CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Thirty-five people are facing charges in Clay County after a large, five-month drug investigation called Operation Summer Slam.
Deputies said they started the investigation in February, looking for people selling prescription drugs illegally. It started in the Middleburg area but then expanded to most of the county.
Investigators said they targeted 41 people who were not only selling prescription drugs, but also cocaine, heroin, marijuana and Molly. They said several of those people worked together in their operations, and drug dealing was their full-time job.
IMAGES: Arrests in drug warrant sweep
Clay County deputies said they targeted dozens of mid-level drug dealers and started arresting them Tuesday.
"What happens a lot of times is the mid-level dealer will be a sponsor," said Capt. David Barnes. "He will go out and a lot of times prey on the homeless or the less fortunate and get them to go to a doctor's office. He will pay for the visit. They will be seen, saying they need some kind of pain medication. The doctor will write a prescription for that pain medication, and then they will purchase it and they will either pay them a monetary value or give them some of the prescription drugs and go sell it."
Investigators rounded up 29 people over the last two days and then arrested six more for other charges. They are still looking for 14 people.
"It is a significant event to target these kinds of folks and take them off the streets because they are the ones that are providing the narcotics to citizens of our community," Sheriff Rick Beseler said. "This is how they make their living."
He said eight of those arrested sold drugs within 1,000 feet of a school. Beseler said it is very important to make sure children are safe in those areas.
Dan Renaud, a drug and alcohol counselor, treats people from all over, but said two-thirds of his clients come from Clay County. Many are children. He said pharmaceuticals are the new gateway drugs, and it is important to stop the abuse early.
"Prescription medications are the long leading cause of death among young people, prescription overdoses," Renaud said. "And once they get into that drug culture, they start getting into other issues like prostitution, solicitation, theft."
Those still being sought are Tyler Bowman, Marcus Coleman, Stephen Degregorio, Racquel Drain, Richard Freeman, Michael Gee, Amanda Holmes, Charles Lang, Kyle Loffer, Jason Martin, Matthew Mundy and Cameron Yarbrough.
Anyone with any information on their whereabouts is asked to call the Clay County Sheriff's Office at 904-264-6512.
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