It's time to put a proven law enforcement executive with Sheriff's Office experience back in the Office Of Sheriff
December 03, 2019
Tampa Bay Times
Polk County Sheriff’s deputies had a “happy Thanksgiving” last Thursday, Sheriff Grady Judd said — not because the turkey and gravy were particularly good, but because it marked the end of a months-long drug operation that concluded with the largest heroin seizure in the agency’s history.
A news conference Monday also gave Judd a chance to tie the operation to a swath of political planks, as he took aim at undocumented immigration, California’s legal system and advocates of drug decriminalization.
The sting, dubbed Operation Trifecta, spanned nearly eight months, four states and six arrests, Judd said. Over the course of it, law enforcement officials seized 137 pounds of meth and, in two separate Thanksgiving Day busts, five kilos — about 10 pounds — of heroin.
The drugs had a total street value of about $9.5 million, Judd estimated.
“This is a huge amount of drugs when we’re used to seeing it by grams, by hits,” he said. “And we know how dangerous heroin is of its own nature, and then along the way it gets cut with fentanyl."
He said an operation like this should cast shame on advocates of drug decriminalization — even though that advocacy typically focuses on the consumption of drugs, not sales.
“I’d love to tell you how many lives our detectives saved,” he added later. “I can’t.”
The drugs weren’t making their way through central Florida when deputies seized them, though. Undercover deputies instead built relationships with the accused drug traffickers in California, Illinois and Texas, Judd said, and convinced them that they could build pipelines in this part of the state. Then, when the drugs made their way to Florida, the arrests began.
Undercover deputies arranged purchases of about 40 pounds of meth from California between April and July, Judd said, in one case flying to Los Angeles to make a deal. Then in August, Polk deputies went back to California, where along with local agencies they arrested two accused traffickers and seized another 100 pounds of meth.
Judd said both men arrested in California, Albaro Armando Carillo Jr. and Jose Juan Tafolla-Navarrete, were undocumented immigrants. Throughout the news conference, he used their status to advocate for tighter borders, saying that "why in the world we accept people coming across this border from other countries to prey on and commit crime against innocent people is beyond me.”
He also said Tafolla-Navarrete has been released from jail in California on bail and that neither of the men has been reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“California’s a trainwreck," he said. "If you want to see how not to deal with criminals, go to California.”
Around the same time period, he said, undercover deputies connected with accused heroin traffickers in Houston and Chicago. In early November, deputies said they bought a kilo of heroin from Julio Cesar Don Juan, of Houston. They arranged for him and his brother, Rene Don Juan-Gonzalez, to deliver another 1.25 kilos on Thanksgiving. Judd said deputies met them at a Walmart in North Lakeland and arrested them. They both face heroin trafficking charges.
Earlier that day, Judd said, deputies also arrested Francisco Reyna-Duran and Susana Salgado-Solis, who they said traveled from Chicago to deliver 3.25 kilos of heroin. Judd said Salgado-Solis’ two young children made the trip with her and are now in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. Reyna-Duran and Salgado-Solis face heroin trafficking charges, and Salgado-Solis faces a charge of negligent child abuse.
The Sheriff’s Office does not expect to make any more arrests under this investigation, Judd said. The accused traffickers were not all connected, he said — deputies believe the California, Chicago and Houston pairs were unknown to each other — and they don’t seem to have other pipelines established in central Florida.
Maybe, Judd suggested, the accused traffickers felt like the deals were a sure thing because they didn’t expect police to work on Thanksgiving.
“We ate turkey, too,” he said. “Just later that day.”
August 10, 2018
Public outraged at sheriff’s refusal to sign school resource officer contract
After multiple requests, Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast finally spoke about his refusal to sign a three-way contract for the funding of school resource officers.
Prendergast says he will not sign the contract because he does not agree with the auditing of SRO funds and claims the contract is illegal.
The contract, which was obtained by the citrus Gazette, states that the county commission and school board must split any additional funding. However, Prendergast says all additional funding must be used for the SRO program.
The public has chastised Prendergast, stating that he must be hiding something if he refuses to be audited. Prendergast denies those claims.
Commissioners said that Prendergast is the first sheriff ever to refuse to sign the contract.
Citrus County Commissioner Ron Kitchen said it doesn’t seem right to potentially put deputies out of a job just because Prendergast refuses to tell taxpayers what is being spent.
Commissioners say that the sheriff’s refusal to sign could end the SRO program.
Now, the school district will move forward to create the Citrus County School District Police Department. Officials said it is getting closer to reality every day.
Prendergast said he will send a deputy to each school on August 13, which is now required by law, but he refuses to sign the contract.
The $2.4 million contract was signed this week by both the county commission and school board. The contract requires the sheriff to provide a resource officer in every school and three additional sergeants.
The public should also know that the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office refused to allow multiple media outlets into Thursday’s press conference.
Many Citrus County residents are outraged.
Mark Dobleman wrote, “What a total load of BS, nice political try to turn it around but you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar !!!! Step down and let a real L.E.O. take charge, one who is a law officer & not a politician !!!!”
Brad Hollingsworth wrote, “Time for a recall election. Don’t ever forget that you’re a public servant and you work for us. Your statements are on record and in the paper. You’re trying to avoid an audit of funds. You’re no better than most of the elected officials out there. They seem to think that they are a ruling class as well. This faux apology and passing of the buck is too little too late.”
December 10, 2019
Citrus County Chronicle
Letter to the Editor
The Citrus County sheriff recently said about his “Operation Coin Loss” that “By and large, overwhelmingly, the citizens of our community do not want illegal drug trafficking to take place in Citrus County.”
If in fact this is the focus of the operation, why did I not see more trafficking charges on the defendants? I could only locate one trafficking charge on 30 arrests. These arrests were nothing more than users selling personal use to addicts/abusers.
Trafficking is a charge for those moving/distributing large quantities (pounds or kilos) of illegal drugs not those just selling small amounts (grams or ounces) for personal usage.
As a former narcotics detective and commander from the 49th largest sheriffs office in the nation, I’ve commanded many of these operations and know they are a very expensive (taxpayer dollars) on manpower and resources. In my opinion, they make good headlines, but make little impact on the distribution of drugs within our community. These mass arrests of users are ineffective and a careless use the investigative manpower of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office.