Periodically, every Flagler County sheriff has conducted big, sweeping drug operations, netting dozens of arrests and playing up the sweep in news conferences, often with the state attorney or sheriffs from other counties joining the show of force.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly’s third operation of the sort–his first was in September 2017, his second in May 2018–he described as “the largest undercover operation Flagler County has ever seen,” with 40 felony arrest warrants and 23 arrests by the time Staly announced it at a press conference with State Attorney R.J. Larizza at his side. (The May 2018 operation netted actually 45 arrests.As with the May operation, several of those charged today were already in jail, charged over the last few months, with additional charges that may have been served today.)
Sha’Quan Robinson, 26, a waste hauler’s employee, was allegedly selling heroin on his route across town. Derick McKay, 36, was hiding drugs in his butt. Corey Richard Lynch, 36, had a hidden compartment in his car’s glove box, to hide weapons and drugs.
Robinson’s case was among the most startling: He “sold heroin to an undercover detective while dressed in his Waste Pro uniform and traveling on the back of a Waste Pro truck,” the sheriff said. “The truck pulled over, Robinson completed the sale of heroin, and then the truck resumed its normal trash pick-up route.”
All but one of those arrested today are from Flagler County, overwhelmingly from Palm Coast. The exception was a Daytona Beach resident. “The eight-month long operation brought to light offenders from all walks of life, all ages, and from all areas of Flagler County,” the sheriff said. “Drug dealers have no boundaries and no ethnic group is immune.”
The names of the drug operations are hokey–“Operation Heat Seeker,” “Operation Spring Cleaning,” today’s “Operation Heat Wave”–though the motive behind them is not: None of the suspects was arrested for mere possession. All were arrested for alleged sales–of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, oxycodone, Synthetic Cathinones and other drugs, the addictive substances at the heart of the opioid crisis that took 70,000 lives from overdoses in 2017 alone, and 68,500 lives in 2018. Last year was the first in 30 years that the total number of overdose deaths declined.
There have been 30 suspected drug overdoses in the county so far this year, most of them non-fatal. Sheriff’s deputies have administered 21 doses of Narcan, the emergency antidote that restores normal breathing in the victim of an overdose.
And while Circuit Judge Chris France signed the warrants “with high bonds,” Staly said, many were expected to be back on the streets, as has always been the case previously, as Staly himself underscored in describing the histories of some of the suspects he named today: “Many names are repeat offenders well known to our deputies,” the sheriff said. “All dealers in this operation have previously been arrested a combined 534 times. I hope the judicial system takes a hard line with these poison peddlers and sends them off to prison. They’re not drug users. These are people that are selling poison to our sons, daughters, parents and friends that in some cases have the potential to be deadly.”
Most of the time it isn’t the judicial system’s fault that suspects end up back on the streets, as is commonly believed, but rather the result of poorly executed arrests on insufficient evidence that prosecutors don’t believe they can sustain in court, or, often, the result of prosecutorial discretion in deals that downgrade the original charge in exchange for a plea. Judges rarely exercise “downward departures,” meaning impose lower sentences, from those recommended by sentencing guidelines. But they usually stick with a plea agreement’s recommended sentence as devised by the prosecution and the defense.
Take Robinson, the Waste Pro employee who was allegedly selling heroin: just eight weeks ago he was found guilty of possession of pot and possession of a controlled substance, the latter a third-degree felony. He was sentenced to two years probation. It was a plea agreement. He’s been arrested 12 times overall, according to the sheriff, four times in Flagler since 2017.
The sheriff outlined today’s sweep’s take by numbers: over 28 grams of Fentanyl and Heroin, over 124 grams Cocaine, over 98 grams of Synthetic Cathinones, over 8 grams of Methamphetamine, 3.6 pounds of pot and THC Oil, over 68 grams of other controlled substances, with a total street value of nearly $41,000. At one point the sheriff said the amount of fentanyl and heroin seized was “enough to kill 14,000 people.” It was somewhat of an exaggeration: fentanyl alone, which is about 100 times more potent than heroin, is considered by the Drug Enforcement Agency to be lethal at 2 milligrams–often compared to a few grains of sand–and 28 grams of fentanyl would, theoretically, be enough for 14,000 lethal doses. But the 28-gram figure was a combination of heroin and fentanyl, heroin often being laced with fentanyl.
Unlike previous such news conferences, both Staly and Larizza this time spoke of the need for legislators to pay more meaningful attention to treatment options by appropriating sufficient dollars to those efforts, which lag in Flagler: there is not a single treatment bed for a male drug addict in the county.
“I have a message to our federal and state leaders,” Staly said. “Treatment for addiction must be funded properly so that addicts can become clean and become productive citizens. Without addicts, we would not have drug dealers. It’s time to fund treatment at the levels properly needed.”
