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Latest News

2024

CCSO INTRODUCES "BREAK THE CHAINS," A HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
(Citrus County, FL) January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. This month, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is doing its part to break the silence on Human Trafficking by educating our citizens through videos and graphics on our social media pages.

“Unfortunately, human trafficking is something found across the world. Here at CCSO, we aim to keep our citizens safe and educate them on the dangers lurking in our community,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Victims are in plain sight. It is important to note that if you see someone you suspect may be a victim or perpetrator of human trafficking, you do not confront or alert them! Instead, report your suspicions at 352-249-2790 or 9-1-1, depending on the situation.”

In our awareness campaign, Break the Chains, CCSO will inform our citizens of the following:

  • The two primary forms of human trafficking.
  • How traffickers operate.
  • Signs that can help identify victims.
  • Prevention tactics.
  • Investigation challenges.
  • Other pertinent information that can rescue victims and save future lives.

Like we often say, Citrus, see something; say something. By identifying victims and reporting tips, you are doing your part to help law enforcement rescue victims - and you might save a life.
CCSO LT. MARSHALL ELECTED MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL BOMB SQUAD COMMANDER'S ADVISORY BOARD
(Citrus County, FL) Recently, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Bomb Team Commander, Lieutenant Aidan Marshall, was seated as a member of the National Bomb Squad Commanders Advisory Board (NBSCAB), representing the Southern Region of the United States alongside two other members. This appointment marks the first time a member from CCSO has been elected to serve on the board. Lieutenant Marshall was elected to the NBSCAB by bomb squad commanders from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

“Congratulations to Lieutenant Marshall on this outstanding achievement,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “As our Bomb Team Commander, Lieutenant Marshall has extensive leadership experience in the safe handling and disposal of explosive devices. I am proud of him and know that he will excel in this new role.”

NBSCAB is considered the leadership element of the United States Public Safety Bomb Squad program and is comprised of 12 members from four national regions. This board meets four times per year, along with attending numerous training events across the nation. NBSCAB consistently liaises with all Department of Defense and federal partners to ensure consistency and collaboration within the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) community.

Congratulations to Lieutenant Marshall!
Florida Sheriff's Association Regional Task Force Summit

(Citrus County, FL) Yesterday, January 18, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) hosted the Florida Sheriff's Association (FSA) Regional Task Force Summit. Seven sheriffs, members of their staff, and representatives of the FSA attended the summit to discuss recent deployments to gauge what has worked and how each region can improve its capabilities. 

We live in an all-hazards state. Thanks to the mutual aid agreement, when a natural or man-made disaster impacts an area, a Sheriff from that region can request assistance from other Sheriff's Offices through the FSA. During storm recoveries, task forces, like CCSO's Sheriff's Mutual Aid Response Team (SMART), can provide immediate services that aid in daily operations. These services ensure the citizens of that region can continue to receive adequate public safety services to protect their lives and property while beginning recovery efforts.

"We've learned over the past few years that when the unexpected comes along, it can happen to any county in Florida. None of us can do it alone, and it's important to know that you can count on your fellow Florida Sheriffs for help," said FSA President Sheriff Bill Leaper from Nassau County. "I want to thank Sheriff Prendergast for hosting this meeting and showcasing the equipment that will be used as we respond quickly and safely to affected areas, helping citizens receive the assistance they need."  

The FSA Task Force is divided into seven regions. Recently, CCSO was selected to maintain the Region Four Disaster Base Camp for lodging personnel during mutual aid missions. FSA furnished our agency with the first of many planned base camp set-ups, which include two large inflatable tents, cots, portable air conditioners, bathroom trailers, a water trailer, generators, and a mobile kitchen. 

CCSO utilized the set-up in August of 2023 when Hurricane Idalia made landfall in northwest Florida as a category four hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph. Just hours after Hurricane Idalia struck, CCSO efficiently deployed 18 deputies, who were part of SMART, to Dixie County with all our new assets.

 "This is personal to me; 2018 Hurricane Michael, a major category five hurricane, struck Bay County. I can't tell you how it felt to have our community destroyed and then have over 600 sheriff deputies respond from throughout the state into our community to help us, so it is an honor for me to serve on the task force," said FSA Task Force Chairman Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford"We have received gracious support for the task forces, and we're working to have base camps like this stationed at various areas throughout the state because it's important when we respond to a disaster that the sheriff's offices coming in are self-supporting and have a place to stay and feed their people, so they don't become a further burden on the requesting community."

During the morning's news conference, Sheriff Ford announced that the FSA Shared Assets Committee is working to purchase a second base camp and that they aim to start supplying smaller counties that cannot be self-sustainable during a disaster with the equipment. 

"At the end of the day, it's about excellence in public safety – Plain and simple," said CCSO Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "Each member of each sheriff’s office within the FSA took an oath to protect and serve, and when our neighbors need help, we will be there, gear in tow, ready and willing to help in any way necessary. Thankfully, because of our state's past amazing leader's forethought, we can sleep soundly knowing that if we need any aid, our FSA partners have our backs."

Thank you to Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leaper, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford, Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman, Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter, Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers, Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden, FSA System Coordinator Eric Owens, FSA Law Enforcement Coordinator David Brand, and FSA Public Safety Coordinator Steve Cole for attending and contributing to these important discussions.

About the FSA Task Force: The FSA Regional Task Force comprises CCSO and 66 other sheriff's offices, divided into seven regions and headed by a Chair who is the Sheriff of a county in the region. Citrus County is in Region Four, encompassing Citrus, Sumter, Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, and Hardee counties. Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast is the Region Four Chair.

THREE ARRESTED ON SEVEN COUNTS OF ANIMAL CRUELTY

(Citrus County, FL) Earlier this month, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Animal Control Officers (ACO) responded to a residence on East Watson Street in Inverness in reference to an animal cruelty investigation that resulted in the arrest of three residents.

Immediately upon arrival, ACOs noticed a strong odor of animal feces and ammonia outside of the residence. ACOs made contact with 23-year-old Chelsea St. Hilaire, who advised there were three dogs living on the enclosed patio and an additional three living inside her residence. Once ACOs and deputies entered the residence, they found multiple piles of garbage bags mixed with animal feces and urine inside the bathroom. Multiple soiled diapers and empty liquor bottles were scattered throughout the bedroom. Inside the kitchen, ACOs found stacks of dirty dishes and two buckets with mold growing inside of them. Throughout the entire home, the floor was spongy and caked with feces, and multiple holes were observed in the ceiling.   

As ACOs continued their investigation, they discovered two juveniles were living inside, one of which was crawling on the ground. Multiple cats were found roaming inside the house but were able to come and go through windows. An additional dog was found inside the home that was not originally disclosed. There was little food and zero sources of water for any of the animals – most dogs also had missing patches of fur due to fleas.

“The condition of this home was so disgusting that deputies and ACOs could not take a single step without their boot touching feces, urine, or both,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “No child or animal should ever have to experience living conditions such as this. I am thankful for the partnership between our team and the Citrus County Animal Shelter for saving these innocent young children and animals who cannot speak for themselves.”

The two juveniles were immediately removed from the home – further charges are pending regarding the children. A total of seven dogs were removed from the home, as well as the cats roaming near the residence. All were taken to the Citrus County Animal Shelter to be cared for by the county veterinarian.

The following individuals were arrested and charged:

  • Chelsea St. Hilaire (2/10/2000) – 7 counts of animal cruelty;
  • Robert Brooks (7/11/2000) – 7 counts of animal cruelty;
  • Tina Maddox (8/26/1956) – 7 counts of animal cruelty.
COUPLE ARRESTED FOR MULTIPLE COUNTS OF FELONY ANIMAL CRUELTY
(Citrus County, FL) This week, Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) Animal Control Officers (ACO) responded to a residence on S Tyler Street in Beverly Hills in reference to a barking complaint. When ACOs arrived on the scene, three small Chihuahuas were running loose in the front yard, which was filled with garbage. A strong smell of ammonia and feces was noticeable from outside the home. ACOs could not locate the residents but could observe a bulldog-type puppy and a white husky through the window.

ACOs then walked to the backyard, where they spotted a thin Chihuahua lying down on a blanket that did not respond to ACOs for several minutes. The Chihuahua tried to run away when ACOs attempted to pick her up, but she fell over several times – she was taken to Citrus County Animal Services for immediate care.

Fearing that the homeowner may need medical attention, deputies and ACOs entered the cluttered home, which had no power. They saw the kitchen floor was covered in feces, urine, and trash. The rest of the house was in similar condition – trash was everywhere, and spiderwebs, feces, and mold covered every surface. A large, thin husky was located in a wire crate without a plastic tray and with four empty bowls, all coated in urine and feces. Every inch of the husky's body was wet and caked with feces. ACOs could see her hip bones and several open wounds through the husky's thick fur. Another husky was lying on a slimy, sticky couch that was covered in feces with mold growing on it. There were a few partially filled food bowls throughout the home, but no water sources for the dogs.

As ACOs were loading the last dog into their vehicle to bring it to Citrus County Animal Services, 30-year-old Rory Alexander and 31-year-old Angelica Addison arrived at the residence. The couple advised they are not currently living in the home but come back daily to care for the dogs. Both were arrested and charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty. All eight dogs at the house were signed over to the county and are receiving medical care at the shelter.

"There wasn't an inch of this house that wasn't covered in feces, urine, or garbage. There is zero excuse to force innocent animals to live in these disgusting conditions," said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "I am thankful for the individual who called us to report the abhorrent treatment of these dogs, and I urge anyone who sees possible signs of animal abuse to do the same."

The following individuals were arrested and charged:

  • Rory Alexander (10/15/1993) – 3 counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty; 4 counts of animal cruelty
  • Angelica Addison (8/22/1992) – 3 counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty; 4 counts of animal cruelty
CCSO ANNOUNCES 2023 ´OF THE YEAR' AWARDS
(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) regularly hosts award ceremonies to commend our remarkable personnel for going above and beyond in their various positions.

During January's ceremony, we presented our 2023 'Of the Year' awards to four devoted professionals in their respective categories: Deputy Sheriff, Communications Officer, Civilian, and Volunteer. Those given this distinguished award exemplify our agency's core values of 'Integrity,' 'Service Above Self,' and 'Loyalty Above All,' and are committed to providing excellence in public safety.

Our 2023 ‘Of the Year’ Award Winners:

  • Deputy Sheriff of the Year: Detective Roscoe Watts
  • Communications Officer of the Year: Michele Hart
  • Civilian Employee of the Year: Ethan Paprzycki
  • Volunteer of the Year: Rene' Kroll

Detective Watts was commended for his outstanding contributions to the safety and well-being of the Citizens of Citrus County. Whether as a detective, volunteer, or citizen, Detective Watts continuously exhibits exceptional dedication, determination, and unwavering commitment to upholding the principles of justice. His performance was highlighted this year by his successful resolution of an attempted robbery at the Sunoco gas station and a battery within the Core Civic jail.

During 2023, Hart proved to be an excellent example of a supervisor by always ensuring that she checked on her teammate's well-being, especially after difficult calls. She committed much of her time to the improvement of the Communications Division. She consistently supported training new employees, including researching enhanced training platforms to create better methods for training employees and assisting in converting the Communications training program to an all-digital format.

CCSO has been integrating a new Motorola Report Management System for the last year. Paprzycki has been a pivotal and integral part of this new systems upgrade. His strong work ethic, continuous learning, and desire to help others have made him a tremendous asset to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.

CCSO has nearly 400 volunteers, and without their help, our personnel would quickly become overwhelmed trying to provide Citrus County with the level of service it deserves. Kroll is a volunteer receptionist at our Beverly Hills Substation, but she also assists with various office duties, assisting the Volunteer Coordinator, and learning position responsibilities. She readily accepts opportunities to serve the citizens of Citrus County in any capacity where she can make an impact, and thanks to her dedication, the day-to-day administration of the volunteer services continues seamlessly.

