Sheriff Knight Releases Results of Operation Spring Smack Down

NEWS RELEASE #: 17-089
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Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight today released the results of "Operation Spring Smack Down," an enforcement campaign targeted at combatting opiate use, abuse and addiction, throughout Sarasota County.

The agency used its Intelligence to Action (I2A) method of intelligence-led policing to identify areas in Sarasota, Venice, Nokomis, Englewood, and North Port most susceptible to narcotic sales and accompanying criminal behavior. From March 1 to 31, detectives worked to address opiate trends, patterns and hot-spots, and worked to locate individuals wanted in connection with drug crimes. In all, 28 people were arrested on 95 total charges. The arrest history of the suspects includes a combined 332 prior felony charges and 267 prior misdemeanor charges.

As a result of the operation, detectives recovered a shotgun, mask and gloves, during a traffic stop involving Hayden Litz, a convicted felon with prior arrests in both Sarasota and Manatee counties. Another noteworthy arrest was Finesse Lagler, charged with Child Neglect, after detectives watched her boyfriend inject her with a syringe as a 3-year-old child in her care walked dangerously close to traffic. During an investigation that ran concurrent to the operation, detectives seized dozens of pills presumed to be oxycodone but after testing, were determined to be fentanyl in a pill form.

The operation was conducted in response to the national heroin "epidemic", as identified by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Due to its accessibility, cost and high purity, heroin has become an attractive alternative to users of pharmaceutical opioid drugs. According to the CDC, between 2000 and 2015, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths in the U.S. has more than quadrupled and in 2015, resulted in the death of more than 13,000 people across the country. The CDC also reports that 45% of people who use heroin are also addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.

In terms of the local impact, since January 1, 2017, the sheriff's office has investigated 71 heroin-related overdoses to include 14 deaths. In the month of March alone, deputies responded to 32 overdoses compared to only 10 during the same time period in 2016. Overdoses can be attributed to the increasing potency of the drug which is frequently mixed with fentanyl, a drug approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

The sheriff's office is using this opportunity to warn the public of the growing issue and to look for the telltale signs of opioid overdoses. Accompanied by slow, shallow breathing, a weak pulse, and extreme drowsiness, the difference between life and death can be only seconds. The agency is re-issuing a public service announcement which was initially launched in 2015, to encourage citizens to call 911 immediately if they believe someone may be experiencing an overdose. Officials are also reminding citizens about the consequences of continued intravenous heroin use which can expose users to serious, long-term viral infections including HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and several bacterial infections which can affect the skin, bloodstream and heart.

Recognized as one of the first agencies in the state of Florida to provide deputies with Naloxone, an opiate reversal medication, deputies are equipped with a tool that can help reverse the effects of an overdose. To take things a step further, under the leadership of Sheriff Tom Knight, the Sarasota County Jail offers inmates addiction recovery services and Vivitirol, a prescription medicine used to treat opioid dependence, coupled with extensive drug therapy, during and after incarceration. The sheriff's office also continues to engage with local advocacy groups, medical professionals and non-profits to educate the public about the dangers of heroin.

"This epidemic is not to be taken lightly and something the public should be fully aware of and educated on," said Sheriff Tom Knight. "While we aren't seeing nearly the same numbers as other parts of the country, 32 overdoses in only 31 days is startling to say the least. The public should know that operations like these are conducted as part of a multi-faceted approach to combatting this nationwide problem. This isn't something we can arrest our way out of however, through enforcement, prevention, education and treatment, we can work together as a community, to make an impact. The public should stay vigilant and understand the signs and symptoms of opiate use, abuse and overdoses, so we can put an end to what's killing people in our community every day."

As a result of the 31-day operation, the following individuals were arrested:

Paul Mangual, DOB 06/22/79, of 4451 E. 6th Avenue, Bradenton, is charged with Possession of Heroin, Tampering with Evidence and Possession of Narcotics Equipment. He was released March 10 on $3,500 bond.

Justin Eastman, DOB 01/17/80, of 3040 Ashton Road, Sarasota, is charged with Possession of Xanax, Possession of Narcotic Equipment and Violation of Probation. He remains in custody without bond.

Adrianna Watson, DOB 10/01/79, of 4434 Persian Lane, North Port, is charged with Possession of Heroin, Possession of Morphine Sulfate and Possession of Narcotic Equipment. She was released March 15 on $3,500 bond.

Finesse Lagler, DOB 07/22/87, of 785 N. Osprey Point Avenue, Sarasota, is charged with Possession of Hydromorphone, Possession of Narcotic Equipment, Tampering with Evidence, and Child Neglect without Great Bodily Harm. She was released March 21 on $28,500 bond.

Michael Bodiker, DOB 09/11/81, of 785 N. Osprey Point Avenue, Sarasota is charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance without a Prescription and Possession of Narcotic Equipment. He remains in custody on $25,500 bond.

Tasha Gruerio, DOB 10/07/86, of 7352 Phillips Street, Sarasota, is charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance without a Prescription and Driving While License Suspended. She was released March 21 on $1,620 bond.

Travis Gadd, DOB 12/14/84, of 4852 Greenleaf Road, Sarasota, is charged with Possession of Heroin, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Marijuana Under 20 Grams, Possession of a Harmful Drug without a Prescription and Possession of Narcotic Equipment. He was released April 2 on $4,120 bond.

