Drug sweep snares 2 Pasco deputies

WESLEY CHAPEL — Two Pasco County Sheriff's Office deputies will be in court today to face federal drug charges.

Deputies Rodney Philon, 38, of Wesley Chapel and Donald Riggans, 34, of New Port Richey were among four suspects arrested Sunday after an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Tampa police and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Riggans, a road patrol deputy, was arrested by DEA agents when he reported for work at 6:30 a.m., while Philon, a jail deputy, was arrested after a nearly six-hour standoff with authorities at his home.

A woman and Philon's daughter were also in the home.

Pasco Sheriff Bob White said that deputies never believed the two were in danger but that the deputy "was weighing his options and stalling."

Both deputies were fired immediately, White said.

"We're not going to tolerate corruption in our ranks," White said at a hastily called news conference outside the gates of the Wesley Pointe subdivision where Philon lives with his wife and daughter. "We will root it out where we find it."

Riggans, Kevin Massimino, 32, of Tampa and Robert Caddick, 41, of Oviedo were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute hydrocodone, an addictive painkiller. Philon faces charges of conspiracy to distribute steroids, according to the Sheriff's Office.

They were all booked into the Orient Road Jail in Hillsborough County and are being held without bail.

White said investigators have been working on the case for about three weeks. In one case, Riggans received $9,000 in cash from Massimino for his help, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Neither federal prosecutors nor the Sheriff's Office would comment on the scope of the operations or on the possibility of additional targets. Steven Cole, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, said more details about the investigation would be revealed during the suspects' court appearances today.

The personnel files of Philon and Riggans at the Sheriff's Office should also be made available today, Sheriff's Office spokesman Doug Tobin said. Philon had worked at the department since December 1998. Riggans started in April 1999.

The arrests of Riggans and Philon came as a shock to their colleagues and, particularly, to Philon's neighbors in the 28000 block of Seashell Court. Many of them got a disturbing wakeup call on Sunday morning.

Additional deputies descended on Philon's gated community about 6 a.m. after he refused to come out of his home and surrender to authorities. A woman answered the door when deputies arrived at the home, but she told them Philon was not there, Tobin said.

Realizing that Philon had guns inside his home and concerned for the safety of the woman, the Sheriff's Office enlisted the assistance of the SWAT team about 9:10 a.m.. Authorities later determined that Philon's daughter also was in the home.

Next-door neighbor Jammie Popolillo said he overheard deputies trying to coax Philon out of the home for several hours.

"They were just saying stuff like, 'Rodney, come out and let's talk. We're part of the same team,' " Popolillo said. "I wanted to leave the house, but officers had told us to stay inside."

Some neighbors were evacuated from their homes at 11 a.m. Negotiations with Philon went on for almost another hour before he surrendered peacefully, Tobin said.

"We're happy this ended without anyone getting hurt or injured," Tobin said.

No one answered the door at Philon's home Sunday afternoon, and a message left on his cell phone was not immediately returned. Contact information for Riggans wasn't immediately available.

Neighbors in Wesley Pointe tried to reconcile the friendly deputy that some called "Deebo" after the cartoonishly muscle-bound character in the movie Friday with the man taken away in shackles.

"I'm just shocked," said Gini Ruggiero, whose children often play with Philon's daughter. "You would never expect something like this from the parent of a daughter who is that well-behaved."

Popolillo said: "I wish all the best for Rod. He was always so polite and friendly."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Drug sweep snares 2 Pasco deputies 03/16/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 12:39pm]

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