Once or twice a year, the “North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Tri-County Narcotics Task Force”–which groups narcotics investigators from Flagler, St. Johns and Putnam counties–stages a high-profile sweep, issuing dozens of warrants and making numerous arrests. The latest such sweep was conducted today in the three counties, netting 103 warrants and 57 arrests, including 20 in Flagler County.
Flagler arrests took place in Palm Coast, Flagler Beach and Bunnell. Almost all the arrests involve individuals who have been booked at the county jail before.
Dubbed “Operation Safe Summer,” the five-month investigation targeted Northeast Florida street-level drug dealers–that is, lower-level drug dealers rather than organizational dealers or local kingpins. As with previous such sweeps, the arrests followed controlled buys of narcotics by undercover agents. The goal, officials said Wednesday afternoon, was to arrest suspects ahead of summer break and ostensibly getting the dealers off the streets. But if history is any guide, many of those arrested today will be released on bail.
For example, Lori Hays, 48, of 4730 Mahogany Blvd. in Bunnell (the Mondex), was booked at the Flagler county jail before 8 a.m. today and charged with the sale of a schedule II substance. By afternoon, she’d been released after posting bail on $10,000 bond. Same story with Margaret Rockwell, 29, of 51 Belleaire Drive in Palm Coast: she was charged with marijuana sale, booked in early morning and released on bond. Or take Cecil Hubbert, Jr., 44, of 409 S. Chapel St. in Bunnell. County jailers know him well. He’s been booked 19 times in the past seven years, the last time before today just four days ago, on a domestic battery charge, and before that in January, on a felony battery charge. He posted bail both times. He is now charged with the sale of a Schedule II substance. He’s being held on $25,000 bond.
Chad Blunt, 41, of 17 Pine Crest Lane in Palm Coast, was arrested on a charge of selling cocaine and a probation violation. He had last been arrested just last month on a failure to appear charge, violation. Was last arrested in April on a failure to appear charge, and had similar arrests in 2013 and 2012. For now he remains in jail on $20,000 bond on the cocaine charge and no bond on the probation violation. Beverly Diggs, 48, of 72 Brockton Lane in Palm Coast, was charged with cocaine sale and is being held on $10,000 bond. But she was booked twice last month and once in January, and has been booked a total of seven times before today (shoplifting, grad theft, disorderly intoxication, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon).
A closer look at the numbers also shows that some of the individuals arrested were not swept up today, but were arrested previously and included in today’s tally. That’s the case with Mitchell Griffin, 40, who was arrested in April and charged with three counts of selling a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school.
He’s been arrested four times since 2010.
And on go the examples of today’s arrests.
Previous high-profile busts were announced in orchestrated news conferences at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, usually in the presence of R.J. Larizza, the State Attorney. Today’s announcement was made at a news conference at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, in the presence of many members of the task force and Flagler Sheriff Jim Manfre. “We appreciate the opportunity to participate with this tri-county warrant sweep,” he said. “The combined efforts of all involved are
fundamental to getting these criminals off our streets.”
The entire operation cost all agencies involved less than $5,000, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office stated in a release. Many of the suspects arrested are considered habitual drug offenders. Drugs purchased during the undercover operation included prescription pills, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and marijuana. Specific numbers such as the amounts of drugs seized or their value were not released.
“The investigators were able to purchase intoxicants that are widely considered gateway drugs, especially with our youth, as well as designer, cocaine and heavy narcotics,” St Johns Sheriff David B. Shoar said. “The totality of this operation should create a vacuum in supply for a period of time. Our hope is that some of the abusers of these substances will seek treatment, instead of a new dealer in the coming days.”
Law enforcement officials often refer to marijuana as a “gateway drug,” though that assessment has been discredited. By gateway, they mean that users of the drug are likely to move on to other, stronger drugs. But marijuana users overwhelmingly either stick with marijuana or don’t move on to other drugs. Marijuana has also been legalized in one form or another in almost half the states. The Legislature in Florida this spring legalized some uses of marijuana in certain medical circumstances, and a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana appears on this November’s election ballot.
The Tri-County Task Force is made up of members from Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, Palatka Police Department, St. Augustine Beach Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Arrests in Flagler County:
Lomack Bennett, 26, 4 Red Top Lane, Palm Coast.
Chad Blunt, 41, 17 Pine Crest Lane, Palm Coast; sale of cocaine, probation violation. Was last arrested in April on a failuer to appear charge.
Jessica Bomford, 40, 7 Pier Lane, Palm Coast; charged with sale of hydropmorphone, held on $25,000 bond. Was last arrested on an identical charge last year and a shoplifting charge, also in 2013.
Sloane Book, 25, of Palm Coast, charged with cocaine possession, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. Was last booked in 2009 on a probation violation charge.
Richard Brown, 29, 410 South Central Avenue, Flagler Beach, charged with marijuana possession, more than 20 grams, cocaine possession and drug paraphernalia possession. Held on $5,500 bond.
Beverly Diggs, 48, 72 Brockton Lane, Palm Coast, charged with cocaine sale. Held on $10,000 bond. Was booked at the Flagler County jail seven times previously, including twice last month and once in January.
Robert Frantz, 44, 4519 Walnut Avenue, Bunnell, charged with the sale of a schedule II substance. Was last jailed last year on a trespassing charge, and in 2008 on a failure to appear charge.
Mitchell Griffin, 40, of 502 S. Moore St., Bunnell. Booked in April on a possession of drug paraphernalia charge and selling a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school.
Lori Hays, 48, 4730 Mahogany Blvd., Bunnell, charged with the sale of a schedule II substance, released after posting bail on $10,000 bond.
Cecil Hubbert, Jr., 44, 409 S. Chapel St., Bunnell, charged with the sale of a Schedule II substance, held on $25,000 bail. He’s been booked at the jail 19 times since 2008.
Capers McClendon, 20, of 1103 Lincoln Street in Bunnell, charged with cocaine possession within 1,000 feet of a church. He’s been booked 15 times since 2008.
Vincent Pacifico, 24, 9 Evansmill Lane, Palm Coast, charged with cocaine sale, held on $10,000 bond.
John Rapicka, 42, 14 Beachway Drive, Palm Coast. Charges haven’t posted yet.
Jaron Robinson, 18, of Ryan Drive, Palm Coast, charged with cocaine sale, held on $10,000 bond.
Margaret Rockwell, 29, of 51 Belleaire Drive, Palm Coast, charged with marijuana sale, released on bond.
Bruce Scott, 55, 36 Penn Manor Lane in Palm Coast, charged with sale of a schedule II substance, released on bond.
Kimberly Scott, 45, 36 Penn Manor Lane in Palm Coast, charged with sale of a schedule II substance, released on bond.
Amanda Trombocco, no information available.
Chancey Watson, 30, of 45 Sederholm Path, Palm Coast, charged with cocaine possession with intent to sell, held on $100,000 bond. Was last booked last May on a probation violation charge.
Wayne Williams, 45, of 501 S. Cherry Street, Bunnell, charged with cocaine possession with intent to sell, held on $25,000 bond. Booked six times since 2009.