PORT RICHEY — The Port Richey police officer who was arrested last week is the target of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation involving the illegal distribution of oxycodone, officials said Monday.
According to a DEA report, James Ruland, 33, met with an informer three times this year and agreed to sell more than 1,000 pills of the potent prescription drug. The meetings, which were audio recorded, happened while Ruland was on duty as a police sergeant, the DEA said.
The informer acted as an intermediary between Ruland and fictitious buyers. He went to Ruland's Spring Hill home on Thursday and gave him $5,000 as a down payment, with the promise of more money once the drugs were delivered to the buyers, the report said.
DEA officials said they saw the informer enter Ruland's garage and leave 15 minutes later with two bottles of oxycodone tablets.
Shortly after Ruland's arrest Friday night, he was fired from the Port Richey Police Department, where he had worked since 2001.
"We are in total shock," said Ann Prendergast, administrative assistant at the Port Richey Police Department, who was not aware of the details of the allegations. "He was an excellent officer, a very smart, intelligent man."
Ruland won the agency's Exceptional Service Award in 2006 for helping to track down a Colorado prisoner who escaped and had been on the lam for 35 years.
But there were also trouble spots on his record: In 2003, he was suspended for five days without pay after he took a police cruiser out of jurisdiction to investigate his girlfriend's purse being stolen at a New Port Richey nightclub. That same year, Ruland was accused of abusing his power by arresting a woman because she threw her identification in his face and yelled at him after he determined her car was improperly parked.
He was one of 12 full-time officers at the agency. A part-time officer has been reassigned to full-time duty to take his place, Lt. Don Young said.
Ruland remains at the Pinellas County Jail, where he is being held for U.S. marshals on unspecified charges. Jail records say Ruland has a tattoo that says "soldalto di Dio." The Italian phrase "soldato di Dio" means "soldier of God."