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Ex-deputy's sentence: 10 years

Sobbing uncontrollably Monday, former Pasco County civil deputy Gloria Mays pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, her fate sealed by the Miami vice squad.

In a Miami courtroom, Mays, 57, of Dade City said she was no drug dealer. But then she apologized and told Circuit Court Judge Pedro P. Echarte Jr. that she would accept a deal for five years less than the minimum 15-year sentence usually allowed by state guidelines.

Prosecutor Murad Agee said his department recognized that Mays has health problems and was truly sorry, so it allowed her a deal for less than the normal minimum.

"I'm not a cocaine trafficker," Mays sobbed as she stood before the judge. Then, she said, "I apologize to this court, the state. . . . I'm real sorry . . . I only have a few days left upon this earth."

Mays has told the court that she suffers from heart problems.

She bowed her head, weeping softly at first, then sobbing as the judge asked her a series of standard questions affirming her plea.

Echarte allowed Mays to go home with her family Monday so she can attend a grandchild's baptism in two weeks. He technically sentenced her to 30 years in prison but said that would automatically be reduced to the agreed-upon 10 years if she surrenders to prison officials by 9 a.m. March 26.

Outside the courtroom, Mays sobbed more and was mobbed by friends and family. Through her family, she declined to comment.

Her attorney, Scott Saul, had told Echarte that he had done all he could with Mays' case. The only alternative to a plea would be a trial, he said. Echarte warned Mays that any deal would be off the table once a trial started.

Agee said the state had a solid case, capturing Mays on audio and video tape as she delivered $19,000 for a kilogram, or about 2.2 pounds, of cocaine on Jan. 20, 2001, in a Miami McDonald's parking lot.

Agee never had to use the tapes he held in his hand during the hearing, but transcripts of police depositions in Mays' court file described an iron-clad case against her.

Mays, detectives said, was simply the victim of an informer who called police out of the blue, hoping for a cash reward for information. The informer got $400, detectives said.

Miami vice Detective Roberto Soler testified in a deposition that the tipster passed Soler's telephone number on to Mays, who called a day later.

"We had a brief conversation; we agreed on a price," Soler said.

Soler's partner, Detective Jorge Colina, said in his deposition that the police in Miami traced Mays right the first call. They learned that she was a civil deputy who served subpoenas for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, so they called detectives there. Mays, a 16-year Sheriff's Office veteran, resigned three months after her arrest.

"Pasco County detectives had advised that, apparently, she was someone whom they had suspected to be involved in drug transactions," Colina testified. "The information that they received was that on Saturdays she would travel down to Miami to purchase cocaine to take it back up there and deliver it to someone else."

Two days after Mays' first call, Soler and his partner met Mays about 9 a.m. in a predetermined McDonald's parking lot.

"We immediately made eye-to-eye contact and she walked toward me," Soler said.

They hugged in greeting. Colina said he thought it was weird the way Mays and the two with her, Joe Nathan Vaughn and Linda Scott, were so friendly.

"It wasn't kind of like an apprehensive type of thing," he said.

Soler and Colina said they showed Mays the cocaine, wrapped in plastic and hidden in a cooler in his trunk. She asked whether it was any good.

"We told her if she wanted to test it, and she said, no, that she didn't need to test it because she didn't do drugs," Soler said.

The deal done, Soler closed the trunk and walked away, the signal to waiting police. Officers swooped in and arrested Mays, Scott and Vaughn.

Vaughn, 50, was allowed to plead guilty to trafficking a lesser amount of cocaine because he was only a bit player, Agee said. He was sentenced to 2{ years in prison.

Charges against Scott, 47, were later dropped when investigators determined she was not part of the plot. In her deposition, she said she thought she was on a ride to visit a sick relative with Mays, her close friend.

"First of all, if I would have known that somebody was going to be that stupid to come down here and meet with somebody they never met before, I wouldn't have been in that car," Scott said. "That was the most stupidest thing I ever heard.

"You know what, we (are) blessed they were undercover, because if it had been somebody else, all of us could have gotten killed. Every last one of us could have gotten our heads blown off over some foolishness."

Agee said the case was one of the best-prepared cases he has ever prosecuted. Still, he said, seeing someone older and obviously ashamed at what they had done made sending Mays to prison difficult.

"We're all sympathetic," he said. "It's a tough situation."