"It is an honor to serve as Sheriff of this amazing community alongside our deputies, communications officers, civilian employees, and volunteers," said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "There are so many outstanding individuals who place service above self each day to ensure the safety of our citizens. Thank you for all you do daily – I look forward to another exceptional year of working together to make Citrus County the safest community in Florida."

Congratulations to everyone who was recognized at January's award ceremony. We are incredibly proud of the dedication each of you exhibits daily.
LAKE PANASOFFKEE MAN ARRESTED FOR MURDER IN DOWNTOWN  CRYSTAL RIVER
(Citrus County, FL) Early this morning, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies responded to calls in reference to a shooting at Norton’s Riverside Bar and Grill in downtown Crystal River. At approximately 1:25 AM, deputies arrived on-scene and located a male, later identified as 26-year-old Edward James Bennis, in the parking lot with several gunshot wounds.

Witnesses advised that the suspect, 24-year-old Gabriel Hugh Trainor, had gotten into a minor altercation with a patron inside the bar that continued to the front patio. Bennis, an employee at Norton’s, verbally attempted to stop the argument, and Trainor walked outside to his car. After several minutes, Bennis returned outside and continued to argue with Trainor, who armed himself with a handgun and shot Bennis multiple times. Despite immediate lifesaving measures, Bennis succumbed to his injuries on-scene. 

“This is a tragic incident. My condolences go out to the family of Mr. Bennis,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Unfortunately, arguments too often turn violent when alcohol is involved. Trainor not only made the decision to take another man’s life but also endangered other citizens with his reckless discharge of a firearm. This behavior will not be tolerated in Citrus County, and we will work diligently with our partners in the Fifth Judicial Circuit to ensure Trainor is no longer a danger to our law-abiding citizens.”

Following an interview at the CCSO Emergency Operations Center, Trainor was arrested for Second-Degree Murder and transported to the Citrus County Detention Facility. He will be held without bond per the bond schedule.
CCSO HOSTS SECOND ´HERE TO HELP' EVENT
Yesterday, February 22, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) was joined by over 20 of their Citrus County partners to provide a one-stop shop for any of our citizens in need.

Thanks to our partners, we were able to offer various services, from pet health screenings and vaccinations to haircuts, free blankets and clothing, food stamp assistance, and bicycle repairs to over 350 people! It was an excellent opportunity for people to unite and support one another.

CCSO's first ‘Here to Help’ event was held in August of 2023 to reach citizens without housing, struggling with substance use, or dealing with mental health conditions and better connect them to resources in our community.

"Last year's event was a huge success, with many people turning out to offer their assistance and support," said Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "We knew immediately that this event was necessary, and our BHU got to work organizing future 'Here to Help' events. I am extremely proud to see this unit working with community partners to assist our community, and I am eager to see what the future holds."

According to the Florida Coalition to End Homelessness, Florida has the third-largest homeless population in the United States.

"It's great to see how the community partners work together and are all helping each other to ensure every citizen can have access to the resources they need," said Sydney Frisbie, a Substance Abuse Advocate with CCSO's BHU. "'Here to Help' has opened the doors to new connections and ideas to provide more services to the county year-round. I am ecstatic that we can continue hosting 'Here to Help,' and I look forward to announcing our next event later this year."

Don't be afraid to ask for assistance because you are not alone; plenty of resources are available. Together, we can make a difference in each other's lives. If you missed out on the event, don't worry! CCSO can still help you access our community's resources. Call us at 352-249-2790 and ask to speak with a member of our Behavioral Health Unit today.
CCSO ATTENDS COLD CASE ADVISORY COMMISSION MEETING
(Citrus County, FL) Last week, Sheriff Mike Prendergast and members of our Major Crimes Unit attended a two-day Florida Sheriff’s Association (FSA) Cold Case Advisory Commission (CCAC) training and meeting at the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. This quarterly opportunity allows members of CCAC to learn about the new techniques and technologies used for the successful resolution of previous cold cases.

“The Committee is dedicated to finding answers - that missing puzzle piece - for families affected by the disappearance of a loved one, and has become an invaluable asset not only law enforcement but our community as a whole,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Our goal is to lift that burden of uncertainty for those families. As Chair of the FSA CCAC, I am proud to assist in these investigations and bringing justice to these victims and their families.”

Across our state, there are thousands of unsolved homicides and over 900 unidentified John/Jane Doe cases. Established in 2015, CCAC was created for Florida Sheriff’s Offices to collaborate with one another to discuss strategies and hear cold case presentations. When these cases are presented, advice regarding investigative steps may be provided to the case officer. The CCAC is multi-disciplinary and comprised of various personnel and specialty resources that can be extended to the presenting agency to assist in solving a homicide. This includes three Sheriffs, homicide investigators, DNA and Forensic scientists, legal teams, Florida Department of Law Enforcement members, medical examiner staff, and a citizen.

“It is so important that our victim’s family know that we still care about their loved ones,” said Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman, CCAC Co-Chair. “The CCAC brings law enforcement officers together from around the state to discuss the latest technologies and ideas to keep these cases moving.”

The meeting began with a presentation from FDLE Special Agent Jen Spears and NCIS Special Agent Bill Elfein, who discussed the 1984 cold case of Pamela Cahanes and the process of how it was solved 35 years later in 2019 through groundbreaking DNA technology and research.

Anne Marie Schubert, a retired District Attorney from Sacramento, California, spoke on how new forensic tools helped solve the case of the Golden State Killer after four decades. “The arrest and conviction of the Golden State Killer was a result of the pioneering technique of using forensic investigative genealogy to identify this sadistic serial rapist and murderer,” she said. “This new tool has the ability to solve violent crime, identify missing persons, and exonerate the innocent. It’s the most revolutionary advancement in crime solving in our lifetime.”

The founder of Project Cold Case, Ryan Backmann, shared his story as a survivor of an unsolved homicide and discussed his work in providing support to victims with similar stories. “The value of these Commission meetings is immeasurable. Not only do the trainings provide best practices, unique perspectives, and technological advances in cold cases, but the networking and connections made will advance investigations in Florida,” he said. “Even more importantly, the cases reviewed will give these victims and their families a greater chance at resolution. The Commission takes great pride in giving these cases the attention they deserve and making sure these victims are not forgotten.”

“I’ve committed to the residents of Sarasota County that we will continue to invest time and energy into solving these cold cases – to bring justice to the victims and resolution to those families,” said Sarasota County Sheriff Hoffman. “The Cold Case Advisory Commission is an example of that level of commitment. We were proud to welcome this important training session to our agency.”

“If you have any information or questions on a cold case, please do not hesitate to call your local law enforcement agency,”
said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Remember that ANY tips are important.”
ARREST MADE AFTER ROAD RAGE SHOOTING
(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) arrested Tyler Grimison for his involvement in a road rage and shooting incident that occurred on March 5, 2024, in Homosassa on U.S. Highway 19.

On March 5th, 2024, while the victim was driving northbound in the outside (right lane) on U.S. Highway 19, the suspect (Grimison) intentionally swerved into and struck the victim’s vehicle on the passenger side. Following the strike, the victim heard a low tone, “boom,” and believed it was a gunshot. Once the victim realized their vehicle was struck by a projectile, out of fear, they briefly lost control of their vehicle. The suspect then passed the victim, driving on the shoulder of the roadway.

The victim described the suspect as a white male in his mid-30s with a trimmed brown beard, driving a newer model (2017-2022) Jeep with unknown Florida plates and black rims.

Detective Michael Kelly of the Major Crimes Unit immediately began his investigation. Detective Kelly reviewed video surveillance footage from the area, which captured the suspect and the victim's vehicles. Detective Kelly secured still shots from the video and issued a BOLO (Be on the Lookout) for the suspect and vehicle.

Thanks to an anonymous tip received, Detective Kelly was able to determine that Tyler Grimison was a possible suspect. Grimison agreed to meet Detective Kelly in the Crystal River area, where probable cause for his arrest was established. Shortly after, detectives executed a Search Warrant on the suspect's residence, seizing the firearm believed to be used in the shooting.

"We appreciate the public's assistance and the diligent work of Detective Kelly in bringing this dangerous situation to a swift resolution,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Road rage incidents can escalate quickly and have tragic consequences. Our agency takes these incidents very seriously and will continue to dedicate resources to investigate and hold offenders accountable."

Grimison, 31, of Homosassa, is currently in custody at the Citrus County Detention Facility without bond on the charges of Shooting into an Occupied Conveyance, Discharging a Firearm in Public, and Criminal Mischief.
CCSO SERGEANT BARRY GRADUATES FROM THE NATIONAL PUBLIC SAFETY INNOVATION ACADEMY
(Citrus County, FL) Today, March 8, 2024, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Sergeant Tiffany Barry graduated from the National Public Safety Innovation Academy (NIA).

NIA is an eight-week executive-level academy for law enforcement and corrections staff seeking to enter or enhance their agency’s current or future command positions. The program offers an innovative alternative to traditional leadership training, led by renowned subject matter experts, that continuously evolves as technology and trends change. This program is designed to meet the needs and address the challenges faced in public safety and criminal justice, supplying participants with the knowledge and advanced skills to create innovative policies and procedures to lead during high liability situations effectively and skillfully.

“Sergeant Barry has proven to be an exceptionally outstanding leader, and successfully completing this program adds to her extensive list of remarkable achievements,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Throughout her career, Sergeant Barry has continued to grow through educational opportunities such as this, which is something we strongly encourage all personnel to do. I look forward to seeing Sergeant Barry share the knowledge she gained during this course with her teammates.”

Sergeant Barry began her career with CCSO in 2008 as a Deputy Sheriff. During her career with CCSO, Sgt. Barry has held positions including School Resource Deputy, and Criminal Investigations Division Detective, before being promoted to the High-Tech Crimes Unit Sergeant in 2022.

Congratulations, Sergeant Barry! We are incredibly proud to have you on our team serving Citrus County. Thank you for upholding our core values through your continuous dedication.
NARCOTICS SEARCH WARRANT LEADS TO FOUR ARRESTS
(Citrus County, FL) In the early morning hours of March 8th, 2024, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) SWAT team and the Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) concluded an extensive narcotics investigation and executed a search warrant that resulted in the arrest of 37-year-old Dennis Gene Himmel, 39-year-old Mary Elizabeth Wallace, 40-year-old Claire Marie Beck, and 46-year-old Jason Scott Flynn.

CCSO’s Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) received information that Himmel was once again selling illegal narcotics within Citrus County despite being released from prison in April of 2023 for similar charges. Through investigative means, detectives determined that Himmel was indeed dealing illicit narcotics, mainly fentanyl, and established probable cause to obtain warrants. A search warrant was obtained and executed at approximately 0540 hours on Friday at 304 South Pine Avenue in Inverness.

After giving extensive commands for all occupants to exit the residence with no compliance, SWAT team members breached the residence and made entry into the structure. After securing multiple people inside the residence, SWAT members came across a locked bedroom door. Himmel was found inside the bedroom and initially refused all commands to exit the bedroom, but eventually complied. During his arrest, Himmel was on speakerphone with a female who was telling him not to speak to law enforcement.

Following the SWAT team’s assistance, TIU members commenced the search of the residence and located fentanyl, methamphetamine, alprazolam, and multiple items of paraphernalia indicating drug sales.

Prior to the execution of the search warrant, Detectives with the Tactical Impact Unit obtained three separate arrest warrants for Himmel for the following charges:

  • Trafficking in Fentanyl and Sale of Fentanyl within 1000 feet of a school
  • Trafficking in Fentanyl and Sale of Fentanyl within 1000 feet of a school
  • Sale of Fentanyl and Sale of Fentanyl within 1000 feet of a school
“Thanks to the efforts of the Tactical Impact Unit, and with the assistance of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, a habitual offender has been removed from our streets,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Fentanyl is an extremely deadly synthetic opioid that kills over one-hundred thousand people every year nationwide. Drug dealers have no place in our community, especially habitual offenders like Himmel, who apparently will never learn. We will continue to fight illicit drug activity in our community at every given opportunity.”

