Friday, January 19, 2018
Public safety

Deputies make three arrests during synthetic drug bust in High Point

LARGO — Detectives arrested three people Tuesday morning accused of purchasing and selling synthetic drugs out of a convenience store near Largo.

Pinellas County sheriff's deputies executed a search warrant at the High Point Food Mart at 6201 150th Ave N in unincorporated Pinellas County about 11 a.m. Tuesday after an investigation revealed synthetic marijuana was being sold from the store.

Since 2012, the Sheriff's Office has distributed 634 letters to businesses about the state ban on synthetic drugs. The High Point Food Mart has received eight letters, officials said.

But between Jan. 29 and March 16, the store sold the drugs on four occasions to undercover detectives, the Sheriff's Office said. And just before the search warrant was executed Tuesday morning, an undercover detective again purchased the drugs from the store.

Deputies arrested the store owner, Nageswara Rao Chapalamadugu, 54, of Feather Sound east of Largo, as well as store clerk Edward Earl Watkins, 50, of Bradenton. They each face charges of sale and possession of a controlled substance.

While detectives were at the store Tuesday, they also arrested customer Kenneth Gene Clark, 60, of Largo, who had just purchased a synthetic drug package, the Sheriff's Office said. Clark faces a charge of possession of a controlled substance.

Detectives recovered thousands of synthetic drug packets from the store Tuesday, the Sheriff's Office said.

The men were taken to the Pinellas County jail for booking.

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