By Erin MacPherson, WPEC
ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. (WPEC) — More than three dozen people in St. Lucie County have been busted for dealing drugs as part of ‘Operation Big Mi-Steak.’
Sheriff Ken Mascara said the drug bust was the result of long-term work that began a few year back when Oxycontin abuse became a problem in St. Lucie County.
“We knew and predicted that there would be collateral damage and that collateral damage is heroin and opioid addictions and that's what we're seeing now and dealing with now,” said Sheriff Mascara.
In 2016, he changed his mission for heroin overdoses. Sheriff Mascara said he had one or two detectives respond to every overdose, not to arrest the user but to find information on the dealer. He said that initiative paid off.
After investigating for several months, with the help of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), deputies were able to arrest 43 people for dealing drugs in the county. Those drugs include heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and even carfentanyl.
“Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin. In this case, we were coming up with carfentanyl which is roughly 80 times more potent than fentanyl,” said one of the detectives in the case.
Investigators said the name ‘Operation Big Mi-Steak’ came from their main target, Cybil Green.
They said Green was selling drugs from the Steak ‘n Shake in Fort Pierce for months, while she worked there.
“It wasn’t necessarily happening through a drive-through," said Andrew Bolonka, Taskforce officer, and detective for the FBI. "What we learned from a source is they could actually go into the facility if they knew Ms. Green then she would deal with certain individuals. Sometimes we would have to use third-party individuals to get in to make purchases.”
WPEC talked with a woman right outside the Steak ‘n Shake on Friday. She was born and raised in Fort Pierce and is the mother of twin boys.
She was shocked to hear drugs were being sold out of the fast food restaurant.
“That's surprising because there's a lot of children that be over here especially that comes to Steak 'n Shake with this parents,” said Ronaysia Clark. She continued, “honestly that's just disrespectful.”
She said she’s doing everything she can to keep her kids safe.
“I try to keep my kids away from situations like that. If I can see anybody that's trying to smoke or whatever I keep my kids away from it,” said Clark.
Investigators said Green also sold drugs from her Fort Pierce home with help from her family.
“We have irrefutable evidence that she was using her teenage kids to package and/or distribute narcotics for her,” said Bolonka.
Bolonka said both of those children are with the Florida Department of Children and Families.
However, Green had even more help.
Green’s boyfriend and 18-time convicted felon, Johnny Lewis, was also arrested. Green’s son, Rodney Stevens Jr. and his girlfriend, Latoya Felder, were both arrested as well.
“Those four individuals were our primary targets,” said Bolonka.
Bolonka said the investigation into that family led them to the other arrests.
On Thursday, everyone was arrested except for Robert Gillings and Curt Clymer who both have warrants out for their arrests.
Bolonka says about 15 of the 43 are legitimate dealers. He said some are moderate dealers and others are user-dealers.
He said, “because of the severity of addiction, our addicts end up becoming a sort of dealer to help facilitate what they need to continue to acquire drugs.” So they become dealers to support their habit.
After these arrests, there was a decline in heroin overdoses.
“In November and December of 2016, we saw 19 overdoses. In the same months in 2017, we only saw 11. While that might seem like a small change, that's monumental to see that type of change,” said Sheriff Mascara.