Thursday, January 18, 2018
Public safety

Feds indict 31 people in Pasco oxycodone ring

NEW PORT RICHEY — Last November, the alleged bosses of two prescription drug rings, shipping tens of thousands of oxycodone pills from Florida to Tennessee and Kentucky, were arrested after a two-year investigation.

On Friday, their suspected crews joined them.

U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announced the unsealing of two federal indictments charging 31 people with conspiring to possess oxycodone with intent to distribute. If convicted, his office says, each person could face up to 20 years in prison. Nearly 20 of the suspects were in custody, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said Friday afternoon. The remaining were being sought.

"Pasco County is sending the message: We will not tolerate this," Nocco said.

The case has been investigated by the Sheriff's Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The suspects indicted Friday obtained pills by doctor shopping and paying others for their pills, the DEA said. Assistant special agent in charge James F. DiCaprio said many of the suspects are addicts themselves. In Florida, oxycodone can be bought on the street for $10 a pill, but in Tennessee and Kentucky, they sell for $25-$35 a pill.

"When you mix greed with addiction, it's a very, very bad combination," he said.

The first indictment charges Pasco County residents Brittney Beason, 23; James Bellows, 32; Chris Buchan, 43; Michael Desimone, 23; Heather Garmany, 29; Tim Grace, 27; Jenny Hernandez, 21; Chris Jackson, 21; Mark Lapham, 22; Paul Parker, 43; Karl Polek, 22; Nicole Proctor, 23; Tamara Short, 21; and Scott Vitiello*, 36. According to the indictment, from sometime in 2009 until the present, these individuals were involved in oxycodone trafficking between Florida and Tennessee.

A separate indictment charges Pasco County residents Anthony Maddox, 29; Beverly Gamble, 52; Anthony Freeman, 44; Alex Carraher, 35; Amanda Rizzo, 22; David Ziegel, 21; Heather Janes, 30; Danial Cronkite, 29; Nicholas Baker, 22; Paul Beaupre, 26; Robin Crosson-Palmer, 42; Heidi Chamblee, 48; Kelly Jo Teffner, 44; Michael Castles, 51; Jillian Whitmore, 26; Jo Ann Whitmore, 46; and Hernando County resident Ryan Lutz, 37. From sometime in 2009 until the present, these individuals were allegedly involved in oxycodone trafficking between Florida and Kentucky.

Pasco sheriff's Sgt. William Davis of the agency's pharmaceutical unit said he believes the investigations are working.

"We are making a difference," Davis said. He said he expects more arrests.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.

* Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect a correction. Scott Vitiello's name was misspelled.

Comments
‘All I see is fire’: 911 calls released from Florida casino boat fire

‘All I see is fire’: 911 calls released from Florida casino boat fire

PORT RICHEY — The first call came into emergency dispatch at 4 p.m. on Sunday from shore, reporting a ‘giant’ boat on fire in the Pithlachascotee River."It’s urgent," the caller said.Others followed quickly, one woman crying as she described from her...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Gibsonton man faces 50 counts of child porn

Gibsonton man faces 50 counts of child porn

GIBSONTON — A 46-year-old man was arrested Wednesday by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents on 50 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of promoting a sexual performance by a child.Authorities said they received several tip...
Updated: 6 hours ago

He still has nightmares: Deckhand recalls prior casino boat fire

Cory Byrd said he still has nightmares about the smoke. In them, he is back in the cabin of the Express Shuttle II, scrambling to reach the white rectangle of an open door. The smoke was so thick, he said, you could barely see an outstretched hand. ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff, feds announce changes to controversial immigrant detention policy

Pinellas sheriff, feds announce changes to controversial immigrant detention policy

LARGO — For years, county sheriffs in the United States have faced a quandary when asked by federal officials to hold undocumented immigrants in their local jails. They could continue to hold them for up to two days past the time they were legally fr...
Updated: 7 hours ago
McDonald’s manager gets ovation at Seminole Heights investigation ceremony

McDonald’s manager gets ovation at Seminole Heights investigation ceremony

TAMPA — Delanda Walker, the McDonald’s employee who gave police the tip that led to an arrest in the Seminole Heights slayings, received a standing ovation Wednesday during a ceremony thanking citizens who helped in the investigation.Mayor Bob Buckho...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Casino company set to sail again Thursday after deadly boat fire

Casino company set to sail again Thursday after deadly boat fire

PORT RICHEY — Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz said it plans to reopen on Thursday and resume shuttling passengers back out to its gambling vessel in the Gulf of Mexico three days after a boat fire forced 50 passengers and crew to abandon ship.The 72-foot...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Man robbed while responding to Craigslist sex ad

Man robbed while responding to Craigslist sex ad

HOLIDAY — A man responding to a Craiglist ad for sex was instead robbed by the boyfriend of the woman he was meeting, sheriff’s deputies said. Robert Roser, 39, of Holiday claimed he was part of a police sting operation before taking $60 and two blue...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Teen, 14, arrested on charges of bringing loaded gun to Plant City High School

PLANT CITY — A 14-year-old high school student was accused of bringing a loaded gun to campus on Tuesday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies arrested the boy after 3 p.m. at Plant City High School after administrators foun...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Plant City family attacked, robbed during early-morning home invasion

PLANT CITY — A 63-year-old woman was unloading items from her car when two men forced her into home at gun-point and threatened to kill her and her family, according to Plant City police. The woman arrived to her home on the 2700 block of Barrett Ave...
Published: 01/17/18
Deputies release name of homicide victim in Tampa’s Grant Park neighborhood

Deputies release name of homicide victim in Tampa’s Grant Park neighborhood

Hillsborough County deputies are conducting a homicide investigation after a man was found dead in the Grant Park area of Tampa late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning.Deputies say 22-year-old Elijah Moore’s was found in the 3700 block of Carroway St...
Published: 01/17/18