Himmel, a three-time convicted felon, was arrested for:

  • Possession of Fentanyl with the Intent to Sell
  • Possession of Methamphetamine with the Intent to Sell
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance (Alprazolam)
  • Possession of Paraphernalia
  • Warrant for Trafficking in Fentanyl and Sale of Fentanyl within 1000 feet of a school
  • Warrant for Trafficking in Fentanyl and sale of fentanyl within 1000 feet of a school
  • Warrant for Sale of Fentanyl and Sale of Fentanyl within 1000 feet of a school 
He is being held at no bond per the bond schedule.

Wallace was arrested for:

  • Possession of a Controlled Substance

She is being held on a total bond of $2,500 per the bond schedule.

Beck, a three-time convicted felon, was arrested for:

  • Possession of Paraphernalia

She is being held on a total bond of $500 per the bond schedule.

Flynn, a two-time convicted felon, was arrested for:

  • Possession of Paraphernalia

He is being held on a total bond of $500 per the bond schedule.

Citrus - If you SEE something, SAY something! Our non-emergency line is staffed 24/7 and can be reached at 352-249-2790.

About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Tactical Impact Unit:
The Tactical Impact Unit’s responsibilities include narcotics investigations, street-level reverse stings, regular checks for narcotics in schools, and traffic interdiction. The unit coordinates and assists other organizations and departments in combating street-level drug crimes. The unit’s detectives identify, investigate, and infiltrate street-level to mid-level narcotics dealers and their organizations within Citrus County. They work closely with other units within the Bureau of Special Investigations, as well as local, state, and federal authorities.

CCSO HOLDS MEMORIAL CEREMONY FOR K9 RIGGS
(Citrus County, FL) Today, March 22, 2024, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) held a memorial ceremony for K9 Riggs. On March 2, 2024, CCSO K9 Riggs passed away following emergency surgery on his abdomen. After his human partner, Deputy Rudy Danner, located K9 Riggs lethargic in his kennel on the afternoon of February 29th, he was rushed to an emergency veterinary hospital. Unfortunately, even the highly skilled efforts of the doctor and dedicated hospital staff were not enough to save K9 Riggs.

K9 Riggs was six years old and worked five years as a certified narcotics, apprehension, and tracking dog at CCSO. K9 Riggs was an immense asset to our agency, where he was utilized 473 times. While at CCSO, K9 Riggs located 32 people and made 21 apprehensions. K9 Riggs also conducted 358 vehicle sniffs and positively located narcotics 284 times, seizing:

  • 120.2 grams of Fentanyl
  • 680.16 grams of Methamphetamine
  • 191.41 grams of Cocaine
  • 78.12 grams of Heroin
  • 2,290.15 grams of Marijuana
  • $39,193.16
  • 7 firearms
“K9 Riggs was an invaluable member of our team and a loyal companion to Deputy Danner,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “His tireless dedication was an outstanding help in keeping Citrus County safe for our citizens. All of us will miss K9 Riggs greatly. Thank you, K9 Riggs, for your service.”

Thank you to our fellow Sheriff’s Office agencies for joining us today in honoring the faithful service of K9 Riggs.

Thank you to our community for your outpouring of support and prayers during this difficult time.
NARCOTICS SEARCH WARRANT
(Citrus County, FL) On March 21, 2024, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) concluded a narcotics investigation and executed a search warrant that resulted in the arrest of 29-year-old Connor James Vidair.

CCSO’s TIU received information that Vidair was involved in the distribution of large quantities of cocaine and cannabis. Through investigative means, detectives established probable cause to search his residence, and a search warrant was obtained.

Contact was made with Vidair at 9909 North Cherry Lake Drive, where he was detained while detectives initiated their search. Upon entering the residence, detectives discovered that one of the bedrooms had been converted into a makeshift lab to manufacture multiple forms of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products with a higher concentration of the compound.

Many of his products had THC concentrations well above 85 percent; your average high-potency THC products average between 25 to 40 percent. A further search of the residence revealed two large safes that contained large quantities of cannabis in multiple forms, cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms, and cash, as well as a short-barreled shotgun and a .380 caliber pistol, which Vidair is not allowed to legally possess as he is a convicted felon.

Evidence located at the scene indicated that Vidair was manufacturing the THC into multiple forms of the compound, including wax, oil extract, THC electronic vaping devices, and gummies, and then repackaging these products for sale along with all other substances located in the residence.

“Thanks to the efforts of the TIU, another drug dealer has been removed from our streets,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Many of these products find their way into the susceptible hands of children. Studies by the CDC have shown that these products can have detrimental effects on a child's development. Vidair was not only found to be involved with these crimes but also had trafficking amounts of cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms, and illegal firearms in his possession. We will continue to fight illicit drug activity in our community at every opportunity.”

As a result of the search warrant, the following contraband was seized:

  • 8,490 grams of cannabis (18.72 pounds)
  • 4,908 grams of THC extract (10.82 pounds)
  • 46 grams of cocaine
  • 801 grams of psilocybin mushrooms (1.77 pounds)
  • $5,742 in cash
  • .380 caliber pistol
  • 12 gauge short-barreled shotgun

Vidair, a convicted felon, was arrested for:

  • Possession of Cannabis with the Intent to Sell
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance with the Intent to Sell (THC Extract)
  • Possession of Psilocybin Mushrooms with the Intent to Sell
  • Trafficking of Cocaine over 28 grams
  • Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance
  • Own/Rent/Lease a Residence for Trafficking Controlled Substances
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
  • Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (2 Counts)
  • Possession of a Short-Barreled Shotgun
He was given no bond per the statewide bond schedule.

Citrus - If you SEE something, SAY something! Our non-emergency line is staffed 24/7 and can be reached at 352-249-2790.

About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Tactical Impact Unit: The Tactical Impact Unit's responsibilities include narcotics investigations, street-level reverse stings, regular checks for narcotics in schools, and traffic interdiction. The unit coordinates and assists other organizations and departments in combating street-level drug crimes. The unit’s detectives identify, investigate, and infiltrate street-level to mid-level narcotics dealers and their organizations within Citrus County. They work closely with other units within the Bureau of Law Enforcement Operations as well as local, state, and federal authorities.
CCSO TRAFFIC UNIT RECOGNIZED AT ELEE PROGRAM AWARDS
(Citrus County, FL) Last week, Sheriff Mike Prendergast and members of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Traffic Unit attended the 2023 Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 7 Enhanced Law Enforcement Engagement (ELEE) Program Awards in Spring Hill.

The ELEE initiative was launched in 2022 to improve traffic safety through increased districtwide traffic enforcement focused on reducing crashes. The program strives to reach FDOT’s goal of zero fatal and serious injury crashes in Florida. FDOT works with the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research to compile statistics on traffic crashes. These statistics allow for focused efforts to take place in areas that will make the biggest impact.

FDOT’s District 7 is comprised of 25 agencies, including Citrus, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Hernando County Sheriff’s Offices, 15 police departments, as well as multiple Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Troops. Program participants yield awards based upon enforcement efforts. Last year (2022), the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office ranked near the top of all participating agencies.

From May to October 2023, CCSO expanded officer presence on roadways with high crash rates, increasing public awareness of the importance of safe driving. During this time, our Traffic Unit issued 2,776 warnings and 1,707 citations for violations such as speeding, driving under the influence, seatbelt use, work zones, intersections, moving, and aggressive driving. In 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) led District 7 in traffic enforcement efforts. Due to our Traffic Unit’s outstanding efforts, we were awarded distinguished recognition in first place and $70,380.00 of traffic enforcement tools:
  • Stalker Speed feedback trailers
  • LTI Tru Speed Measurement Lasers
  • Intoxilizer 800 Personal Breath Testers
  • Pi-Lit Smart Sequential Road Flares
  • Guardian Angel Safety Lights
  • Enforcer Tint Meters
“Traffic enforcement will always be part of CCSO’s Mission of Excellence in Public Safety,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Our dedicated Traffic Unit works aggressively to target dangerous driving behaviors. Traffic engineering, education, and enforcement all must come together to make the biggest impact. I am proud to see our team doing just that.”
LIEUTENANT AIDAN MARSHALL GRADUATES FROM FSA COMMANDERS ACADEMY
(Citrus County, FL) Last week, Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) Lieutenant Aidan Marshall graduated from the Florida Sheriffs Association's (FSA) prestigious Commanders Academy. The Commanders Academy is an exceptionally informative and educational experience that is vital for the next generation of public safety leaders. The Commanders Academy has become recognized as the premier course of executive study for mid to upper-level criminal justice leaders.

"Lieutenant Marshall's exceptional commitment to protecting the citizens of Citrus County is truly commendable," said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "Lieutenant Marshall has consistently worked to further his education and is a leader who sets a model example for his teammates. I am excited to see him utilize the knowledge gained from this experience and apply it here at CCSO."

The core curriculum focuses on leadership, ethics, discipline, and additional subject matter areas related to upper-level leadership in law enforcement. The remaining curriculum is adjusted according to emerging trends and issues that have an impact on our sheriffs and recent high-profile events. Each topic is threaded with issues that are unique to the culture of the Office of Sheriff. Throughout the two-week course, the class hears from more than 50 presenters and panelists. No other criminal justice program in the state provides this level of executive training.

Lieutenant Marshall began his career with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office in June 2004 as a Communications Officer. In January 2006, he became a Deputy Sheriff, then moved up the ranks to positions of CCU Detective, TIU Detective, ILP Sergeant, and Operations Sergeant. He was promoted to Lieutenant in May 2019 and then transferred to his current role as Special Operations Lieutenant in April 2023. Lieutenant Marshall was a member of the SWAT Team and is currently the Team Leader of the Bomb Team. Lt. Marshall holds a Master's Degree in Business Administration and was elected as a member of the National Bomb Squad Commanders Advisory Board in January 2024.

The Citrus County Sheriff's Office would like to congratulate all graduates of the 2024 Commanders Academy Class 14 on their new achievement.
WALMART SHOOTING SUSPECT APPREHENDED SHORTLY AFTER FLEEING SCENE
(Citrus County, FL) Last night, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies were dispatched to the Inverness Walmart in reference to a shooting that had occurred in the parking lot. Upon arrival, deputies discovered the suspect, later identified as Gavin Minden, fled the scene on foot towards Lowes. CCSO’s Aviation Unit was deployed to assist with searching for Minden, where he was quickly located hiding near the edge of the woods on the west side of Lowes. Both victims involved left the scene in their vehicle to a safer area. 

Detectives were able to obtain surveillance footage leading up to the shooting, which occurred near the bus stop at the front of Walmart. The victim’s truck is seen approaching the bus stop and stopping near it. The shooting was not captured on camera, however, after a brief verbal altercation, the truck sped off, and Minden was seen running from the scene. Further investigation revealed that Minden, who knew the victims, shot through the back window of the truck, striking one victim in the back of the neck – who was later transported to the hospital, where they are in stable condition. The second victim was not injured.

“Minden’s reckless actions in a public area not only endangered the lives of the two victims directly involved but also posed a serious threat to our citizens,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud of the teamwork between our deputies and Aviation Unit for swiftly locating and apprehending Minden, preventing him from further endangering our community.”

Minden (DOB 06/21/1993) was transported to the Citrus County Jail and charged with:

  • Two Counts of Attempted Homicide
  • One Count of Shooting into an Occupied Conveyance

Minden’s bond is set at none, per the bond schedule.

HOMOSASSA MAN ARRESTED FOR INVESTMENT FRAUD
(Citrus County, FL) On April 9th, 2024, the United States Marshals Service arrested 60-year-old Joseph Michael Todd for a Citrus County warrant as the result of a lengthy investigation by Detective Rob Ramos with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) High Tech Crimes Unit (HTCU).

