TAMPA — Mickey Lemons, the alleged boss of an interstate burglary ring who has been on the lam since April, was arrested Thursday, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The investigation was dubbed "Operation Alabama Slammer" by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and began in July 2009, when Pasco Sheriff Bob White saw some suspicious people hauling lawn equipment late at night. That arrest, authorities said, led to an eight-month investigation with the Sheriff's Office, federal Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies that mapped out a $1.5 million burglary ring with cases throughout the Tampa Bay area and Alabama.
At a news conference in April, the Sheriff's Office announced the federal indictments of 12 men accused of stealing everything from leaf blowers, lawn trimmers, pickups, Bobcat tractors, racing boats, high-end lawn mowers and prescription drugs and driving them to Alabama for sale.
Lemons was at the top of the chart. And he was in the wind.
He told people "he is not going to go quietly," White said in April. Lemons, now 42, has served three stints in prison — totaling 5 1/2 years — for numerous convictions of burglary, grand theft and trafficking in stolen property, as well as aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.
Until his capture Thursday, Lemons was considered armed and dangerous.
The group liked to target "mom-and-pop" pharmacies, authorities said, by cutting the power lines outside the businesses before smashing their way inside with crowbars. They stole oxycodone, morphine, methadone, amphetamines, hydrocodone, Viagra and high blood pressure medication, according to the federal indictment.
Fifty of the thefts were in Pasco, 48 in Hernando and 12 others scattered in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
Information about Lemons' arrest — and where he is being held — was not immediately available from the U.S. Attorney's Office. A release from the agency said Lemons is charged with conspiring to commit burglaries that resulted in the interstate transportation of stolen vehicles and items valued over $5,000, and with pharmacy burglaries that resulted in the possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
The agency said all of Lemons' co-defendants were arrested on the same indictment and have pleaded guilty. The co-defendants have either been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing, the release states.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.