PORT RICHEY — The mayor of this small coastal city spent years smoking crack cocaine on a nightly basis and used methamphetamine, too, according to court records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.
Dale Massad paid runners to bring him illegal drugs, the records show, and acted as the personal doctor for his pals, suturing their injuries on his kitchen table — all while he held elected office.
Those records also reveal what launched the investigation that led to Massad’s arrest on Feb. 21 and his subsequent resignation as mayor:
Port Richey City Manager Vincent Lupo and Police Chief Gerard DeCanio reached out to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement last year with reports that Massad was engaged in corruption, drug use and practicing medicine without a license inside his home. Massad had lost his medical license in 1992 over the death of a 3-year-old patient.
Massad, 68, faces charges of practicing medicine without a license and attempted murder — the result of Massad firing his gun toward SWAT deputies as they raided his house during the medical investigation, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.
“He’s lucky he’s not dead,” Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco declared at a news conference the day of Massad’s arrest. The sheriff called Massad a violent drug user and said he kept several weapons in his home, hence the use of a SWAT team.
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A charge of conspiracy was later added because authorities say Massad was recorded in a March 3 jail phone call plotting with acting mayor Terry Rowe to intimidate a police officer involved in the medical investigation. Rowe was arrested on March 14, making him the second Port Richey mayor to be arrested in a span of 20 days. (Rowe was suspended by the governor but has not resigned, leaving Port Richey city government paralyzed.)
Massad's defense attorneys have maintained their client is innocent.
One of the lawyers, Bjorn Brunvand, told the Times that sources who spoke to state agents in the records are not necessarily credible. Brunvand said people should assess where the information came from, rather than attack Massad's character.
"We have to be very, very careful about how much weight we give to those individuals," he said. State agents interviewed friends and associates of Massad, records show. They detailed how Massad, who was elected mayor in October 2015, bought and used illegal drugs:
Massad and his friends liked crystal methamphetamine — a concentrated form of meth — a man named Corey White told investigators on Sept. 27, records show. They called it “jet fuel.”
White said he had known Massad for years and lived in an apartment attached to the mayor's home from about Christmas 2017 to the end of April 2018, according to records. He told agents he had purchased drugs for Massad about 60 times.
That included once near the end of Massad's first term as mayor, he told law enforcement, when Massad had to work on a construction project and called White to buy him some meth that morning.
White said he paid $100 for the drug and delivered it to Massad, records say. He said the mayor handed him a $100 bill in return.
He said he saw Massad smoke and eat meth, records show. Sometimes, Massad would crush the drug up, form a line of it on his counter and snort it before going out to golf, White told agents.
White said the mayor also smoked crack cocaine on a nightly basis while he lived with him, records show, and White told agents he also bought that drug for Massad, sometimes up to five nights a week.
Massad usually went into his bedroom to use drugs because he was afraid of the cameras in his home, records show.
The mayor preferred using a crack pipe made of glass, White said, but sometimes Massad used one he had made himself by cutting up the shaft of a golf club, according to records.
Massad never did any of his "dirty work" for himself, an acquaintance named Colton McKinley told agents on Sept. 26, according to the records. Instead, the mayor would arrange for others to buy drugs for him “so he can stay out of trouble,” McKinley told the agents.
Another man who said he had lived with Massad last year, Daniel Tatum, told investigators that the mayor would trade him the hormone testosterone for meth or marijuana, records show.
Brunvand, the attorney, said any potential drug use by Massad would be irrelevant to the charges against him.
White and Tatum described watching and receiving medical treatment from Massad inside his Port Richey home, according to court records.
White told investigators he watched Massad on Aug. 24 stitch up a cut on a friend's leg, records say. Massad injected that person with an anesthetic and sutured his wound on top of the mayor’s kitchen table, White told investigators.
Another witness to that incident, Joseph Zaffuto Jr., told investigators that Massad told those present that the medical procedure “did not occur,” records show.
Brunvand declined to comment on whether that incident happened. But even if it did, he said, "I'm not concerned about it."
He said the alleged situation did not amount to practicing medicine without a license. And, he said, White may have a pending case that Massad is a witness in.
White said Massad removed a “fish spine” from his back and also injected his shoulder with cortisone, a steroid that can relieve inflammation, according to records. But the records do not explain how the injury occurred.
Tatum told agents Massad injected him with testosterone on one or two occasions, records show, then Tatum said Massad taught his girlfriend Caj Joseph how to inject the hormone. But the mayor supplied the testosterone, Tatum told agents.
White once told someone that Massad “was like a neighborhood doctor who would treat people with anything medically wrong, and he would sew up people if needed and dispense medications from his houses,” according to a witness statement.
State agents said they learned that Massad had been ordering prescription medicines online as well. Lupo told the agents that Massad described to him how he would give medications away to people so they could save money. Brunvand had no comment on that incident.
The city manager and police chief first spoke to state agents on Aug. 15. DeCanio told the agents that officers received a tip on April 19, 2018, that a suspect in a separate case had bragged about the drug deals she conducted at Massad's home, according to the records. The chief told agents that every member of that Port Richey City Council had received at least one call from residents asking what’s being done about Massad’s behavior.
DeCanio also told agents that, during a visit to the mayor’s house, he saw a scalpel on Massad's counter. Massad told the chief that he “was just helping some people out that couldn't afford medical insurance.”
Contact Justin Trombly at [email protected] Follow @JustinTrombly. Contact Rebecca Woolington at [email protected] Follow @rwoolington. Contact C.T. Bowen at [email protected] or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2.