Undercover Investigation Leads to Multiple Gun and Drug Charges

By: U.S. DOJ Press Release; Julie Montanaro Email
By: U.S. DOJ Press Release; Julie Montanaro Email

Tallahassee, FL -- December 9, 2011 - Noon -

A crackdown on a drug trade in a Tallahassee neighborhood has netted more than a dozen arrests for drugs, guns and more.

The feds yesterday described the corridor along Alabama Street as one of the city's worst open-air drug markets.

The US Attorney announced Thursday that ten people had been indicted of federal drug and weapon charges and four more were looking at charges in state court. We've knocked on many doors this morning. We spoke with a couple who has lived here for more than 40 years. They are relieved and say the increased police presence in their neighborhood has made a difference. We spoke with another young man, however he says he doesn't think this crackdown will make a difference at all and soon as things calm down, there will be another drug dealer stepping up to take the place of those who were arrested.

There is a sense of fear out here. A lot of folks say they simply don't go out after dark and don't let their children out either. Time will tell if this crackdown will make a lasting change in the Alabama Street corridor.


Tallahassee, FL -- December 8, 2011 --

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, the State Attorney’s Office, and multiple law enforcement agencies announced eight federal indictments were unsealed today in federal court, charging ten separate defendants with federal firearm and narcotics violations. Four additional defendants were arrested by state authorities on charges related to armed robbery, illegal firearm possession, and drug distribution. The federal and state charges follow a six-month undercover investigation targeting open-air drug distribution along Tallahassee’s Alabama Street corridor referred to as “Operation See Change.”

The United States Attorney’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, the Tallahassee Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement initiated “Operation See Change” in July 2011.

“It is our mission to ensure that the residents of Alabama Street feel safe in their own neighborhood, and today we have taken the first steps,” said U.S. Attorney Pamela C. Marsh. “We will not rest until we rid Tallahassee neighborhoods of this criminal element. I am also proud of our federal, state and local partners for their tireless efforts in helping to make this operation a success. There is nothing more important than giving these community members the peace of mind they deserve.”

Relying on current crime data and statistics, “Operation See Change” focused on the city’s worst open-air drug market. Working undercover, detectives from the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and the Tallahassee Police Department made strong cases against drug dealers – many of whom had long criminal histories of violence. These violent dealers were arrested this morning and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“It’s a crying shame that our residents have to lock their doors and windows to stay safe,” said State Attorney Willie Meggs. “It is time to take the bars off our windows and put the criminals behind them. I applaud all our law enforcement partners for their hard work in keeping our communities safe.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office called on the neighborhoods surrounding the Alabama Street corridor and numerous community service organizations, asking for help in sustaining these efforts to rid the neighborhood of the open-air drug dealing and keeping this community safe. Several individuals, who were documented as involved in certain criminal dealings, will be offered opportunities to work with these community organizations, get involved in productive activities, and change their lifestyles. U.S. Attorney Marsh emphasized that this second chance should not be considered immunity: “These individuals will get a second chance, supported and watched by the community and law enforcement, but if they squander this opportunity to change their lifestyles, they will not be offered a third chance.” She also added, “Whether these drug market participants take responsibility or not, the drug market along the Alabama Street corridor is closed, for good.”

"The success of Operation See Change is the result of continued interagency cooperation at the federal, state and local levels," said Ralph P. Martinez, Resident Agent in Charge, ATF Tallahassee Field Office. "Collectively removing violent individuals who prey on citizens and destroy families with their illicit trade, not only makes our neighbourhoods safe – it makes the larger community safer, as well."

"The combination of drugs and violence can destroy communities such as those in Tallahassee's Alabama Street corridor,” said Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division. “Operation See Change brought together the DEA with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to take these drug dealers off the streets and put them in jail."

The goal of the operation was to return the neighborhoods along the Alabama Street corridor back to the residents and property owners.

“This operation exemplifies the dedication that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies participate in and we are proud to serve our community in this way,” said Sheriff Larry Campbell.

There remains a great deal of work to do. Removing the worst-of-the-worst will allow law enforcement to shut this drug market down for good, while also making Griffin Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods a safe, positive place to live and grow up. However, the success of this operation is incumbent upon the support of the whole community.

"We are proud to be working in conjunction with our law enforcement partners to remove these dangerous criminals from our neighborhoods,” said Tallahassee Police Chief Dennis Jones. “I applaud the efforts of all those involved in the operation and thank the community for its help.”

Following numerous arrests this morning, initial appearances for many of the federally indicted defendants will be held in United States District Court, Tallahassee, Florida, on December 9, 2011.

"This collaborative effort demonstrates the commitment of our law enforcement agencies to keeping our streets safe," said Commissioner Gerald Bailey. "Today's announcement is a testament to the teamwork demonstrated by all involved."

U.S. Attorney Marsh emphasized that an indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason R. Coody is prosecuting the federal cases for the United States.

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