SARASOTA - A million dollar drug trafficking operation is out of business in Sarasota, and those allegedly running it are behind bars. Sarasota Police have released the results of Operation Hammerhead, a six-month long investigation into a marijuana distribution ring.
Police say this was one of their largest drug busts ever, with investigators using all sorts of tools, including undercover work and wire taps of one of the suspect's phones.
It began back in September after police say they received an anonymous tip that marijuana was being sold in area nightclubs. That tip ultimately leading to the discovery of what police say was a major money-making operation.
Police say upwards of a million dollars-worth of marijuana would come and go through the doors of a house in the 600 block of Audubon Place, in the Park East neighborhood. That’s located north of Fruitville Road between U.S. 301 and Lime Avenue.
Police say Anthony Snead was running the operation out of his house, receiving shipments of weed every week. Investigators say he and another man, Andy Charlton, were mid-level drug suppliers in the hierarchy of an even bigger network.
"It definitely leaves our city limits and it goes to a higher level, so we are going to be investigating to the highest level to track it down," says Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino.
Investigators say the street value of everything recovered from the home has a street value of around $25,000. The only thing more significant than the bust, says Chief DiPino, was the way the investigation started. "It’s also evidence of a clearer partnership with the citizens of our community, because it was actually an anonymous tip from a citizen that led us to this arrest."
Neighbors admit the bust may not change things drastically in an area hit hard by drugs and prostitution, but they say it's a step in the right direction. "I think it says to the neighbors and to the rest of the community, do it because you can make a difference, and it has to be all of us working together," says neighbor Linda Holland.
And police say given the size of the operation, more arrests could be made. "Beware city of Sarasota; if you're a drug dealer, we're coming after you," says Chief DiPino.
Both of the suspects are facing felony charges, which could have them paying hefty fines and up to fifteen years in prison. Both men have previous drug-related convictions.