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Local News

Ten More Suspects Arrested in Ongoing Escambia Co. Drug Probe

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Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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It’s being called the largest methamphetamine bust in Escambia County history. “Operation Brick House” was led by the county Sheriff’s Office and involved a number of law enforcement agencies.

Sheriff David Morgan says the undercover operation dates back to 2012, investigating a group of people he says are responsible for distributing significant amounts various drugs.

“Over 500 grams of heroin, approximately three pounds of crystal methamphetamine, $40,000 in cash, 100 grams of cocaine and/or crack and various prescription pills were found,” said Morgan. “The street value of the drugs seized is a half million dollars. “

The bust represents what Morgan calls a “major dent” in illegal drug distribution in Escambia County by his office, the DEA and other agencies– adding that the criminal operation was a family affair.

“Law enforcement officials identified Alfred Hayes as the head of a local drug distribution network,” Morgan said. “Our investigation also identified some of his family members as key players in their illegal operation – Alfred Hayes’ cousin Lonnie Hayes and his nephews Eric and Marcus Stallworth were involved in the distribution of the drugs.”

Search warrants were served on six different locations on May 8 – Mother’s Day. The ten arrests bring the total in the four-year investigation to 148.

Other individuals that were identified as distributors, suppliers and couriers in the organization are: Juan Martinez; Tavares Johnson, Darren Hughes, Joseph Cook, Melissa Buchanan, Terrance Bowden, and Matt Crawford.

Three days after the local raids Juan Martinez was arrested in Houston, Texas by U-S Marshals. He’s charged in Texas with evading arrest. Lt. Robert Quinata, who heads ECSO’s Narcotics Division, says the case was opened four years ago from a tip given to Crimestoppers.

“These individuals thought they were untouchable,” said Quinata. “And in this case they were not. We finally got them. It may have taken four years.”

Assistant State Attorney John Molchan is the lead prosecutor, and says the suspects will face charges of trafficking and conspiracy to traffic – which carry minimum prison sentences of 25 years upon conviction.

And unlike powdered cocaine vs. crack – the latter considered more serious under the law – Molchan says there’s no legal difference between powdered meth and the crystallized form.

Additional arrests are expected.