Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly this afternoon announced the results of the latest round-up of local drug dealers, some of them operating as family units, and the removal of a range of potentially lethal drugs from the streets. But he also cautioned that round-ups can only go so far without education and treatment.
The 11-month undercover operation started in January, culminating today with 24 search warrants and the seizure of drugs with a street value of $5.7 million. The round-up netted 18 arrests at the time of the sheriff’s announcement, out of 35 people sought. Heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, morphine, methamphetamines, marijuana and other drugs were among those seized, along with 13 firearms–seven of them rifles.
“These dealers have sold their poison near schools in some cases,” Staly said. “It was a family affair where we arrested two sons slash brothers and a father that were selling poison. In another family business, it was two brothers selling poison, and the list goes on.”
The sheriff said it’ll never be known how many lives were saved or spared overdoses, with the volume of drugs removed from circulation, but he said lives were saved.
The street-level sellers are all Flagler County residents. The drugs are not home-grown, but rather streaming in from Orlando, Palatka and Daytona Beach, and other states, according to the sheriff. Those arrested are “loosely” connected, the sheriff said, but not in an organizational way. There were no such dealers as “kingpins,” for example.
All but three of the suspects face a dealing charge in one way or another, including possession with intent to sell. The three others were arrested for possession only. Thirteen face charges that include possession or sale of fentanyl, the extremely potent drug causing an ongoing surge in overdose deaths. According to the Florida Medical Examiner Commission’s interim report for 2021, total drug-related deaths increased by 7 percent last year, including 4,140 opioid-related deaths, 3,235 of which were directly attributable to opioids.
The most frequently occurring drugs among those who died is fentanyl (3,210), exceeding those who died because of alcohol poisoning (3,132). Those numbers reflect the presence of the drug in the decedent, not necessarily the cause of death. When the cause can be attributed to a specific drug, those who died of fentanyl overdose totaled 2,920. For cocaine, it was 1,305, for meth, 962, for alcohol, 718.
The investigations are ongoing, with additional charges expected for some of the suspects, in some cases based on developments today. “Today as we were trying to apprehend one of the the suspects he fled from us in his vehicle, throwing drugs out of the vehicle,” Staly said, “and then he finally came to a stop and we found trafficking amounts of fentanyl inside his vehicle.”
Sheriff’s units involved included the undercover unit, the SWAT team, often used when serving warrants, the road patrol, Crime Scene Investigations, and detention and booking teams.
“I especially want to thank our community,” the sheriff said. “Many of the tips that we received came in from the community, because community neighbors, people living on streets, they know when something’s wrong in their neighborhood, and they call us with that information under our See Something, Say Something program. Sometimes it takes 11 months to make the cases, but today they get to see the results of those tips.”
The sheriff spoke with poster boards at his sides showing the suspects in grids (see below), and the word “arrested” below most of the mugshots. In a video shot before the news conference and issued after it, Staly is seen in the initial intake area for suspects, pasting an “arrested” sticker below the image of a particular individual. That 32-year-old Bunnell man was actually scheduled for docket sounding before County Judge Melissa Distler, on a misdemeanor charge of possessing drug paraphernalia. He now faces a felony charge of selling meth.
“I suggest that if your name is on this board, and it doesn’t say arrested under their name, you have two choices,” the sheriff said. You can call, us we’ll come pick you up. You can turn yourself in it the green roof inn,” the nickname he gives the county jail, “and I guess there is a third choice. You can continue to walk around looking over your shoulder and wondering when the deputy sheriff is going to snatch you off the street and put you in jail. So I would encourage you to turn yourself in if we haven’t gotten you yet.”
He reiterated a recurring warning: that all overdose deaths are initially investigated as homicides and can result in murder charges. Several such cases have resulted in convictions, almost always by plea deals.
Today’s announcement, in a press conference at the county courthouse, was the latest in such periodic roundups, going back decades. The sheriff dubbed it “Operation Santa’s Naughty Lil Sellers.” For all the tough talk, each such press conference is an implicit concession that the goal is still out of reach, that police and the judicial system are more in containment than victory mode, in a drug war that dates back almost 60 years, and with jails and prisons still filling with its prisoners.
“You’re not going to really put a major dent until we have a combination of enforcement, education and treatment,” Staly said. “And so that’s why we have the programs in our jail to try to treat people so that they don’t go back to this lifestyle. But we’re moving in the right direction. But it takes all three pieces for that to work. So probably right now it’s going to be a little bit harder to find your drugs if you’re a user, because people are going to be afraid to sell for a little while, and a lot of the dealers are now going to jail. But we know that this is an ongoing problem. We do the best that we can in the law enforcement side. But you really need to support all of those components to have a true to impact.”
In the past year Flagler County has, relative to previous year, seen a sharp infusion of addiction-treatment dollars and resources, including options for medically assisted treatment, but still no in-patient treatment in the county, with one, limited exception for young mothers. The jail, too, successfully landed a federal grant to expand its own drug-rehab program, which has been the only de facto in-patient program to date.
Operation Santa's Naughty lil Sellers suspect board
The judges will leave them out on bail by tomorrow to reopen by this weekend.
