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State drops charges against 2 in major pill mill case

BROOKSVILLE — Charges were dropped Monday against the owners of a pharmacy central to the biggest prescription drug crackdown in Hernando County history, although prosecutors say new charges against the men may be imminent.

Before the counts were dropped at the last minute, Olubode Olatunji, a 50-year-old Lutz man, and Kehinde Olayisade, a 49-year-old from Tampa, had been scheduled for trial before Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr. on Monday morning.

The original arrests last October, authorities say, stemmed from a nine-month undercover operation conducted by deputies. Prosecutor Michael Conageski said those charges alone may not fully encompass Olatunji and Olayisade's role in the trafficking operation.

New information gleaned from the nearly 100 arrests since the beginning of the sheriff's investigation last fall paints a clearer picture of their involvement in ways the original charges did not, he said.

"There's information being gathered that wasn't originally available when we filed charges," he said.

On June 30, deputies in Hernando and Pasco counties arrested nearly 40 people connected to the case, and investigators have learned new details about the pharmacy as recently as last week.

The State Attorney's Office filed a motion to continue the cases last week because of the new information, but Merritt denied it. Conageski said the State Attorney's Office may refile the charges in the coming weeks or may file different charges that better address the pair's full involvement.

Each man had been charged with three counts of trafficking in oxycodone and one count of conspiracy to traffic oxycodone. The two owned and operated Glory Pharmacy on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill. When the pharmacy was raided — dubbed "Operation Glory Daze" by deputies — sheriff's officials celebrated it as a major victory against pill mills and the illegal sale of prescription drugs.

Conageski said the cases against two other central figures, Peter Barone and Larry Wilson Sr., have not been affected by Monday's decision.

The defense attorneys for the two men noted that they would file motions against any new charges filed.

"I wouldn't be shocked if they tried to find something else," said Michael D. Kenny, a Port Richey attorney who represents Olayisade.

Tampa-based lawyer Dale Sisco, who represents Olatunji, also acknowledged that the state might file new charges, but he was happy to see the current ones dropped.

"This isn't the case the state thought it was when they arrested my client," Sisco said, implying that he believed the state had a weak case against Olatunji.

Staff writer John Woodrow Cox contributed to this report. Melvin Backman can be reached at mbackman@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

State drops charges against 2 in major pill mill case 07/18/11 [Last modified: Monday, July 18, 2011 11:57pm]
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