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Saturday, Sep 20, 2014
Crime & Courts

Pasco, Pinellas team for warrant sweep

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NEW PORT RICHEY — A massive law enforcement sweep resulted in 302 arrests this week as agencies from Pasco and Pinellas counties teamed up to serve hundreds of outstanding misdemeanor and felony warrants on charges that ran the gamut from aggravated assault with a deadly weapon to grand theft to providing false information to a pawn broker.

In the process, officers reported confiscating weapons and drugs, shutting down a website that may have been used to market synthetic drugs commonly referred to as spice, and putting hundreds of wanted people behind bars.

“Pasco and Pinellas are going to be better off this week,” Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said at a Friday morning news conference. “We are going to be much safer.”

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said criminals pay no attention to jurisdictional boundaries, and they are now put on notice that law enforcement isn’t hampered by those boundaries, either.

“We are going to go after them; we are going to find them, and we are going to put them in jail,” Gualtieri said.

The two-day sweep, dubbed “Operation Cold Justice,” involved more than 150 law enforcement officers from 10 agencies. In addition to the two sheriff’s offices, the other agencies were the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, the state’s Probation and Parole office, and police departments from Zephyrhills, Dade City, New Port Richey, Port Richey and Tarpon Springs.

The operation, which took place Tuesday and Wednesday, has been in the planning stages about a month, and none of the 339 warrants served were more than six months old, said Sgt. Dan Olds of Pasco’s fugitive warrants division. The number of arrests “showed it was pretty successful,” he said.

“The cooperation and the teamwork was electric,” Olds said.

Some items confiscated during the sweep, including 16 rifles, 12 handguns and dozens of packages of spice, were displayed on a table during a morning news conference at the Pasco sheriff’s office in New Port Richey.

All of the guns, along with a grenade that was not displayed, came from one location when David Anthony Schneider, 47, of 3017 Anata Drive in Zephyrhills, was arrested on charges related to operating a marijuana grow house, said Detective Michael Loss of the Pasco sheriff’s office.

When asked why he had so many guns, Schneider reportedly told the officers he was a gun collector, something that Nocco scoffed at, saying people involved “in the drug game” have guns because it’s a violent business or because they are selling the weapons on the street.

“The fact that this guy says he collects guns, that’s ridiculous,” Nocco said.

One person arrested, Georges Momejian, 37, of 16501 Harper Pond Lane, Odessa, was shipping packages of spice to Egypt, his arrest report stated. Law enforcement officials said they shut down a website Momejian was using, possibly to take orders. He faces charges of possession of a controlled substance.

Spice is sometimes referred to as “synthetic marijuana,” but Gualtieri said that name is a dangerous misnomer because it leads people to believe the substance has effects similar to marijuana. In truth, Gualtieri said, spice has chemical compounds that can cause people to become violent and its use can result in death.

“It’s poison is what it really is,” he said.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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