, together with on social media, and to chorus from “private visits, harassment, annoyance, threats, phone calls, or intimidation.”

The BSO ordered Jeff Mellies to stop and desist from any contact with Truthful, and to chorus from “private visits, harassment, annoyance, threats, phone calls, or intimidation.”

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The day Mellies acquired the letter from BSO, he known as the FLPD to get his aspect of the story “on the report.” He informed police that the issue with Truthful stemmed from a movement mild on her safety digital camera that was so vivid it was an annoyance. He additionally claimed Truthful was utilizing the digital camera to report him and his spouse of their yard.

He admitted he’d gone again onto Truthful’s property and argued together with her. He additionally admitted he had climbed the ladder at her residence months earlier than. He stated he supposed to unscrew the sunshine bulbs from Truthful’s movement sensor however seen the digital camera and determined to tape it over.

The Mellieses additionally had a lawyer ship Truthful a “stop and desist” letter of their very own. The Could 6 missive from lawyer Bruce Trybus demanded that Truthful take away the safety lights and digital camera from her property as a result of they violated the couple’s “cheap expectation of privateness.”

Truthful responded in a letter to the lawyer, asserting that her safety gear was lawfully positioned and had by no means been used for voyeuristic functions. Jeff Mellies’ documented intrusions on her property solely proved the safety measures had been needed, she wrote.

click on to enlarge "I want justice," says Whitney Fair. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WHITNEY FAIR

“I need justice,” says Whitney Truthful.

Photograph courtesy of Whitney Truthful

“I'm making an attempt to stay my life with out encountering day by day hostility and harassment from you and your shoppers,” she said.

It was a low level for Truthful. She says she’d develop into so tormented by nervousness that she couldn’t eat; her weight dropped to 105 kilos, and he or she fell into despair.

“That is by no means gonna finish, I can’t get away from these folks,” she recollects considering. “I actually have to maneuver out of state. I didn’t know what to do. I felt caught. You simply really feel helpless when that is taking place to you and no person will help you.”

Determined, she searched on-line for native attorneys with expertise in police misconduct and landed on Kollin. However after listening to Truthful’s story, the lawyer informed her that as horrible as it might appear, a civil trespassing case wasn’t price submitting.

As he broke the information to Truthful, he made a last-second suggestion that she examine whether or not Jeff had improperly checked her driver’s license data and legal background.

“That little comment on the finish of the telephone name modified every little thing,” she says.

“Okay, We Have a Case”

In Could of final 12 months, Truthful submitted her public-records requests for the DAVID and legal background searches carried out on her. She additionally persuaded fellow mermaid Smiley, whom Mia additionally often attacked on social media, and their boss Anderson to submit equivalent requests.

When the outcomes got here again in June, Truthful known as Kollin.

“Okay, we now have a case,” Kollin informed her.

The primary order of enterprise was to report the findings to BSO inner affairs, a process that marked Truthful’s third go to to the company. Shortly thereafter, on July 16, BSO despatched Truthful a letter informing her that her earlier grievance was being closed on the grounds that “no misconduct points will be recognized.”

Truthful says she was shocked that BSO discovered every little thing Jeff had executed — smearing her on social media, coming onto her property, tampering together with her safety digital camera, shouting obscenities at her out on the street — didn’t at the least represent conduct unbecoming a regulation enforcement officer.

However there was constructive information in the identical letter. Broward Sheriff’s Lt. Johanna Palacio wrote {that a} new inner investigation had been opened into the alleged abuse of the DAVID system. In line with Palacio, Truthful could be notified when the investigation was full.

No phrase has come from the company, which doesn’t focus on open inner affairs investigations.

Although Jeff Mellies was ordered to go away Truthful alone, that didn’t cease his spouse, who continued posting assaults on Truthful, in addition to on Anderson and Smiley, on social media.

“I gained’t cease speaking about them and making enjoyable of them till they discontinue their fucking hate marketing campaign in opposition to my husband,” Mia says in a single TikTok video. “You'd suppose they'd come after me, however that’s not what evil folks do. Evil folks need the individual they're attacking to endure watching their family members endure.”

“I gained’t cease speaking about them and making enjoyable of them till they discontinue their fucking hate marketing campaign in opposition to my husband,” Mia says in a single TikTok video.

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In a September 4, 2021, Instagram publish beneath the deal with “fire_witch_siren,” Mia wrote ominously that the “north remembers bitch, and it’s coming for home Zen.”

In a TikTok video, she painted Truthful, Smiley, and Anderson as anti-American and anti-law enforcement. Mia, who hasn’t been shy about her help for Donald Trump, says within the video that she was offended that in an Instagram publish that coincided with the top of the struggle in Afghanistan, Truthful didn’t point out the deaths of 13 troopers in a terrorist assault.

“They hate this fucking nation and everyone that serves it,” Mia stated. “We have to cease supporting these folks…and so they’re fucking companies…and the Wreck Bar. Cease supporting them. They hate this fucking nation, and so they’re not shy about admitting it.”

Truthful says she counts law-enforcement members in her circle of relatives however believes law enforcement officials have to be held accountable once they do mistaken. She has extra not too long ago moved away from the home subsequent door to Jeff and Mia, and he or she’s nonetheless performing every weekend on the Wreck Bar with Anderson, Smiley, and the opposite aquatic dancers.

She worries about how her ex-neighbors will react, now that they've discovered of the lawsuit.

“I’ve informed those that if something occurs to me, then it was positively them,” Truthful says. “Who is aware of how she’s going to retaliate? Who is aware of what’s going to be on-line subsequent? There’s no accountability.

“For a very long time, I simply wished them to go away me alone. Now I need justice.”

Bob Norman serves as editor-in-chief for FLCGA Information, a publication specializing in investigative reporting produced by the nonprofit Florida Middle for Authorities Accountability. This story was reported in partnership with the FLCGA.



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