Following the initial report received by CCSO, multiple victims were identified, many of them having lost hundreds of thousands of dollars that Todd was supposed to invest. Detective Ramos’ investigation revealed that Todd would have his victims write checks to him personally instead of the financial firms he represented and would then use the victim’s money for his own gain and benefit. Todd has been involved in the investment 
industry in Citrus County for the past several decades and worked for multiple different investment firms during that time. His victims include numerous Citrus County residents and business owners who placed their trust inhis decades of experience in the local area.

“Todd used his position and his reputation in our community to take advantage of the victims in this case. These victims trusted him to invest their life savings, and he betrayed that trust, using their money to fund his personal lifestyle,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Detective Ramos worked closely with the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office throughout this investigation to try and bring some justice to Todd’s many victims, though many may never financially recover from his betrayal. It is imperative that if you or your loved ones have financial investments, do your due diligence and ensure your advisor is handling your money properly."

Todd was arrested in Bay County in reference to a Citrus County warrant for one count of Scheme to Defraud $50,000.00 or more, six counts of Grand Theft of $100,000.00 or more, and one count of Grand Theft of under $20,000.00. He will be transported to the Citrus County Detention Facility, where he will be held without bond per the warrant.
REGIONAL SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM TRAINS AT CCSO
(Citrus County, FL) Search and Rescue operations are a critical element of any law enforcement agency. Today, April 16, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) hosted a Search and Rescue forum with partners from all across our region.

Nearly 25 percent of Citrus County is made up of various waterways, including rivers, canals, lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, it is essential that our marine deputies have a complete understanding of the best practices for locating vessels in distress or an overboard individual.

Each year, the Citrus County Sheriff's Marine Unit engages in rescues alongside partnering agencies. These rescues often occur in treacherous weather and highly unfavorable boating conditions. Therefore, cooperation among neighboring agencies is paramount to their success and the safety of those involved.

"As a coastal community, with over 192 square miles of water, whose population increases yearly - along with the number of visitors - we must be ready when any boater sends a distress call," said CCSO Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "Boaters come from all across the nation to enjoy the amenities we have here in our nature coast. Unfortunately, Florida sees a plethora of fatalities and other boating tragedies – this is why we hold these meetings to identify where we can utilize our resources the best and plan a path forward to ensure that together, as a regional team, we are offering excellence in all areas of public safety."

At today’s training, each agency highlighted its assets, capabilities, success stories, and lessons learned to help enhance efforts across the board and create the best rescue plans for the region.

Thank you to the United States Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Citrus County Fire Rescue, Hernando County Sheriff's Office, Hernando County Fire Rescue, and Dixie County Sheriff's Office for attending and contributing to these important discussions.

About the Citrus County Sheriff's Office's Marine Unit:

The Marine Unit enforces marine laws and ordinances in order to maintain safe recreational boating throughout the 192 square miles of waterways in Citrus County. Marine deputies provide high-visibility patrols in waterways while promoting boating education and safety to the residents and tourists who visit Citrus County. Aside from routine patrol duties for manatee zones and safety violations, the Marine Unit is also tasked with responding to boaters in distress and searching for issuing boaters. The Marine Unit actively works with the U.S. Coast Guard and other State and Federal agencies in the area to enforce these safe boating operations.
CCSO MARINE UNIT RESCUES NINE BOATERS FROM TWO SEPARATE INCIDENTS OF SINKING VESSELS
(Citrus County, FL) Over the weekend, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Marine Unit, alongside the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), rescued nine boaters from two separate reports of sinking vessels while a small craft advisory was in place.

On Saturday, April 13, around noon, the CCSO Marine Unit was dispatched to a sinking vessel with two subjects in the water, located approximately 14 miles northwest of Shell Island. Upon arrival, Marine Deputies Sudlow and Seidenstucker observed a 17-foot fiberglass vessel capsized, with two adults in the water holding onto the boat. A north wind was blowing approximately 15 to 20 mph causing large, six-foot waves. Deputies got both subjects on CCSO’s Marine Unit vessel and transported them to Pete’s Pier in Crystal River, where FWC completed the investigation. Thankfully, the individuals were not injured; however, they were very cold due to the water temperature being 68 degrees.

Just six hours later, CCSO’s Marine Unit was dispatched to another sinking vessel with five adults and two juveniles on board, located approximately 18 miles southwest of Shell Island. Marine Deputies Sudlow, Seidenstucker, and Fischer responded alongside FWC and the USCG. Upon arrival, all seven subjects were still on board, and it was discovered that they had lost engine power and started taking waves over the bow and the stern due to worsening sea conditions. The individuals were out of cell phone range but could utilize their Emergency-Position-Indicating-Radiobeacon (EPIRB) to alert first responders that they were in danger. All seven subjects were rescued and transported to Pete’s Pier without injuries.

“I am thankful for the immediate actions of our Marine Unit and the assistance from FWC and the USCG,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Without their prompt response, these two incidents may have resulted in much worse outcomes. Please let this serve as a reminder to research weather conditions before heading out on the water, and always have the required safety equipment with you, such as distress signals and life vests.”
WANTED FELON APPREHENDED AFTER FLEEING AND  CRASHING INTO FLORAL CITY HOME
(Citrus County, FL) On Tuesday evening, deputies arrested 20-year-old Traveon Jaquaad Samuels of Sumter County following a vehicle pursuit that resulted in Samuels crashing his vehicle into a home in Floral City. Deputies observed Samuels fail to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of East Gobbler Drive and South Withlapopka Drive and initiated a traffic stop. 

When deputies activated their emergency lights, Samuels began to reverse towards the patrol car, stopped abruptly, and made a U-turn. Samuels continued to drive recklessly through residential streets, fleeing at rates of up to 60 mph in a 30 mph zone. A tire deflation device was deployed, and contact was made with the vehicle's front right tire. Samuels continued to flee from deputies, switching to the oncoming lane of traffic, nearly striking another patrol car head-on. Samuels continued to try to evade deputies by driving through a backyard but crashed into a nearby home with one individual inside. Samuels abandoned his vehicle and began to run on foot, but he was eventually apprehended after a short foot chase.

The victim inside the home was transported to the hospital and is currently in stable condition.

K-9 Airborne was deployed for a free air sniff of the exterior of Samuels' vehicle and alerted to the presence of a controlled substance. Upon searching Samuels' vehicle, deputies located several bags of illicit narcotics, including fentanyl, methamphetamine, and heroin.

"Samuels has a lengthy criminal history throughout our state and has a habitual disregard for the law. He not only put our deputies' safety in immediate danger but endangered the entire community through both his reckless driving and trafficking in illicit narcotics," said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "I am proud of our team's quick actions in ensuring this dangerous criminal was removed from our streets. Thankfully, the individual who was injured in this incident is recovering."

Samuels, who had an active warrant out of Putnam County for trafficking in fentanyl and trafficking in methamphetamine was arrested and charged with:

  • Fleeing and eluding with disregard for safety
  • Trafficking in fentanyl
  •  Trafficking in methamphetamine
  • Trafficking in heroin
  • Possession of a controlled substance
  •  Possession of marijuana over 20 grams
  •  Aggravated assault on law enforcement
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  •  Resisting law enforcement without violence
Samuels is currently held at the Citrus County Detention Center without bond.
CCSO INTRODUCES "GET PREPARED CITRUS" CAMPAIGN IN ADVANCE OF THE 2024 HURRICANE SEASON
(Citrus County, FL) Citrus, we are officially one month out from the 2024 Hurricane Season. This month, the men and women of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) are doing their part to help our citizens prepare BEFORE any storm systems hit our radar.

We hope all of our residents take advantage of the great information we will be sharing via graphics and videos on our social media pages and by attending our "All Hazards Expo" on May 11th at the Crystal River Armory.

"Unfortunately, every year, we see hundreds of our residents fail to prepare ahead of time, which leaves them frantically trying to gather necessities such as food and water as a storm approaches," said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "Some don't even bother to act at all - choosing to ignore mandatory evacuation order putting their lives, and ultimately, that of our first responders at risk."

Throughout Get Prepared Citrus, CCSO will inform our citizens of the following:

  • How to "Know your zone."
  • What to pack in a "Go bag."
  • Ways to prepare for ANY hazard.
  • How to use the CCSO app.
  • Other pertinent information that can save your life this season.


The Emergency Management Division builds a comprehensive preparedness program that focuses on five missions: prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. This division is the lead coordinator of emergency and disaster response activities. These response activities aim to preserve life, mitigate hazards, preserve property, and restore social functions. Emergency Management is key to preparing and protecting the community. In the event of an emergency, be sure to monitor the Citrus County Sheriff's Office's Facebook and Twitter pages, or download our CCSO app for live updates and safety recommendations.
CCSO TARGETS NEST OF CHILD PREDATORS IN OPERATION CYBER SPRINGSTING
(Citrus County, FL) Today, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s (CCSO) High Tech Crimes Unit (HTCU) is releasing the ‘buzz-worthy’ results of Operation Cyber Springsting, a tactical undercover Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) operation to apprehend dangerous cyber predators who attempted to engage in sexual activity with a child.

Over the course of this operation, the detectives, deputies, and staff from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, along with our partners at the United States Secret Service, the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, the Tavares Police Department, and other federal partners, worked collaboratively to apprehend these online child sex predators.

During Operation Cyber Springsting, law enforcement officials posed as minors on various websites, waiting to be solicited through online messages by these subjects. Despite the acknowledgment of the child’s age, these individuals still chose to send sexually explicit pictures, messages, and detailed requests of various sexual activities they wanted to perform with the child. Some had driven from over an hour away thinking they were meeting a minor to engage in sexual activity but were instead greeted by law enforcement personnel. In total, 17 arrests (15 individuals) were made as a result of this operation.

“Operation Cyber Springsting removed 15 despicable criminals from our streets and put them behind bars, far away from our children. Each committed acts detrimental to the safety of our community, some even going as far as to travel for several hours to meet up with a child to carry out heinous acts,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud of the exceptional partnership between our agency and the law enforcement agencies who assisted in bringing these disgraceful monsters to justice. Our HTCU will continue to work diligently to stop sexual predators from preying on our children.”

The following subjects were arrested in Citrus County during this operation:

John Steven Baretela Jr.
(DOB 08/09/1958), Brooksville, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); and Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2). Total bond set at $50,000.

Fredy Guillerno Betancourth Reyes (DOB 12/27/1993), Tampa, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); 3 Counts of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2); and Solicitation of a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0135(3)(a). Total bond set at $125,000.

Kymani Josiah Bryan (DOB 08/05/2001), Ocala, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215. Total bond set at $27,500.

Mitchel Ryan Carter (DOB 06/09/1991), Dunnellon, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); 8 Counts of Possession of Child Pornography: F.S.S. 827.071(5)(a); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215. Total bond set at none.

John Edward Hughes Jr. (DOB 08/12/1983), Hernando, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215. Total bond set at $27,500.

Jose Alejandro Santana (DOB 04/28/1995), Seffner, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); and 4 Counts of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2). Total bond set at $125,000.

Joseph Henry Sysol (DOB 09/06/1986), Brooksville, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2); and 12 Counts of Possession of Child Pornography: F.S.S. 827.071(5)(a). Total bond set at none.

James Patton Dillman (DOB 03/22/1981), Floral City, FL – Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2). Total bond set at $25,000.

The following subjects were arrested on Citrus County warrants as part of this operation:

Stephen Anthony Cisneros (DOB 08/12/1996), Inverness, FL – 2 Counts of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2). Total bond set at none.

Debra Fuller (DOB 06/30/1959), Dunnellon, FL – Sex Offender Failure to Report to Sheriff’s Office within 48 Hours of Vacate/Relocate: F.S.S. 943.0435(4)(b)(1); and Sex Offender Fail to Update Telephone Number within 48 Hours: F.S.S. 943.0435(4)(A). Total bond set at none.

Dylan Kelly (DOB 03/11/1993), Citrus Springs, FL – Sex Offender Failure to Report to Sheriff’s Office within 48 Hours of Vacate/Relocate: F.S.S. 943.0435(4)(b)(1); and Sex Offender Fail to Report in Person within 48 Hours to DHSMV: F.S.S. 943.0435(3). Total bond set at $5,000 (per GPS Monitoring Order)

William Joseph Lamberson (DOB 12/30/1985), Brooksville, FL – 6 Counts of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2); and Solicitation of a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0135(3)(a). Total bond set at none.

