A closet and safe under a 64-year-old grandmother’s bed in a senior complex in St. Petersburg are not the typical spots where police find a cache of illegal dope and guns.
But that’s what a federal task force found in December when it dismantled a drug-trafficking organization and arrested 11 suspects, including nine from the Sunshine City, records say.
Now, recent court documents reveal how the organization used the Viridian, a senior housing complex with 188 units on Third Avenue South, as a stash house for the drugs and guns.
Officers accused Ahmad Rashad Weston, 42, of leading the ring, saying he often worked with his brother Charleston Shellie Long, 38, and their mother Serena Weston, 64, from inside her apartment on the seventh floor.
After a 10-month investigation with wiretaps and surveillance, St. Petersburg officers and agents from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives served search warrants in December.
Investigators seized seven pounds of marijuana, four handguns and numerous magazines and bullets from the senior complex, St. Petersburg Det. Jessica Sullivan wrote in court records. Two of the guns were stolen in earlier heists, Sullivan added. When officers served the search warrant, Weston opened her door holding a small child.
“It’s a lie,” Serena Weston told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday about the allegations. “That’s a lot of lies there. That is not the truth.”
She has not faced any charges. Officials in Viridian’s leasing office declined to comment Wednesday. St. Petersburg Police spokesperson Sandra Bentil said the department disagrees with Serena Weston’s “claims and plans to continue with the complaint for forfeiture as filed."
Throughout a 10-month investigation, Ahmad Weston and Long visited their mother’s apartment on an “almost daily basis” to “store narcotics and large sums of money” with the her “full knowledge and assistance” that they were “selling drugs” from the residence, Sullivan wrote in the forfeiture affidavit.
Unknown to the 11 suspects and Serena Weston, police were using federal wiretaps to intercept phone calls when several ring members discussed drugs and guns in the apartment.
On July 23, investigators overheard Weston and Long discuss heroin and a black safe inside their mother’s apartment, according to a search warrant application. Weston asked Long, “Yo, where the safe at?” Long replied: “Mama done put that up under the bed.”
In another intercepted phone call, Serena Weston was recorded “setting up a narcotics transaction," according to the forfeiture affidavit.
On Sept. 5 call, police overheard the men discuss taking $34,000 from the safe to buy a kilogram of cocaine. Undercover officers watched the sale. The men again talked on a later call about the drugs being in the apartment, records show.
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Sullivan recently filed a forfeiture complaint to seize a 2005 Hyundai, a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu and a 2015 Infiniti Q70. The cars, according to the complaint, were used to transport drugs across Pinellas County.
Ahmad Weston and Long are in the Pinellas County Jail awaiting a trial on federal charges.