Mark Suiter, DOB 04/14/73, of 5540 E. 42nd Street, Bradenton, is charged with Driving While License Suspended, Fleeing to Elude, Possession of Methamphetamine and Possession of Narcotic Equipment. He remains in custody on $22,000 bond.

Kyler Blessitt, DOB 01/06/96, of 2933 Novus Street, Sarasota, is charged with Possession of Narcotic Equipment. He was released on his own recognizance on March 30.

Hayden Litz, DOB 03/06/94, of 12215 Britt Road, Parrish, is charged with Fleeing to Elude, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Cocaine, Possession of Clonazepam, Possession of Marijuana Under 20 Grams, Possession of Narcotic Equipment, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, Possession of Ammo by a Convicted Felon, Resisting without Violence, Reckless Driving while Fleeing Law Enforcement, and Violation of Probation. He remains in custody without bond.

Jeffrey Blair, DOB 09/12/67, of 4011 Nelson Avenue, Sarasota, is charged with Unlawful Possession of Identification. He was released March 24 on $500 bond.

Kirsten Davis, DOB 03/22/72, of 3702 Radnor Place, Sarasota, is charged with Possession of Hydromorphone and Possession of Narcotic Equipment. She was released March 25 on $2,000 bond.

Matthew Carter, DOB 10/10/72, of 3702 Radnor Place, Sarasota, is charged with Possession of Narcotic Equipment. He remains in custody with a revoked bond from an arrest in February for Possession of Methamphetamine.

Sheila Perry, DOB 12/18/81, of 4908 Silk Oak Drive, Sarasota, is charged with two counts of Possession of Narcotic Equipment and Tampering with Evidence. She was released March 24 on $2,000 bond.

Whittni Hostetler, DOB 12/15/94, of 4239 Linwood Street, Sarasota, is charged with Possession of Heroin and Driving While License Suspended. She remains in custody on $5,500 bond.

James Lawson Jr., DOB 04/18/91, of 802 Forest Street, Nokomis, is charged with two counts of Sale of Cocaine and Possession of Crack Cocaine. He was released March 27 on $16,500 bond.

Ashley Queen, DOB 08/13/86, of 1220 S. Venice Blvd., Venice, is charged with three counts of Sale of Rock Cocaine, Sale of a Controlled Substance and Unlawful Use of Two-Way Communication Device to Facilitate a Felony. She was released March 28 on $31,500 bond.

Joseph Guarnieri III, DOB 08/28/76, of 110 Colonial Lane, Nokomis, is charged with Sale of Adderall Within 1,000 Feet of a Convenience Store, Unlawful Use of Two-Way Communication Device to Facilitate a Felony and Violation of Probation. He remains in custody on $20,000 bond.

Natasha Ekleberry, DOB 04/17/88, of 452 Briarwood Road, Venice, is charged with two counts of Principle to Sale of Methamphetamine Within 1,000 Feet of a Convenience Store, Principle to Sale of Methamphetamine and Unlawful Use of Two-Way Communication Device to Facilitate a Felony. She remains in custody on $49,000 bond.

Mathew Huffman, DOB 05/29/89, of 91 Colombia Street, Venice, is charged with two counts of Sale of Methamphetamine, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Heroin with Intent to Sell, Possession of Narcotic Equipment, and Unlawful Use of Two-Way Communication Device to Facilitate a Felony. He remains in custody on $26,000 bond.

Richard Pirro, DOB 09/07/88, of 300 Auora Road, Venice, is charged with three counts of Sale of Methamphetamine Within 1,000 Feet of a Convenience Store, Principle to Sale of Methamphetamine and Unlawful Use of Two-Way Communication Device to Facilitate a Felony. He remains in custody on $51,500 bond.

Donald Dycus, DOB 04/13/50, of 1758 Rita Street, Sarasota, is charged with two counts of Sale of Hydromorphone. He remains in custody on $30,000 bond.

Joseph Taylor, DOB 05/20/84, of 85 Cedar Street, Englewood, is charged with Sale of Hydromorphone Within 1,000 Feet of a Park. He remains in custody on $15,000 bond.

Marlena Anthony, DOB 01/12/94, of 6188 Pan American Blvd., North Port, is charged with two counts of Sale of Methamphetamine and Unlawful Use of Two-Way Communication Device to Facilitate a Felony. She remains in custody on $115,000.

Lindsay Wendell, DOB 11/13/89, of 6974 Jarvis Road, Sarasota, is charged with Fleeing to Elude, Driving While License Suspended and Violation of Probation. She was released March 30 on $8,000 bond.

Wayne Boron, DOB 08/18/90, of 925 River Road, Venice, is charged with Driving While License Suspended. He was released March 29 on $120 bond.

Kenneth Atkins, DOB 04/02/82, of 4502 S. Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota, is charged with Possession of Narcotic Equipment. He was released March 30 on $500 bond.

Nathan Andrews, DOB 11/21/76, of 112176 Southwest 8th Place, Cape Coral, is charged with four counts of Sale of Methamphetamine and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device to Facilitate a Felony. He is currently in custody at the Charlotte County Jail awaiting transfer to Sarasota County.

Katherine Doherty, DOB 10/21/89, of 120 Sunnyside Drive, Venice, is charged with two counts of Sale of Methamphetamine and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device to Facilitate a Felony. She remains at large.

Angela Gaudioso, DOB 07/19/90, of 85 Cedar Street, Englewood, is charged with two counts of Sale of Controlled Substance Within 1,000 Feet of a Park and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device to Facilitate a Felony. She remains at large.