Robert James Lewis (DOB 04/10/1991), Ocala, FL – 3 Counts of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215. Total bond set at $10,000.

Mark Lloyd Robinson (DOB 12/15/1987), Aripeka, FL – 3 Counts of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2). Total bond set at none.

Ivy Tendler (DOB 12/03/1970), Hernando, FL – Sex Offender Failure to Report to Sheriff’s Office within 48 Hours of Vacate/Relocate: F.S.S. 943.0435(4)(b)(1). Total bond set at none.

CCSO would like to thank all of our local, state, and federal law enforcement agency partners who played an integral role in the success of this operation and were unwavering in their commitment to protecting our youth.

If you suspect someone is committing crimes against our youth, call (352) 249-2790 to immediately report your suspicions to our office. Or download the Sheriff’s App (search Citrus County Sheriff’s Office) to use the ‘Submit a tip’ feature to make a report instantly.

CCSO App users can look up Sexual Offenders in their area by clicking on the ‘Sexual Offenders’ feature, which will show a photo of the offender, their name, physical descriptors, address, and your approximate distance from their location (if app location settings are turned on by the user).
CCSO OPERATION “CLINKO DE MAYO” PUTS 36 BEHIND BARS
(Citrus County, FL) Today, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is releasing the results of our recent covert operation, “Clinko De Mayo.” This collaborative effort between CCSO and the U.S. Marshal’s Service aimed to take numerous drug dealers and habitual drug abusers off our streets. Led by CCSO’s Tactical Impact Unit (TIU), this operation ended with the arrest of 36 individuals.

The following subjects were arrested in Citrus County during this operation:

Derek Wayne Adams (DOB: 09/20/1980), Homosassa, FL - Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, trafficking in methamphetamine, trafficking in fentanyl.

Jason Christopher Adams (DOB: 08/22/2000), Inverness, FL - Possession of fentanyl.

Travis Michael Binney (DOB: 11/14/1991), Inverness, FL - Possession of methamphetamine, possession of cannabis, and possession of paraphernalia.

Amber Marie Boyd (DOB: 05/10/1997), Inverness, FL – Introduction of a controlled substance to a detention facility.

Elisha Clark (DOB: 09/27/1977), Crystal River, FL - Possession of fentanyl and possession of marijuana under 20 grams.

Paula Collier (DOB: 11/12/1983), Beverly Hills, FL - Sale of fentanyl.

Theodore Collins, Jr. (DOB: 02/10/1961) (Registered Sexual Predator), Beverly Hills - Possession of cocaine, sexual offender failure to register telephone number, and sexual offender failure to register the vehicle.

Henley Wayne Corne (DOB: 07/09/1982), Inverness, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and possession of paraphernalia.

Tyler Cote (DOB: 09/21/1991), Homosassa, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and introduction of contraband into a detention facility.

Chelsea Leath Dominey (DOB: 11/02/1994), Homosassa, FL – Four counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of paraphernalia.

David Emanuel Foreman (DOB: 02/02/1973), Homosassa, FL - Sale of methamphetamine.

Michael Allen Robert Granger (DOB: 11/27/1990), Crystal River, FL - Trafficking in fentanyl, carrying a concealed weapon in the commission of a felony, and possession of paraphernalia.

Jenny Alexandra Griffiths (DOB: 04/04/1990), Homosassa, FL – Possession of morphine.

Yvette Joelle Harmon (DOB: 11/09/1982), Inverness, FL - Two counts of trafficking in fentanyl, two counts of sale of fentanyl, and one count of possession of paraphernalia.

Brian Corey Harper (DOB 12/17/1986) - Possession of methamphetamine.

Rufus Anthony Hoyt (DOB: 01/09/1981) - Trafficking in methamphetamine.

Patricia Ann Jones (DOB 04/18/1978), Inverness, FL - Possession of methamphetamine.

Shannon Brian Ledford (DOB: 05/20/1974), Homosassa, FL - Possession of methamphetamine.

Brittany Lynn Lettieri (DOB: 04/11/1994), Beverly Hills - Possession of fentanyl.

Justice Jean Lucas (DOB: 05/02/1995) - Two counts of trafficking in methamphetamine.

Jennifer Nichole Matthias (DOB: 11/14/1983), Inverness, FL - Possession of fentanyl.

David Marty (DOB 05/03/1980) (Registered Sex Offender) - Possession of methamphetamine and introduction of a controlled substance to a detention facility.

Kalim Nyabinghi Miller (DOB 06/06/1971), Ocala, FL – Two counts of possession of a controlled substance, one count of possession of paraphernalia, and a Marion County warrant for possession of a controlled substance.

Richard Jesse Moralis (DOB 09/17/1994), Floral City, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and driving while license suspended or revoked.

Georgeann Nealey (DOB: 09/13/1977), Homosassa, FL - Possession of cocaine and possession of fentanyl.

Hollie Joann Nobles (DOB: 08/09/1975), Homosassa, FL - Possession of methamphetamine.

Daniel Paul Ott (DOB: 07/15/1972), Homosassa, FL - Sale of methamphetamine.

Jack O’Neal Pickford (DOB: 09/07/1972), Hernando, FL - Possession of fentanyl, possession of methamphetamine, possession of Marijuana, and three counts of convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

Thomas Earl Smail (DOB: 11/20/1982), Inverness, FL - Trafficking in fentanyl and possession of fentanyl with intent to sell or distribute.

David Smith III (DOB: 09/22/2002) - Trafficking in fentanyl.

Sarah Ashbrook Smith (DOB 08/18/1996), Floral City, FL - Possession of paraphernalia and driving while license suspended or revoked.

Matthew Thomas Stephens (DOB: 06/23/1991), Beverly Hills - Possession of paraphernalia.

Troy Kevin Taflinger (DOB: 04/04/1995), Hernando, FL - Trafficking in methamphetamine over 14 grams and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Xena Lee Thompson (DOB: 12/21/1996), Hernando, FL - Two counts of sale of fentanyl.

Travis Weimert (DOB: 04/27/1988), Hernando, FL - Sale of fentanyl and possession of fentanyl.

Cleveland Williamson Jr (DOB 06/22/1989), Hernando, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and possession of paraphernalia.

“Unfortunately, many of these individuals trafficking or using illicit fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other deadly drugs in Citrus County are repeat offenders with no concern for others’ lives. Their intentional disregard of laws continually puts our community in danger,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Thank you to our TIU Detectives, Community Crimes Detectives, Patrol Deputies, Communications Officers, and our partners at the U.S. Marshal’s Service for all the hard work put into this operation to ensure these individuals are behind bars where they belong. While this operation may be over, we will remain steadfast as we work toward a vision of ending illicit drug activity in Citrus County.”

We want to thank our partners at the U.S. Marshal’s Service for their continual support in protecting our citizens and making Citrus County the safest community in Florida.

If you know of anyone who may be dealing in illegal narcotics or know of someone struggling with addiction, call our non-emergency line at 352-249-2790 to make a report or to speak with our Behavioral Health Unit for assistance.
JOHN GROMLING SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS FOR 2022 FENTANYL-RELATED MURDER
(Citrus County, FL) Last week, 32-year-old John Dylan Gromling of Beverly Hills was sentenced to 20 years in the Florida Department of Corrections for a 2022 first-degree felony murder that was caused by unlawful distribution of fentanyl, resulting in the overdose death of 53-year-old Bruce William Payne.

In August of 2022, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) responded to a deceased person at a residence in Inverness, later identified as Payne. Deputies located drug paraphernalia that tested positive for fentanyl. Detective Dan Slingerland of the Major Crimes Unit (MCU) and CCSO’s Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) were able to identify Gromling as the individual who supplied Payne with the lethal dose of fentanyl.

“This sentencing underscores our unwavering commitment to combating the fentanyl crisis that plagues our communities. Fentanyl is not just an illicit drug – it is a weapon of mass destruction and sadly a death sentence for many unsuspecting victims,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I want to make my message clear – we will not tolerate these peddlers of death in our community. I am incredibly proud of our detectives and our partners at the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office for assisting us in the successful prosecution of this case.”

This is the second case of its kind in Citrus County, and the first one to result in a conviction. Gromling plead guilty and was sentenced on Count 1: Unlawful distribution of fentanyl resulting in death and Count 2: Possession of Fentanyl.

2023 News

LONG TIME DEALER ARRESTED ON TRAFFICKING CHARGES
(Citrus County, FL) On Thursday, January 19, 2023, detectives with the Citrus Country Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) arrested long-time drug dealer 40-year-old Matthew Mullins of Homosassa for various drug trafficking charges. 

After observing a minor traffic violation, Detective Stephen Quinn of CCSO’s Community Impact Section attempted to conduct a traffic stop, in which Mullins began to flee from deputies in his vehicle. Mullins’ reckless behavior was short-lived as another CCSO deputy, Deputy Nick Erdman, was stationed only a short distance away at the intersection of CR491 and West Cardinal Street, in Lecanto.

As Mullins drove northbound through the intersection, a tire deflation device was successfully deployed by Deputy Erdman. Knowing his time was running out, Mullins threw a large baggie of what was later determined to be fentanyl out of the vehicle’s window. After discarding the fentanyl and realizing his vehicle was inoperable, Mullins pulled his vehicle to the side of the road without further incident.

The bag of fentanyl thrown by Mullins ruptured when it hit the ground, resulting in some of the contents being scattered across the grass shoulder. Due to the deadly substance now being airborne, members of CCSO’s TIU and the Citrus County 
Fire Service Hazmat Team, who are trained in Hazmat collection, responded to the scene to collect the fentanyl and decontaminated the area. The fentanyl collected weighed in at approximately 51 grams, enough to kill approximately 25,500 people. 

A search of Mullins vehicle was conducted with deputies locating approximately 199.7 grams of methamphetamine. Mullins was also found to be in possession of alprazolam pills (Xanax) and approximately 0.65 grams of fentanyl on his person. 

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office continues our commitment to combat illicit narcotics in our community. Mullins has a long history of selling narcotics and has actively fled deputies in the past to avoid arrest,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Today, he not only endangered the citizens of Citrus County with his reckless actions while fleeing, but he could have exposed citizens and law enforcement to the extremely fatal substance fentanyl. Thanks to the quick actions of the CCSO Tactical Impact Unit, Patrol Division and the Community Impact Section, Mullins was taken into custody before anyone 
was harmed.”

Mullins was arrested and charged with fleeing and eluding law enforcement, trafficking in methamphetamine, trafficking in fentanyl, possession of a controlled substance, possession of paraphernalia, and tampering with evidence. His bond was set at $113,000.
TWO BROTHERS SENTENCED IN FEDERAL COURT FOR HATE CRIME
(Citrus County, FL) Yesterday, Wednesday, January 25, 2023, brothers 56-year-old Roy Lamar Lashley Jr. and 52-year-old Robert Dewayne Lashley were sentenced in federal court for a hate crime they committed in Citrus County back in 2021. 

On November 17, 2021, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) was contacted in reference to a physical disturbance near the Family Dollar in Citrus Springs. The caller told communications officers that two white males, later identified as brothers Roy and Robert Lashley, were attacking a black male victim with an axe handle. Deputies 
immediately responded to the scene and were able to take both brothers into custody. While being detained, Roy Lashley kicked one of the deputies several times and actively resisted their efforts to place him in a patrol vehicle.

Witnesses to the attack told deputies that the brothers were yelling racial slurs at the victim and that Robert Lashley began to punch the victim, knocking him to the ground. According to the victim and witnesses, Roy Lashely retrieved an axe handle and joined the attack, striking the victim with it multiple times.

Roy Lashley (DOB 09/18/1966) was arrested for one count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, one count of resisting an officer without violence, one count of resisting an officer with violence, and one count of battery on a law enforcement officer.