Larizza spoke likewise. “The folks in the communities are getting sick and tired of these open air drug markets,” Larizza said, “and I think something that’s sometimes lost is the collateral consequences of drug sales and drug abuse in these communities. I mean, folks are dying in these communities, there’s kids that are walking around watching these transactions happen. There’s intimidation, there’s recruitment.” He then agreed with the sheriff: “We have to have a more comprehensive approach. We truly need to address the demand side and help folks to find ways to get off these highly addictive and deadly drugs, and we also need to find ways to support folks in the community that are calling in, that are concerned about the impact that the individuals that are engaging in this activity are having upon their neighborhoods, their families and their friends.”
Larizza later spoke of how, over his career, he’s prosecuted three generations of individuals from the very same families, a cycle showing no sign of ending.
Following is the list of those arrested or wanted in the sweep, as provided by the sheriff’s office:
1. Jamie Bullock of Flagler Beach; Sale of Cocaine and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
2. Jerrold Burnham of Bunnell; Sale of Oxycodone within 1,000 feet of a Public Park.
3. Taj Butler of Bunnell; Sale of Cocaine within 1,000 feet of a Public Park.
4. Kelly Calimer of Palm Coast; Trafficking Phenethylamines (10-200g) and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
5. Diandra Clark-Stannard of Palm Coast; Sale of Cocaine within 1,000 feet of a Public Park.
6. David Connelly of Palm Coast; Sale of Synthetic Cathinones.
7. Salina Cox of Bunnell; Sale of Heroin and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
8. Elijah Desimone of Bunnell; Sale of Cocaine within 1,000 feet of a Convenience Business.
9. Raymond Dukes of Palm Coast; Sale of Heroin within 1,000 feet of a Public Park.
10. Joshua Forbes of Palm Coast; Sale of Hydromorphone and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
11. Robert Galvin of Bunnell; Sale of Cocaine within 1,000 feet of a Public Park.
12. Rondal Gibson of Palm Coast; Sale of Synthetic Cathinones and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
13. Shamine Giddens of Bunnell; Sale of Oxycodone.
14. Jodi Henry of Palm Coast; Sale of Hydromorphone and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
15. Wilbert Hough Jr. of Palm Coast; Sale of Synthetic Cathinones and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
16. Rudy Hunter of Bunnell; Trafficking Phenethylamines (10-200g) and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
17. Cornelius Johnson of Daytona Beach; Sale of Cocaine within 1,000 feet of a Public Park.
18. Eric Johnson of Palm Coast; Sale of Synthetic Cathinones.
19. Adam Jordan of Bunnell; Sale of Fentanyl and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
20. Tony Lanning of Palm Coast; Sale of Heroin within 1,000 feet of a Public Park.
21. Mia Lindsay of Palm Coast; Trafficking Cocaine (28-200g) and Trafficking Oxycodone (7-14g).
22. Travis Lodato of Palm Coast; Sale of Oxycodone.
23. Corey Lynch of Palm Coast; Armed Trafficking of Fentanyl, Possession of Heroin with intent to Distribute, Possession of Synthetic Cathinones, and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
24. Dillon Mays of Bunnell; Sale of Cannabis within 1,000 feet of a Convenience Business.
25. Deque McCall of Bunnell; Sale of Cocaine within 1,000 feet of a Public Park and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
26. Jayquan McCaskell of Bunnell; Sale of Heroin.
27. Caswayla McCaster of Palm Coast; Sale of Cocaine.
28. Derick McKay of Palm Coast; Sale of Cocaine, Trafficking Phenethylamines, Possession of Fentanyl with Intent to Sell, Possession of Cocaine with Intent to Sell, and Possession of Hydrocodone with Intent to Sell.
29. Michael McRoberts of Palm Coast; Sale of Heroin within 1,000 feet of a Child Care Facility.
30. Christian Melendez of Palm Coast; Trafficking Heroin (4-14g).
31. Glen Moratto of Palm Coast; Sale of Methamphetamine and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
32. Octavious Ray of Bunnell; Sale of Cocaine within 1,000 feet of a Public Park and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
33. Sha’Quan Robinson of Bunnell; Sale of Heroin and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
34. Spencer Sarmento of Bunnell; Sale of Methamphetamine.
35. Kiedra Smith of Palm Coast; Sale of Oxycodone.
36. Carmen Tucker of Palm Coast; Sale of Synthetic Cathinones.
37. Cory Waring of Palm Coast; Sale of THC Oil, Sale of Oxycodone, Trafficking Cocaine and Oxycodone, and Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
38. Gladys Warren of Bunnell; Sale of Cocaine within 1,000 feet of a Public Park.
39. Margaret Watkins of Palm Coast; Sale of Heroin within 1,000 feet of a Public Park.
40. Lee Wiley of Palm Coast; Sale of Heroin and Sale of Methamphetamine.