SHALIMAR, Fla., May 30, 2018–The Okaloosa Count Sheriff’s Office today outlined a 10-month undercover investigation that led to 15 drug-related arrests and seizure of more than $7 million in drugs.
Dubbed “Operation PayDirt,” law enforcement is calling this the largest seizure of heroin and fentanyl in Okaloosa County’s history.
“You’re not safe if you’re a drug dealer in Okaloosa County,” said Sheriff Larry Ashley during a morning news conference. Law enforcement “will be looking for you.”
The investigation began in August 2017 and led to the execution of two search warrants in February this year at two Crestview locations.
The first search at 118 Lake Street served as a stash house for the drug operation, according to Ashley.
Arrested was Jamaal Shaheed Hunt, 35, a convicted felon from Fort Walton Beach. He was found with drugs and a Tec 9 handgun in his possession at the time of the warrant execution.
The search uncovered 3.5 kilograms of heroin equal to more than 35,000 doses with a street value of about $900,000; 1 kilogram or about 766 grams of fentanyl equal to more than 300,000 doses with a street value of approximately $6 million.
One milligram of fentanyl equals one dose. It takes only 2 milligrams to trigger an overdose, the sheriff said.
“That’s enough fentanyl to kill 150,000 people in overdoses,” Ashley said. “That’s almost the entire population of Okaloosa County. That’s a lot of poison that was taken off the streets.”
Also recovered was a pill press and “hundreds of diet pills.”
“We believe they were planning to press the fentanyl into those diet pills,” he said.
Included in the seizure was 45 grams of MDMA, also known as “Molly,” a loaded Tec 9 handgun and miscellaneous drug paraphernalia.
The search warrant executed at the second location at 698 McDonald Street yielded 1 kilogram of cocaine with a street value of approximately $100,000, multiple ounces of heroin valued between $10,000-20,000, two loaded handguns, marijuana and miscellaneous drug paraphernalia.
Arrested was Kevin Lamonte Powell Jr., 33, a convicted felon from Fort Walton Beach and considered the ringleader of the drug operation.
Powell is charged with trafficking in heroin and trafficking in cocaine among other charges.
Other major players in the drug trafficking operation are:
- Keithen Marttey Brown, 40, of Crestview
- Gill McGee Jr., 29, of Crestview
- Aaron Shermaine Johnson, 33, of Fort Walton Beach
- Anthony D. Porter, 45, of Mary Esther
Another nine individuals face charges ranging from possession of a controlled substance to illegal use of a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony.
The majority of those arrested were apprehended on the same day. All suspects are Okaloosa County residents.
The sheriff’s office was assisted by the Florida State Attorney’s Office, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Fort Walton Beach Police Department and Crestview Police Department.
Okaloosa County drug problem
In 2017, there were 125 overdoses resulting in 25 deaths attributed to heroin and fentanyl, according to Ashley.
So far this year, there are a suspected 21 heroin overdoses and three deaths, he said.
“Okaloosa County is tied with West Palm Beach County as having the most heroin overdoses in the state of Florida,” Ashley said. “We wanted to do something about the folks poisoning our community.”
Since the February search warrants, overdoses have dropped due to Operation PayDirt, according to the sheriff.
“Drugs are not a victimless crime,” Ashley said. “Men, women and children are enslaved to addiction or they die from overdoses. Families are torn apart because parents can’t parent while high.”
Area emergency rooms are full of patients related to addiction withdrawal and numerous health complaints, he said.
“Drug addiction affects everyone in a tangential way,” Ashley said.
Staff and OCSO release