Robert Lashley (DOB 05/03/1970) was arrested for one count of battery.

As the investigation continued, Detective Steelfox with the CCSO’s Major Crimes Unit (MCU) was able to identify and interview multiple witnesses to the attack. It quickly became apparent that the brothers had targeted the victim because of his race and used racial slurs while attacking him. Due to this incident appearing to be a hate crime, 
Detective Steelfox consulted with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Office of the United States Attorney, and it was determined that this case would be prosecuted in federal court.

No person should ever have to worry about being a target for violence because of their race, religion, or nationality,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I am extremely pleased with the federal convictions of these two and believe that justice has been served thanks to the aggressive prosecution of this case. Working in cooperation with our federal partners, we ensured that these criminals received the highest possible penalty for their brutal attack on an innocent individual.”

Based on their actions, Roy Lashley was sentenced to five years in federal prison, followed by three years of federal probation, and Robert Lashley was sentenced to five years in federal prison, followed by three years of federal probation.
TWO SEPARATE CRUELTY CALLS LEAD TO FOUR ARRESTS
(Citrus County, FL) Last week, two separate investigations led to the arrest of four individuals on various charges of child neglect and animal cruelty.

On Tuesday, January 24, 2023, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies responded to a residence off East Patience Lane in Inverness following a 9-1-1 call referencing a dog attack. Upon arrival, deputies and an animal control officer discovered five puppies and six adult dogs living in deplorable conditions. It was determined that all of the animals were not current on their vaccinations. Within the RV home, deputies observed the interior to be covered in feces with an abundance of flies and a strong odor of ammonia.

The two defendants, 52- year-old Steven Oliver and 49-year-old Shannon Oliver, were living outside the RV home in tents along with a minor. There was no access to running water or electricity, and the conditions outside were both unsafe and unsanitary. Officials observed an open area exposed with human feces and bacteria.

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) was called on scene to observe the living conditions. After determining the defendants could not meet the basic and essential needs of the minor in their care - who was sleeping in a separate tent that contained blankets covered in dog feces and urine, the child was immediately removed from the home. 

No one, human or animal, should be subjected to live in such appalling conditions,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “The disgusting situation seen in both cases was dangerous not only for the children living in the homes but for the animals as well. Animal abuse and child neglect go hand in hand; if someone cannot care for a pet, then chances are they cannot care for a child. It is crucial that our citizens report any possible signs of neglect that they may see, because sometimes – like in the Olivers’ 
case– the juvenile may not have regular access to responsible adults who could have helped.”

Just three days later, on Friday, January 27, 2023, CCSO deputies responded to East Laurel Court in Floral City for a welfare check on an animal. 

Immediately, deputies noticed in the middle of the living room, a child sleeping on a torn-up mattress inside a crib. Another small child was walking around the living room with dried fecal matter on the bottom of their feet.

Inside the home, deputies located seven severely malnourished dogs and observed animal urine and feces scattered throughout the house.

Both defendants, 35-year-old Jannet Fairfield, and 30-year-old Lexx Lucas were detained for further investigation. 

While being questioned, Fairfield advised officials there were three other juveniles living in the home but that they were at school during this time. When deputies asked where the children sleep, Fairfield stated the children do not have beds and instead sleep together on the couch. Based upon the findings of the investigation, all animals were seized and both defendants were placed under arrest.

DCF also responded to the home during this investigation and removed all five.

Charges for both cases are as follows:

Steven Oliver
(05/04/1970) was arrested for 11 counts of animal cruelty with each count having a $2,000.00 bond and child neglect with a $2,000.00 bond. Total bond amount $24,000.00.

Shannon Oliver (02/20/1973) was arrested for 11 counts of animal cruelty with each count having a $2,000.00 bond and child neglect with a $2,000.00 bond. Total bond amount $24,000.00.

Jannet Fairfield (03/18/1987) was arrested for seven counts of animal cruelty with a $2,000.00 bond for each count and child neglect with a $2,000.00 bond. Total bond amount $16,000.00. 

Lexx Lucas (11/22/1992) was arrested for seven counts of animal cruelty with a $2,000.00 bond for each count and child neglect with a $2,000.00 bond. Total bond amount $16,000.00.
MAN AND WOMAN ARRESTED FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING OF A CHILD
(Citrus County, FL) This week, both 38-year-old Candy Lee Holmes of Beverly Hills, FL, and 28-year-old Dourian Emmanuel Butler of St. Petersburg, FL, were arrested as the result of a joint investigation by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

Late last year, on November 3, 2022, the CCSO was contacted in reference to a juvenile victim who had disclosed sexual activity with Butler. Detective Jonathan Richey with the CCSO Special Victims Unit (SVU) was assigned to the case and immediately began an investigation. 

During an interview at Jessie’s Place, the Citrus County Child Advocacy Center, the victim told a Child Protection Team (CPT) interviewer that they had engaged in sexual activity with Butler in both Citrus and Levy counties. The victim told the interviewer that Holmes had introduced them to Butler and arranged for them to meet at a hotel. The investigation revealed that Holmes received money from Butler in exchange for leaving the victim with him at the hotel. 

Due to the criminal acts taking place in two counties, and the suspect living in St. Petersburg, Detective Richey contacted FDLE to assist in the investigation. Special Agent Dodi Pruitt was assigned to this case and worked with the CCSO to develop probable cause to obtain warrants for the arrest of both Holmes and Butler.

This case is an appalling example of how human traffickers exploit children for both sexual gratification and financial gain,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Holmes used her position of trust with this child to profit financially from the sexual exploitation of the victim, while Butler traveled and paid for sex with this minor. By working in partnership with FDLE and CPT, Detective Richey helped ensure that these predators will not be able to harm another child in our community.” 

Holmes was arrested on a warrant for Human Trafficking, Child Neglect, Deriving Support form Proceeds and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device.

Butler was arrested on a warrant for Human Trafficking, Unlawful Sexual Activity with Certain Minors, Travelling to Meet a Minor for Sex, and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device. 

Holmes was booked into the Citrus County Jail yesterday. Butler was booked into the Pinellas County Jail today. The case will be prosecuted by Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.
WOMAN CITED ON EIGHT COUNTS OF ANIMAL CRUELTY/NEGLECT
(Citrus County, FL) Yesterday, Wednesday, February 15, 2023, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies and animal control officers responded to a residence off South Otis Avenue in Lecanto following an animal cruelty call received by our agency. The call referenced a person breeding and selling animals that were being kept in an inhumane manner.

Upon arrival, deputies and animal control officers discovered eight dogs being deprived of their necessary sustenance and care as well as two cats living in these atrocious conditions.

Deputies noted that while standing outside the residence, they were able to detect a strong odor of urine coming from the inside of the residence. Once inside, personnel observed fecal filled dog cages and urine soaked carpets. Deputies also noticed empty bowls inside the cages depriving the dogs of both food and water. It was determined the best course of action would be to remove all 10 animals from the defendant’s care. 

When the dogs were brought outside, into a brighter atmosphere, their lack of care was even more evident. All the dogs had dried feces on their coats and feet creating matted fur, and they appeared to be suffering from malnutrition. The defendant, 69- year-old Debora Lavoie, was charged with eight counts of animal cruelty/neglect and issued a mandatory court date.

It is appalling to see so many animal neglect cases within our county,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am extremely thankful for our team of animal control officers, who work diligently to better the lives of these helpless and innocent animals. The exceptional staff at the Citrus County Animal Shelter who continuously provide these seized animals with the much needed love, care, and nourishment should also be commended for their tireless efforts.” 


Animal Control Officers are available to respond to routine calls for service between 8:00 am & 8:00 pm every day of the 
week, including holidays. Emergencies are responded to 24 /7.
CCSO INTELLIGENCE ANALYST GRADUATES FROM CRIME INTELLIGENCE ANALYST ACADEMY
(Citrus County, FL) On February 17, 2023, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Intelligence Analyst Allison Cornelius graduated from the Florida Sheriff’s Association’s Crime Intelligence Analyst Academy.

This 64-hour academy offers criminal intelligence tools, strategies, and tactics for enhancing analytical research methods through two courses, Introduction to Criminal Intelligence and Connecting the Dots, which are designed around active criminal threat case studies to add a real-world operational perspective.

Cornelius was challenged with hands-on training, structured coursework, and assessments, expanding her abilities to recognize evolving criminal trends and threats and how to apply that knowledge into making actionable intelligence products.
The curriculum the academy offers has been certified by the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (IALEIA), an organization that represents analytical personnel in law enforcement and develops international qualification and competency standards, setting the foundation for a professional career path in intelligence analysis.

Cornelius began her career with CCSO on March 21, 2022. Since then, she has continued to further her education to enhance her skills in the intelligence analysis field to support CCSO’s mission of Excellence in Public Safety.

Allison is just starting her career as an analyst and is already showing her dedication by advancing her knowledge in the progression of the intelligence cycle through fundamental concepts, strategies, and products associated with criminal intelligence,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Intelligence analysis is a substantial tool in terms of crime prevention, hazard mitigation and suspect profiling. I am pleased to see Allison’s advancements help bring our agency to the next level.

Congratulations, Allison Cornelius! We are proud to have you on our team serving Citrus County and thank you for your continuous dedication to helping us make Citrus County the safest community in Florida.
SUBSTITUTE TEACHER ARRESTED FOR LEWD & LASCIVIOUS CHARGES
(Citrus County, FL) Yesterday, March 9, 2023, 83-year-old Wolfgang Sprenger of Dunnellon, FL, was arrested as the result of an investigation by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Special Victims Unit (SVU). 

On January 31, 2023, Hernando Elementary School staff reported to the School Resource Deputy that a substitute teacher, identified as Wolfgang Sprenger, may have inappropriately touched some students. The Citrus County School Board immediately removed Sprenger from his position as a substitute teacher as CCSO began its investigation into these allegations.

Detective Jonathan Richey with the SVU was assigned the case and began to identify victims. During his investigation, Detective Richey was able to identify multiple juvenile victims, as well as several juveniles who had witnessed these acts. All of the victims were interviewed at Jessie’s Place, the Citrus County Child Advocacy Center, where they stated that Sprenger had touched them inappropriately. Detective Richey was also able to obtain evidence which supported the victims’ statements.

After completing a thorough investigation, Detective Richey worked with the State Attorney’s Office, and a warrant was issued for Sprenger’s arrest.

This case exposes how a predator can and will work themselves into a position of trust to gain access to children,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Sprenger violated the trust of the children he was supposed to teach and the trust our community placed in him. A classroom is supposed to be a nurturing and safe environment, not a playground for a predator like Sprenger. I hope this arrest will be the starting point on a journey of healing for his victims.”

On March 9, 2023, Sprenger was arrested for a warrant for two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a child less than 12, four counts of lewd and lascivious conduct, and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a child. He was transported to the Citrus County Detention Facility, where he is being held without a bond per the warrant.
CCSO TEAMS UP IN UNDERCOVER OPERATION ON ALCOHOL SALES
(Citrus County, FL) Earlier this month, detectives from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office and state investigators from the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) teamed up for anenforcement effort ensuring establishments adhere to their licensure.

The sale of alcohol and tobacco to minors is irresponsible and preventable just by a simple check of an identification card,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I am proud of those establishments that follow the law and do their part to help keep our community safe. We will continue to work with our colleagues at the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco to conduct these compliance checks throughout the year.” 

During this operation, 21 random establishments in Citrus County were visited to test their internal processes concerning the sales of alcohol or tobacco to minors.
The below establishments were NOT in compliance:

  • Brothers Pizza - 6746 W. Gulf to Lake Hwy, Crystal River: 1 misdemeanor citation was issued.
  • Joe Elders Coney Island - 674 NE 5th Street, Crystal River: 2 violations occurred. A 17-year-old sold to the minor. The manager was also issued a citation due to the 17-year-old not being allowed to sell alcohol.
  • Strickland’s Convenience Store - 5378 S. Cherokee Way, Homosassa: 1 misdemeanor citation was issued. 
  • Florida Cracker Monkey Bar & Kitchen - 5297 S. Cherokee Way, Homosassa: received an administration violation, for a violation of Florida Statute 562.12, by selling a cocktail “To Go” and allowing the individual to walk off the premises with alcohol meant to be consumed on the licensed premises. (They did not sell to a minor.)

