Sunday, February 25, 2018
Public safety

Fourteen arrested in connection to Pinellas drug trafficking operation

Since the crackdown on prescription drugs dwindled the number of operating pill mills and overdose deaths in Pinellas County, authorities are now seeing a resurgence in an older, familiar drug: heroin.

The number of heroin cases processed at the Pinellas County forensics lab doubled during the first six months of this year. The medical examiner's office has also reported three overdose deaths caused by heroin, compared with four reported all of last year.

"There's been a real upsurge," Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a news conference Monday. "The reason we're seeing a lot more heroin is this problem is an addiction problem. And as long as there is an addiction, people are going to seek the drugs."

Gualtieri announced Monday the results of a three-month investigation that dismantled a drug trafficking ring investigators believe pumped heroin and cocaine onto the streets of Pinellas County.

In all, 14 people, including some living in Puerto Rico and Arizona, were arrested. Detectives also seized 46 ounces of heroin, 23 ounces of cocaine, 14 guns and nearly $90,000 in cash.

The investigation began in April, Gualtieri said, when undercover detectives purchased cocaine and heroin from Ebenezer Jimenez, 32, of Seminole.

Their investigation of Jimenez led them to Pedro Maisonet-Gonzalez, 40, of Pinellas Park, accused of selling about 2 to 3 ounces of heroin and 5 to 7 pounds of cocaine a month.

With help from his girlfriend, Isabel Jasso, Maisonet-Gonzalez traveled to Puerto Rico every month to purchase narcotics and then shipped them back to Pinellas County through the postal service, Gualtieri said.

He also bought guns and would then ship them to Puerto Rico to be sold illegally.

Maisonet-Gonzalez distributed drugs to about seven people who sold the cocaine and heroin in Pinellas County, including in strip clubs such as Baby Dolls on U.S. 19 and Treasure Chest on Park Boulevard, officials said.

Investigators identified three higher-level drug distributors, including Jorge Perez-Diaz of Puerto Rico, accused of shipping drugs to his mother, Maribel Diaz-Ortiz, 54, of Tampa, who distributed them locally, including to Maisonet-Gonzalez.

By wiretapping four telephone numbers, detectives linked 17 people to the operation. Three remain at large.

Those arrested face drug charges, including conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and heroin.

The investigation involved several agencies, including the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157. On Twitter: @lauracmorel.

Comments
Pasco deputies: New Port Richey man shot during home invasion

Pasco deputies: New Port Richey man shot during home invasion

A New Port Richey man was in critical condition on Sunday after being shot during a home invasion that the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said may be drug related.Detectives say a call was received at 2:22 a.m. Sunday that the resident at 4429 Tidal P...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Students, parents make emotional return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus

Students, parents make emotional return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus

Liam Kiernan’s first stop when he reentered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time on Sunday afternoon was the band room. The 15-year-old took his dad to the closet where he hid during the shooting."I walked in and showed him, that’s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hit-and-run driver in fatal accident sought by law enforcement

Hit-and-run driver in fatal accident sought by law enforcement

A hit-and-run crash has left a Tampa man dead, his female passenger in critical condition and law enforcement in search of the man who was driving the vehicle that struck them from behind.A Nissan Sentra was traveling north in the inside lane of U.S....
Updated: 4 hours ago
Troopers: Bradenton man dies after falling through hole in RV

Troopers: Bradenton man dies after falling through hole in RV

A Bradenton man died on Interstate 75 in Sumter County on Sunday after falling through a hole that opened in the cabin of a recreational vehicle when it collided with a guardrail, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The man, whose name was not im...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Riverview woman dies in Friday car crash

A woman died Friday when her car collided with another vehicle on U.S. 301 in Riverview, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Melanie Hoitt, 38, of Riverview was driving a Nissan Altima north on U.S. 301 approaching Southern Pointe Boulevard short...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Deputies: Plant City man stabbed to death during argument Saturday

Deputies: Plant City man stabbed to death during argument Saturday

PLANT CITY — A man died Saturday night after he was stabbed inside his home by a neighbor, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Moses Wilson, 49, got into an argument with James Michael Meeks, 23, both of whom live at 4308 James L. R...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Caller told FBI Florida shooting suspect ‘going to explode’

Caller told FBI Florida shooting suspect ‘going to explode’

WASHINGTON — A woman close to the man charged with killing 17 people at a Florida high school warned the FBI in chilling detail that he had a growing collection of guns and a temper so uncontrollable she worried about him "getting into a school and j...
Updated: 8 hours ago
‘Filled with rage’: How a scrawny misfit turned into Florida’s worst school shooter

‘Filled with rage’: How a scrawny misfit turned into Florida’s worst school shooter

He was chronically depressed, beguiled by firearms and violence, an oddball ostracized by peers and prone to angry outbursts.He experienced, in rapid succession, blows of the sort that can send a disturbed, isolated young man hurtling into a spiral o...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

Police: Man, 60, arrested for fleeing from fatal Largo pedestrian crash

LARGO — A 60-year-old man who police said was the driver in a fatal pedestrian hit-and-run on East Bay Drive from three days prior was arrested by Largo Police on Saturday, the department said.Victor Bonavita was arrested on three charges in relation...
Published: 02/24/18
Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

Sheriff: Roads reopen after Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

TAMPA — Officials reopened roads near Citrus Park Mall Saturday evening that had been closed in the afternoon for a natural gas leak caused by a car crash, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said. The Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Fi...
Published: 02/24/18