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Arrests, overdoses linked to Pinellas ‘drug houses,’ deputies say

A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office’s drug investigation resulted in 32 arrests and the agency said more are to come.
Pinellas detectives said they traced 30 fatal overdoses over the course of two months to three homes in Lealman.
Pinellas detectives said they traced 30 fatal overdoses over the course of two months to three homes in Lealman. [ Photo illustration by ASHLEY DYE and DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Apr. 15
Updated Apr. 16

LEALMAN — Three so-called “drug houses” were raided Wednesday and dozens were arrested after a months-long investigation, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. More arrests are still to come.

The Sheriff’s Office said those three homes are linked to 165 overdoses over the course of December 2020 and January 2021. The agency originally said drugs from the houses “contributed” to the overdoses. However, an agency spokeswoman, Sgt. Jessica Mackesy, clarified that assertion on Friday. She said detectives cannot say with certainty that drugs bought from those houses caused all 165 overdoses.

Detectives say 35 people face 69 charges in connection with the three locations, all within a half-mile of each other in unincorporated Pinellas. They arrested 16 of those on Wednesday when they raided the three homes with search warrants, according to the Sheriff’s Office; one other suspect was already in custody in another case. Deputies said they arrested an additional 15 people during those raids.

A total of 32 were arrested Wednesday on charges such as: operating a drug house; trafficking in fentanyl and armed trafficking in fentanyl; selling, delivering or possessing drugs including heroin, fentanyl, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana; petit theft; tampering with evidence; being a felon in possession of a firearm; and selling or delivering a firearm with an altered serial number.

The Sheriff’s Office said it is pursuing arrest warrants for the remaining 18 subjects left from the original 35 people identified in the investigation.

Three of those arrested live in one of the three homes targeted: 2768 Grove Park Ave. N, Unit 1; 2524 50th Ave. N; and 4819 Haines Road N. All are located near 54th Avenue N and Haines Road N, north of St. Petersburg.

Detectives began investigating drug sales in the area in October 2020 and honed in on those houses during the investigation, deputies said.

One of the addresses, 2768 Grove Park Ave. N, was not home to anyone arrested Wednesday.

None of those arrested were registered as owners of the homes, according to property records. The owner of the 50th Avenue N house, where two of those arrested live, said Thursday that he hadn’t heard about the drug investigation and declined to comment. The owner of the Haines Road N house could not be reached for comment.

One person arrested Wednesday was already in custody for failing to appear in court in another case, a sheriff’s spokesman said. The 31 others were taken to the Pinellas County jail.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with a clarification from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office about the overdoses. The agency also corrected the address of one of the homes.