The below establishments DID OPERATE IN COMPLIANCE with their licensure:
 
  • Copp Winery - 785 W. Gulf To Lake Hwy, Crystal River
  • La Casita Mexican Restaurant - 773 NE 5th Street, Crystal River
  • Wawa - 505 US Hwy 19, Crystal River
  • Oysters Restaurant - 606 NE US Hwy 19, Crystal River
  • Crystal River Shell - 639 639 NE US Hwy 19, Crystal River
  • Bubbaques - 631 N. Citrus Ave., Crystal River
  • Kane’s Cattle Company - 508 N. Citrus Ave., Crystal River
  • Norton’s Riverside - 16 NE 5th Street, Crystal River
  • Taps and Caps Pub - 3782 W. Gulf to Lake Hwy, Lecanto
  • Lecanto Food Mart - 3761 W. Homosassa Trl., Lecanto
  • Blowin Smoke - 3772 W. Gulf to Lake Hwy, Lecanto
  • Rocco’s Café - 6612 Gulf to Lake Hwy, Crystal River
  • Sugar Mill Liquor - 2 6601 W. Gulf to Lake Hwy, Crystal River
  • Beef O’ Bradys - 6738 W. Gulf to Lake Hwy, Crystal River
  • Los Magueye’s Mexican Restaurant - 6875 W. Gulf to Lake Hwy, Crystal River
  • Sunoco - 6971 W. Gulf to Lake Hwy, Crystal River
  • Race Trac - 3861 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa

The Citrus County Sheriff's Office and ABT will continue to work constructively with local retail establishments to ensure employees are well-educated in Florida Tobacco and Beverage Laws.
CCSO SHAMROCKS 11 CHILD PREDATORS OFF OF THE STREETS IN  "OPERATION LUCKY STRIKE"
(Citrus County, FL) Today, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s(CCSO) High Tech Crimes Unit (HTCU) is releasing the results of Operation Lucky Strike, a tactical undercover Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) operation to apprehend dangerous cyber predators who attempted to engage in sexual activity with a child. 

Over the course of this operation, officials from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, along with our partners at the United States Secret Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, and the Tavares Police Department, worked collaboratively to capture these online child sex predators. 

During the operation, law enforcement officials posed as minors on various websites waiting to be solicited through online messages by these subjects. Despite the acknowledgment of the child’s age, these individuals still chose to send sexually explicit pictures, messages and detailed requests of various sexual activities they wanted to perform with the child. Some had driven over an hour thinking they were meeting a minor to engage in sexual activity, but were luckily greeted by law enforcement personnel. In total, twelve arrests were made as a result of this operation.

These abhorrent and sick individuals prey upon children for their own perverted benefit. These individuals knowingly send vile and sexually explicit messages to minors online, and even travel hours to meet up with a child with the intention to carry out these repulsive acts if not something worse,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Preying on
children is absolutely despicable. I am incredibly proud of the extraordinary partnership between our agency and the law enforcement agencies who assisted us in bringing these monsters to justice and off of our streets. If operations like “Lucky Strike” takes only one predator off of the streets, it is a success. We’ve stopped 12 immoral criminals this time, so we deem “Lucky Strike” a huge success.

The following subjects were arrested in Citrus County during this operation:

Cristian Gabriel Rosado-Marrero (DOB 12/06/1995),
Summerfield, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215. Total bond set at $27,000. 

Devin Michael Cordeiro (DOB 08/03/1996),
Brooksville, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215. Total bond set at $27,000. 

Franklin Lezama (DOB 06/20/1991), Bradenton, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); Transmission of Harmful Material to Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2); Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215; Carrying Concealed Weapon with No License: F.S.S. 790.01(1); and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon: F.S.S. 790.23(1)(A). Total bond set at $72,000. 

Jeff D. Adams (DOB 07/18/1976), Crystal River, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215. Total bond set at $27,000.

Sean Robert Mooney (DOB 01/08/1983), Homosassa, FL – Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act: F.S.S. 847.0135(4)(a); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215. Total bond set at $27,000. 

Robert Allan Rankin (DOB 01/26/1992), Hernando, FL – Possession of a Controlled Substance: F.S.S. 893.13(6)(a); and Possession of Paraphernalia: F.S.S. 893.147(1) Total bond set at $3,000. (Accomplice to Sean Robert Mooney, 
driving him to the meeting location.)

The following subjects were arrested on Citrus County warrants as part of this operation:

Matthew Leathers (DOB 02/28/1983), Palm Bay, FL – 2 Counts of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2); and Computer Pornography: Seduce, Solicit, Lure, or Entice a Child to Engage in Any Illegal Act: F.S.S. 847.0135 (3)(a); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215. Total bond set at 
$4,000.

Glenn Cunningham (DOB 12/30/1985), Homosassa, FL – 2 Counts of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2); and Computer Pornography: Seduce, Solicit, Lure, or Entice a Child to Engage in Any Illegal Act: F.S.S. 847.0135 (3)(a); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215.Total bond set at $8,000.

James Patrick Lake (DOB 10/18/1971), Tampa, FL – Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S.847.0138(2); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215.Total bond set at $4,000.

Marc Philip Werner Lovric (DOB 07/04/1982), Beverly Hills, FL – Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215.Total bond set at $4,000.

Alex Anthony Francis (DOB 11/02/1990), Orlando, FL – Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor: F.S.S. 847.0138(2); and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device: F.S.S. 934.215.Total bond set at $4,000.

Ralph Joseph Perkins (DOB 05/09/1969), Tampa, FL – Failed to Register All Electronic Mail and Identifiers Total bond set at $2,000.

CCSO would like to thank all of our local, state, and federal law enforcement agency partners who played an integral role in the success of this operation and were unwavering in their commitment to protecting our youth.

If you suspect someone is committing crimes against our youth, call (352) 249-2790 to immediately report your suspicions to our office. Or download the Sheriff’s App (search Citrus County Sheriff’s Office) to use the ‘Submit a tip’ feature to make a report instantly. 

CCSO App users can look up Sexual Offenders in their area by clicking on the ‘Sexual Offenders’ feature, which will show a photo of the offender, their name, physical descriptors, address, and your approximate distance from their location (if app location settings are turned on by the user). 
PARENTS BEWARE: DO YOUR TEENS HAVE THESE 10 APPS ON THEIR PHONES?

(Citrus County, FL)  In light of our recent operation, Operation Lucky Strike, which was a strategic, undercover internet operation to apprehend dangerous, cyber predators, we are sharing this vital information. Our High Tech Crimes Unit Detectives have deemed the below applications the top 10 apps parents should be aware of based on a higher likelihood of abuse.

You probably hear that these apps can be dangerous, and brush it off, but just last week during our operation we arrested 11 child predators who were utilizing these same apps to solicit minors. These applications continue to be virtual interstates for online predators to gain access to our youth. Predators know how easy it is to get online and start chatting, so monitor access as much as possible.

Top 10 apps to watch for:

  1. Snapchat lets users take and share photos & videos. App settings will also allow people to see your location.
  2. TikTok lets users create and share short videos. There are very few privacy controls available, so it is not hard for your kids to discover explicit content.
  3. Omegle is an online chat that allows users to socialize with strangers worldwide without needing to register an account. It randomly pairs users with one-on-one, anonymous chat sessions.
  4. KiK allows users to send an array of multimedia messages through a Wi-Fi connection and engage in live video chats.
  5. Roblox is an online game with a chat feature that includes profanity, sexual content, drugs, and more. The age range of gamers varies widely.
  6. Discord is an instant messaging app where users have the ability to chat via voice/video calls & text messages privately.
  7. Instagram is a social media platform that hosts a sheer amount of inappropriate content that users can access without having an account.
  8. Whisper is an anonymous social network that lets users share secrets with strangers. The secrets are created by typing words onto images.
  9. WhatsApp is a messaging app that allows texts, video calls, photo sharing, and voicemails with users worldwide. It is a cross-platform IP service owned by Facebook.
  10. Vault App is a password-protected app that hides private files such as videos and photos behind a functioning calculator app.

“Parents, remind your children that they should only chat with those online that they truly know, and especially never give out personal information online like addresses, phone numbers, or personal photos,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I recommend that you sit down with your child and talk to them about the potential dangers of the internet, social media, and online games.”

Parents, please pay attention to these potentially harmful apps and talk to your children about what they can do to stay safe online and avoid lurking dangers such as an online predator. For questions about internet crimes or to report an internet crime, please contact our office at (352) 249-2790.  

CRYSTAL RIVER MAN TO SERVE 29 YEARS IN PRISON FOR PRODUCING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

(Citrus County, FL) Earlier this month, Andrew Ezekial Lynch (D.O.B. 10/05/1989) of Crystal River was convicted for production of child pornography. Lynch was sentenced to serve a total of 29 years in prison, plus an additional 20 years of supervised release, by U.S. District Judge John L. Sinatra, Jr.

Between May of 2017 and May of 2018, Lynch contacted five different female victims ranging from 13 to 17 years old through Facebook Messenger using several different fake accounts.

In 2017, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) High Tech Crimes Unit Sergeant Tiffany Barry received various tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and discovered all of the messages were coming from the same I.P. address in Crystal River. Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) detectives began their investigation finding multiple juveniles were contacted by Lynch and coerced to send sexually explicit photos and videos.

Detectives discovered that Lynch threatened the minor victims by claiming he would send their explicit photos and messages to family or post them publicly if they didn’t continue talking to him. CCSO detectives then made contact with Lynch at his residence. Lynch advised he had no social media accounts, including Facebook, and denied ever making fake accounts online.

In a later interview at CCSO’s Emergency Operations Center, it was found that an individual, who was previously a resident of Lynch’s home, was having several of his old Facebook photos used on the fake accounts used to talk to the victims. These photos ranged from ones taken while the individual was only 15 years old, up to ones taken in his early twenties. The individual stated he did not know who would be using his photographs to message juveniles but advised he would not communicate with someone who was under-aged. Following this interview, CCSO’s case was adopted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) who was also looking at Lynch for similar crimes. The FBI charged Lynch for the crimes he committed involving these minor victims.

“Yet another repulsive child predator has been taken off of our streets and put behind bars. The disgusting actions of Andrew Lynch show just how dangerous these perverted individuals can be, threatening several juveniles by using social media as a weapon,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “My team is dedicated to safeguarding our youth and will remain committed to apprehending predators like Lynch. Thank you to our persistent detectives, Captain Brian Spiddle, and our federal partners for their collaboration and tireless work in this case.”

If you suspect someone is committing crimes against our youth, call (352) 249-2790 to immediately report your suspicions to our office. Or download the Sheriff’s App (search Citrus County Sheriff’s Office) to use the ‘Submit a tip’ feature to make a report instantly. 

CCSO App users can look up Sexual Offenders in their area by clicking on the ‘Sexual Offenders’ feature, which will show a photo of the offender, their name, physical descriptors, address, and your approximate distance from their location.

DAVE HARVEY AWARDED CCSO's CIVILIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD

(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is constantly recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments and fierce dedication that our team exemplifies. Last week, we hosted an awards ceremony to commend the remarkable actions of our personnel. During this ceremony, we presented ‘Of the Year’ awards to four devoted professionals in their respective categories: Deputy Sheriff, Communications Officer, Civilian, and Volunteer. These individuals go above and beyond their duties and exhibit extraordinary professionalism in their work achievements every single day. Those given this distinguished award exemplify our agency’s core values of ‘Integrity’, ‘Service Above Self’, and ‘Loyalty Above All’, and are committed to providing excellence in public safety.

