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Community mentors arrested on charges of selling cocaine

TAMPA — The directors of a community service group in east Tampa were arrested Thursday, accused of dealing cocaine in the same neighborhood where they mentored children and families.

The men told detectives they were selling the drugs to finance a new center for disadvantaged children, said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

Detectives investigated Michael Brown and Romey Battle over the course of three months, during which undercover officers purchased crack from the men several times, police said.

A search of three homes in April yielded 167 grams of cocaine, 83 grams of crack cocaine, $1,800 and two vehicles used in the sales, police said.

"They told detectives that they were selling the narcotics to raise money for disadvantaged kids in the neighborhood, which is inconsistent considering their criminal activity is one of the things that would put these kids at risk," McElroy said.

Battle, 36, of 3103 E 27th Ave., Tampa, and Brown, 34, of 6836 Dartmouth Hill St., Riverview, are charged with trafficking in cocaine and conspiracy.

Brown and Battle are still listed as the executive director and program director, respectively, of the Center for Urban Programs and Services in Tampa. State records show the organization is active, and a media report says a camp with local athletes was held last weekend.

However, both men are described as unemployed on arrest records, and they told detectives they had lost their jobs, McElroy said.

Attempts to contact the men were unsuccessful Thursday.

"The goal for the Center for Urban Programs is to create education, employment and housing opportunities for youth and their families," the Web site states.

Battle has previously worked for the Audrey Spotford Youth and Family Center in Tampa and is a longtime youth mentor. In 2007, he received a Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Award.

State records show Battle also registered Goal Line Sports Foundation in March, which works with high school athletes and coaches to build character.

The case is "disheartening," McElroy said, with a community role model's reputation sullied.

"Battle was trafficking cocaine in the very neighborhood where he was a role model for the kids and trying to help them make the right choices in their lives," she said.

Based on the police investigation, she does not believe Battle's illegal activities crossed into his work.

"During our investigation, he was not involved in selling drugs to kids," she said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Community mentors arrested on charges of selling cocaine 07/16/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 17, 2009 7:49am]
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