TAMPA — Narcotics officers made more than three dozen arrests early Wednesday, capping a five-month investigation of two drug trafficking organizations and four cells across the state.
Among those charged was Tampa Bay Storm offensive lineman Kenyatta Jones, 29, who detectives monitored arranging a drug buy from a dealer, a Tampa police spokeswoman said.
Officials said detectives had arrested 41 people Wednesday and expected that number to rise to include 70. They seized 16 kilograms of powder cocaine valued at up to $240,000, 25 pounds of marijuana, 100 grams of crack cocaine, 16 firearms, 23 vehicles and $239,000 in cash.
Dubbed the "34th Street Initiative," the roundup was prompted by citizen complaints in neighborhoods near Hillsborough Avenue and 34th Street and in North Boulevard Homes, a public housing project.
Detectives said they learned the drug sales were backed by the same suppliers and launched the massive investigation, which involved officers from Tampa and Plant City, Lee, Pasco and Hillsborough counties, as well as federal authorities.
Police have identified Francisco Pecina, 34, of Gibsonton, Michael Jones Jr., 35, of Riverview and Elliott Walden Jr., 27, of Tampa as the suppliers in the operation. All three men are currently in jail.
Kenyatta Jones, a former University of South Florida player who joined the Storm after playing in the NFL for New England and Washington, turned himself in around 4 p.m., according to jail records.
Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said officers overheard him arranging to buy from one of the dealers, then watched him as he purchased less than a gram of cocaine and less then a gram of marijuana.
"He was not a significant player in the investigation," McElroy said.
Jones, who has one year left on his Storm contract, has had other run-ins with the law.
In March, he was arrested after police said he attempted to urinate on the dance floor at a Tampa nightclub. While in the NFL in 2003, he was accused of scalding a roommate with hot water. Jones pleaded innocent to charges associated with the incident, but according to the Washington Post, "received a year's probation from a Massachusetts court." A month after the incident, the New England Patriots, whom he had previously been a starter for, released him.
Storm spokesman Jim Robinson, had this to say:
"We are very concerned because these are serious accusations. We'll gather information and let the legal process work its way out, and comment after we have more information."
Wednesday's roundup began at 3 a.m. and continued all day. Investigators were searching for 27 other people late Wednesday. They will face charges that include racketeering and felony drug trafficking of cocaine.
The drugs have come from Mexico, Texas, Atlanta and Lee County, though the main source is unknown, police said.
At a news conference announcing the arrests, Tampa narcotics commander Capt. Hugh Miller said more than 65 officers spent about 40,000 hours tracking the suspects.
"This was a homegrown effort and each of our partners had a very significant part," he said.
Staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report. Eric Smithers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3339.