Monday, December 11, 2017
Public safety

More than a dozen arrests result from Hillsborough synthetic marijuana raid

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office warned retailers months ago to stop selling synthetic marijuana.

A letter sent to area businesses in March offered owners the chance to turn over inventory of the drug to the Sheriff's Office before it became illegal to possess.

But not everyone cooperated.

On Friday, undercover officers in the sheriff's Special Investigations Division along with agents of the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco raided 10 convenience stores and arrested 15 people for selling the designer drug, said Tom Feeney, commander of the Special Investigations Division.

Officers confiscated nearly a half-million dollars in drugs.

"There were a number of these stores, despite our warnings, that continued to act as though they were impervious to our law enforcement efforts," Feeney said.

The drugs, sold under labels such as K-2 and Spice, are marketed as incense or plant food.

The drugs have been linked to convulsions, tremors and deadly overdoses.

"This is no different than cocaine, no different than heroin, no different than PCP," Feeney said. "And nobody ... has any earthly idea what long term effect this drug is going to have on kids in this community."

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi launched a crusade against synthetic drugs in 2011, first issuing an emergency rule outlawing so-called "bath salts" that mimic cocaine or amphetamine.

This year, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that expanded the number of chemical compounds banned.

Still, it can be hard for prosecutors to prove wrongdoing in court because as more chemicals are outlawed, manufacturers tweak the formulas to get new, legal versions.

None of the drugs confiscated in Friday's haul had been tested yet, Feeney said. But those arrested were charged under the Federal Analog Act, which states that any chemical "substantially similar" to a controlled substance be treated as one, if intended for human consumption.

"It's uncharted territory," Feeney said. "We've got to test those laws and we've got to set a precedent."

And this won't be the end of arrests, Feeney said.

"Our efforts don't stop here," he said. "We are going to vigorously investigate any and all complaints."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.

Comments
Father of Seminole Heights victim repairing damage after vandals hit son’s memorial

Father of Seminole Heights victim repairing damage after vandals hit son’s memorial

Weeks after burying his son Anthony Naiboa, one of four people gunned down over the span of 51 days in Seminole Heights, Casimar Naiboa has a new and unwanted ritual.He drives past a makeshift memorial his family made for his son, set up where Anthon...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Bomb strapped to man explodes in New York subway; 3 hurt

Bomb strapped to man explodes in New York subway; 3 hurt

NEW YORK — A man inspired by the Islamic State group set off a crude pipe bomb strapped to his body Monday in a crowded subway corridor near Times Square, injuring the man, slightly wounding three others and sending New York commuters fleeing in terr...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lakewood High on lockout after report of weapon on campus

Lakewood High on lockout after report of weapon on campus

Lakewood High in St. Petersburg was placed on lockdown Monday morning following reports of a weapon on campus, but the threat was later downgraded and the school was placed in lockout status instead. St. Petersburg Police spokeswoman Sandra Bentil s...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tree trimmer shocked by power line in Clearwater, authorities say

Tree trimmer shocked by power line in Clearwater, authorities say

CLEARWATER — A 38-year-old tree trimmer was shocked by a power line Monday, according to Clearwater Fire & Rescue.The trimmer was taken by helicopter to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg after the incident, which occurred just before 11 a.m. at 1309 Mil...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Space heater may have sparked fire that destroyed St. Petersburg home

ST. PETERSBURG — A space heater may have sparked a fire that destroyed a home in St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon.St. Petersburg fire officials say the fire occurred some time before 3 p.m. at 1225 21st St. S.According to St. Petersburg Fire Rescue...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Firefighters brace for second week of California wildfires

Firefighters brace for second week of California wildfires

LOS ANGELES — As Southern California enters its second week engulfed in flames, fire officials anticipate more growth and danger due to continued strong wind gusts, no rain and decades-old dry vegetation. A powerful flare-up on the western edge of th...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Reasons elusive as Pinellas EMS demand skyrockets

Reasons elusive as Pinellas EMS demand skyrockets

When the fire chief asked if anyone in the room had fallen before, a few in the gray- and white-haired crowd raised their hands. One woman lost her footing as she was answering the phone. Another saw a palmetto bug, sprayed it with repellent, then s...
Updated: 9 hours ago
‘What I am detained for?’ Comedian Hannibal Buress arrested in Miami

‘What I am detained for?’ Comedian Hannibal Buress arrested in Miami

Popular comedian Hannibal Buress was arrested Saturday night in Wynwood on a disorderly intoxication charge after an encounter with a police officer.Buress, 34, was booked into a Miami-Dade jail at 1:57 a.m. Sunday and posted bail just before 6 a.m.,...
Published: 12/10/17
Florida Uber driver charged with sexual assault of passenger

Florida Uber driver charged with sexual assault of passenger

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A Florida Uber driver is facing charges that he sexually assaulted a drunken passenger.The Orlando Sentinel reports that 38-year-old Jorge Alberto Antunez Quintero was charged this week with sexual battery after an investigation ...
Published: 12/09/17
Florida man accused of killing Ollie the pit bull faces 17 counts of animal cruelty

Florida man accused of killing Ollie the pit bull faces 17 counts of animal cruelty

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — The Florida man accused in the brutal stabbing death of a pit bull named Ollie is facing 17 counts of aggravated animal cruelty — one for each of 16 deep stab wounds and one for trapping the dog inside a suitcase.Prosecutors filed f...
Published: 12/09/17