I wonder why the dark complected faces predominate in this line-up, given that about the same proportion of each ethnicity are users of drugs. In fact, I quote this passage from the National Library of Medicine: “A probability-based sample of 4,580 undergraduate students at a Midwestern research university completed a cross-sectional Web-based questionnaire that included demographic information and several substance use measures. Male students were generally more likely to report drug use and abuse than female students. Hispanic and White students were more likely to report drug use and abuse than Asian and African American students prior to coming to college and during college. The findings of the present study reveal several important racial/ethnic differences in drug use and abuse that need to be considered when developing collegiate drug prevention and intervention efforts.” So where should the finger of culpability really point to, one wonders. Might it not be time to decriminalize the entire enterprise and sell all substances under controlled and taxed conditions the same way as alcohol and nicotine.
You can’t “decriminalize” ALL drugs. We live in a society where, in general, we care about others. The same knucklehead parents that smoke in their cars with kids in the back seat or leave unlocked guns lying around the house would also leave their coke or fentanyl in reach of children and innocent kids wouldn’t stand a chance.
jOE sTOLFI says
Well Human .. ..
Perhaps you should look at Portugal .
And what that Country has accomplished .
It’s not perfect, but a lot better than this merry-go-round
of arrest . bail . street . lawyers . judges . probation . recidivism
Cops & Robbers . Is how I see the Drug War ..
Sadly, “somebodies” will step into their place
it’s the way the game works, cops & robbers .
The “War on Drugs” is over 50 years old,
only the “investors” win, losers get caught,
and go to J A I L, or maybe, lose their life in a bad deal ..
It’s past time the “War on Drugs” changes,
perhaps the USA will take a look at Portugal
and follow their example ..
Then again, what will happen to the game ? .. Cops & Robbers
Good job. I counted a lot African Americans in the photo shoot. Come on my colored people, please use your time more wisely. We know we are a target because of our color. We as a people should not give society a reason to arrest us. We have always been a target, that will not change. Commit the crime do the time. Commit no crime and wisely use your time. More people of color locked up, what a shame. Good job sheriff department, good job.
It was the Night before Christmas, and all thru Bunnell
Santa’s Naughty Lil Sellers where wishing they could Sell
But Old Staley Scrouge had put them in their cage
Told them all will face Felonies because of their Age
Ho Ho Ho
Cheyenne Donaldson says
Hats off to all the hard work and dedication to the safety and well being of our community and a safer healthier future for our community. Thank you to all those involved in the never-ending task of detoxifying our community and getting the drugs and dealers off the streets. But let’s not forget that ALL are INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY and I personally know for fact that 2 individuals plastered on this poster of alleged poison peddlers Are not guilty of what they have been labeled or charged as! Defamation of character sheriff staly! You are dragging innocent people’s names and reputation through the mud and causing damage that will forever leave scars of distaste even long after their innocence is proven and their allegations dismissed due to lack thereof of evidence proving they are criminals. Being in possession and dealing drugs are 2 totally different things and being publicly labeled and or charged or accused of either without due cause or proof beyond reasonable doubt is not just slander but life altering with zero chance of reform thereafter! Like publicly labeling someone as a child rapist when reality ends up being that a 18yr old boy had a consensual 17year old girlfriend and they had consensual sexual relations only for the parents of the girl to later find out and turn his life and future into hell by lying and labeling because they didn’t like the reality of their daughter becoming a sexually active woman. I hope you are getting the point I am so desperately attempting to make.
The Sheriff, like others in this state rely on open public records laws to showboat. His voters enjoy the suffering of “bad guys” regardless if there may be non-dealers caught up in parading human beings on mugshots. It’s reflected at the polls. Our state’s public record laws allow for this behavior to cultivate within law enforcement. It helps Sheriff’s consolidate power at the unfortunate expense of those later proven innocent. I’m all for keeping dealers off the street but like you, I agree the ones who are later proven innocent will have their mugs out there on display as they navigate through life. After court dates, the Sheriff won’t be holding a public meeting and displaying a mugshot of innocence for anyone who has been falsely charged. Public records laws need to be changed at the sate level before any behaviors change at the local law enforcement level. Until then, the next episode of the the Green Roof Inn show is too tempting for him to pass up.
Strangely enough not a single Latin or Hispanic name appears after our Governor and his party blame these folks for all of America’s drug problems, especially fentanyl.
Fed up w/ the BS says
Sounds like Flagler Counties version of the French Connection case, however when you did into the details basically a lot of smoke with very little fire. Great for a headline and a few snappy catch phrases.
What I don’t get is this was a 13 month investigation on “STREET LEVEL” dealers ? 13 months ? We’re they dealing on the street the whole time ?
The charts note large seizures from where ? In Flagler County ? Or from outside like Daytona or Orlando?
On a last note, if the investigation is still ongoing why they hell did the Sheriff feel it necessary to have a press conference, wouldn’t that have a serious impact on future suspects, suppliers, smugglers, etc ?
If the overwhelming demand for drugs in your Town was not present there would be a whole lot less need for all this. I mean it’s better than nothing and good job but when users want substances someone will step in to sell it. Supply/Demand
Keep the Faith
Two cent says
Drug use stems from poverty and untreated mental health issues. These left to fester wear away at the soul of man and his society.
This show of force will not move the needle. Arrest people when they are violent or violate property rights, otherwise leave them alone to live their lives as they see fit in a free society.
I am anti drug as it stands in the way of each person’s potential and self fulfillment. But I don’t believe it helps to punish humans for their choices that affect only themselves. That sort of self righteousness leads to bloated police departments endlessly harassing the public. And that should be unacceptable to the politically conservative.
juanita jones says
looks like there’s a few snitches in that mix.
No tax stamp equals prison.