The Civilian of the Year was awarded to Mr. Dave Harvey in recognition of his exemplary performance of duties and service to our mission throughout the year. He has assisted in bringing the highest level of training and education to our agency members, helping to improve and maintain their knowledge and skills of vital lifesaving techniques. Dave’s recent involvement in facilitating and coding the programs necessary for our recent Motorola CAD transition was instrumental to our agency, where he kept vital operations running.

“Dave Harvey has helped his team in an immense way by sharing his years of experience to teach his fellow colleagues and advance our operations,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “While converting over to a new Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system to better serve our community, Dave played a crucial role in ensuring the smooth transition of our critical infrastructure. Congratulations to Dave Harvey for receiving the ‘Civilian of the Year’ award!”

ROBERT HAYDEN AWARDED CCSO's  COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER OF THE YEAR AWARD

(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is constantly recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments and fierce dedication that our team exemplifies. Last week, we hosted an awards ceremony to commend the remarkable actions of our personnel. During this ceremony, we presented ‘Of the Year’ awards to four devoted professionals in their respective categories: Deputy Sheriff, Communications Officer, Civilian, and Volunteer. These individuals go above and beyond their duties and exhibit extraordinary professionalism in their work achievements every single day. Those given this distinguished award exemplify our agency’s core values of ‘Integrity’, ‘Service Above Self’, and ‘Loyalty Above All’, and are committed to providing excellence in public safety.

The Communications Officer of the Year award was presented to Mr. Robert Hayden for exemplary performance of his duties and service to our mission throughout the year. Robert has embodied the role of a communications officer throughout his consistent display of patience with callers facing dangerous situations. His thoroughness in collecting pertinent information for deputies and fire rescue responders has proven to be invaluable in the case of several calls for service handled by our agency. Additionally, Robert played an instrumental part in the Motorola Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) transition through his efforts in building the ‘CAD View’ program. This program required a significant time commitment and expertise in SQL and SSRS coding languages. Robert’s involvement was imperative to keeping critical operations for emergency services running smoothly throughout his significant transition.

“Mr. Robert Hayden was an important asset to our Communications team during a difficult and lengthy transition to a new computer-aided dispatch program, all while providing premier service to our citizens,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I want to extend my gratitude to Robert for his commitment to serving our community and ensuring Citrus County stays safe. Congratulations to Robert Hayden for receiving the ‘Communications Officer of the Year’ award!”

DEPUTY JONATHAN RITLI AWARDED CCSO's  DEPUTY SHERIFF OF THE YEAR AWARD

(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is constantly recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments and fierce dedication that our team exemplifies. Last week, we hosted an awards ceremony to commend the remarkable actions of our personnel. During this ceremony, we presented ‘Of the Year’ awards to four devoted professionals in their respective categories: Deputy Sheriff, Communications Officer, Civilian, and Volunteer. These individuals go above and beyond their duties and exhibit extraordinary professionalism in their work achievements every single day. Those given this distinguished award exemplify our agency’s core values of ‘Integrity’, ‘Service Above Self’, and ‘Loyalty Above All’, and are committed to providing excellence in public safety.

The Deputy Sheriff of the Year award was presented to Deputy Jonathan Ritli for his consistent and outstanding service and performance. Deputy Ritli played a vital role in our agency by training with other School Resource Deputies (SRD), thus ensuring our team maintained excellence in various areas. CCSO especially wants to give recognition to Deputy Ritli’s actions as an SRD at the CREST School. Another instance highlighting the excellent level of care Deputy Ritli holds for his students is when a student confided in him that Christmas would be challenging for their family due to financial constraints. Deputy Ritli took it upon himself to organize a fundraiser and provided the student and their mother with an all-expenses paid trip to Universal Theme Park. The level of care and support provided by this law enforcement professional, not only to his students but also to his fellow deputies, serves as an example to all.

“Deputy Ritli is a prime example of a law enforcement professional,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I am extremely proud of the dedication Deputy Ritli exhibits every day. This is a well-deserved recognition, and he is an integral part of our team. Congratulations to Deputy Ritli on being recognized as ‘Deputy Sheriff of the Year’!”

DON DITTEMORE AWARDED CCSO's VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD

(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is constantly recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments and fierce dedication that our team exemplifies. Last week, we hosted an awards ceremony to commend the remarkable actions of our personnel. During this ceremony, we presented ‘Of the Year’ awards to four devoted professionals in their respective categories: Deputy Sheriff, Communications Officer, Civilian, and Volunteer. These individuals go above and beyond their duties and exhibit extraordinary professionalism in their work achievements every single day. Those given this distinguished award exemplify our agency’s core values of ‘Integrity’, ‘Service Above Self’, and ‘Loyalty Above All’, and are committed to providing excellence in public safety.

The Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Mr. Don Dittemore in recognition of his peerless dedication to assisting CCSO with our ever-growing caseload. Don started with our agency as a volunteer in 2019 and has investigated over 800 cases, working countless hours communicating with victims, financial institutions, and coordinating with other agencies to combat the effects of fraud in our community. In 2022 alone, Don investigated 222 fraud-related cases for Citrus County citizens and provided assistance and closure to them while still acting as an invaluable asset to our detectives in the Major Case Section. Don’s professionalism and selfless service in lightening the burden on our detectives not only allowed them to focus on urgent outstanding cases but also ensured that the cases he took were still received with the same exact attention and high level of care as our high-profile cases. Don is a true resource and an integral part of the Sheriff’s Office, and the time he has volunteered to help us work toward our mission is essential.

“Mr. Don Dittemore has been a substantial help to our agency, eager to show up to assist our community every day,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Our agency is extremely grateful to have Don as a teammate and I couldn’t be prouder to have him represent all of the astounding work that our volunteers do. Congratulations to Don Dittemore for receiving the ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award!”

CCSO Teams Up With FHP and Other Law Enforcement Agencies across the Country in Operation CARE

(Citrus County, FL)  Citizens were warned the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) would not tolerate any form of malarkey when it comes to traffic safety over the Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. Sadly, not everyone heeded our warnings and several vehicle operators were witnessed driving under the influence by our Traffic and Patrol Units. 

“Driving while under the influence of any substance is reckless behavior. It is simply selfish to risk not only their lives, but the lives of countless innocent people by getting behind the wheel,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I am beyond disappointed in those choosing to operate a vehicle while under the influence. Our units will continue to be on the roadways protecting our community from their careless decisions by targeting those who make these selfish decisions.”

Last weekend, CCSO joined Operation CARE (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort), led by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), in an effort to increase officer presence on Interstate and U.S. Highways across the nation during specific high crash periods.

As part of this operation, our agency took to the streets of Citrus County alongside our partners at the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP). We conducted 75 traffic stops, which resulted in four DUI arrests (one by FHP) and a total of 74 traffic citations being issued.

The following three people were taken into custody for DUI by CCSO:

  • Michael Steven Shafer, 30, of Crystal River, was pulled over after failing to stay in his lane of travel, almost hitting multiple vehicles. His bond was set at $1,000 per the bond schedule.
  • Christopher Mark Parreault, 56, of Inglis, was stopped after deputies observed his vehicle make multiple traffic infractions. His bond was set at $1,000 per the bond schedule.
  • Stephen Anthony Rivera, 51, of Inverness, was failing to stay within his designated lane of travel when deputies activated their overhead red and blue emergency lights, Rivera instead of pulling over, lead deputies on a brief pursuit where he continued to swerve in and out of lanes, before he stopped to let a passenger out along the side of the road, and sped off again. The passenger alerted deputies that Rivera was “heavily intoxicated.” Rivera then continued to flee at reckless speeds, conducted multiple U-turns, came within feet of ramming a patrol vehicle, and almost hit multiple other vehicles in the area before finally coming to a stop and being apprehended.

Operation or not, CCSO is dedicated to keeping intoxicated and erratic drivers off our roadways. While our actions may not always be visible, our dedicated team is always out in full force to ensure the safety of our motorists and community.

CORRECTIONS OFFICER ARRESTED FOR BATTERY OF FELLOW CORRECTIONS OFFICER
(Citrus County, FL) On March 28, 2023, 34-year-old David Lee of Beverly Hills, FL, was 
arrested on a warrant for one count of battery of a Law Enforcement Officer, as a result of an investigation by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Behavioral Health Unit (BHU). 

CoreCivic staff reported to their chain of command that Correctional Officer Lee may have battered a fellow correctional officer while in the performance of daily operations at the Citrus County Detention Facility. Lee was subsequently placed on administrative leave as a result of their internal investigation. 

Upon notification of CoreCivic, Detective Ramon Rivera with CCSO’s BHU immediately 
began the interview process, speaking with the victim and witnesses regarding the battery allegation. The initial report stated the victim was speaking with Lee, at which time he subsequently and without provocation became aggressive and battered the victim. 

After completing a thorough investigation, Detective Rivera was able to obtain evidence that supported the victim’s statements and acquire a warrant for Lee’s arrest.

We have zero tolerance for violence in the workplace,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Often, crimes of this nature can go unreported, but I am glad that we were able to start an investigation alongside CoreCivic and quickly put an end to Lee’s threatening presence. At no point should anyone be bullied, let alone battered while trying to do their job.

Lee was taken into custody at the Citrus County Detention Facility, where he is being held on a $5,000.00 bond
HOMOSASSA MAN ARRESTED FOR KIDNAPPING  AND ATTEMPTED MURDER
(Citrus County, FL) This past Monday, March 27th , 59-year-old James Frederick Queen of Homosassa, FL, was arrested on numerous serious felony charges to include attempted murder and kidnapping - as the result of an investigation by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Patrol Division and Major Crimes Section (MCS). 

Early Monday, deputies received a call requesting a well-being check on the elderly victim, who was believed to be under the care of the defendant. Deputies made contact with Queen, at his residence in Homosassa, who stated that the victim was in another county with a family member. Responding deputies quickly disproved this information and Queen eventually admitted the victim was inside. Queen’s lies multiplied when he unsuccessfully tried to explain to deputies that the victim had multiple self-inflicted injuries and was too embarrassed to call for help. 

When deputies entered the residence, they were able to locate the elderly victim who had been ruthlessly brutalized. The victim was able to tell deputies that they had been repeatedly and savagely beaten by Queen for days and prevented from calling for help or leaving the residence. Deputies took Queen into custody and the victim was transported to a trauma center due to the extent of their injuries. Detectives arrived on scene to assist with the investigation. 

CCSO is dedicated to protecting our elderly citizens and removing brutalizers like Queen from our society,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “It is unthinkable that someone could be so violent toward such a vulnerable member of our community. Not only did Queen torture and terrorize the victim, but he deliberately kept them from seeking law enforcement and medical assistance. The cruel and inhumane actions of Queen in this case are utterly sadistic.

Queen was arrested on: one count of attempted murder; one count of kidnapping with the intent to inflict bodily harm; one count of aggravated battery on a person 65 or older; one count of felony battery by strangulation; one count of false imprisonment; and one count of hindering communication to law enforcement. He is being held at the Citrus County Detention Facility without bond.
INVERNESS SEXUAL OFFENDER SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON
(Citrus County, FL) Yesterday, March 29th, Christopher James Covyaw (D.O.B. 10/29/72) of Inverness, FL, was sentenced to life in the Florida Department of Corrections as a result of his arrest by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) last year. 

In June of 2022, the CCSO High Tech Crimes Unit (HTCU) worked alongside federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to conduct ‘Operation Cyber Knights,’ a strategic undercover Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) operation to apprehend dangerous cyber predators who had the intent to engage in sexual activity with a child. During this operation, Covyaw made contact with an undercover law enforcement officer whom he believed to be a young boy. Despite acknowledging the age of the child, Covyaw still decided to send numerous pornographic images and made plans to meet with them and engage in sexual activity. 

Following this operation, Covyaw was arrested on a Citrus County warrant for:

  •  4 counts of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor
  •  2 counts of Seducing or Luring a Child
  •  1 count of Sex Offender Fail to Register a Phone Number
  •  1 count of Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device
“Covyaw was given an opportunity to re-enter society after his previous conviction for preying on children, and instead, he chose to continue to be a predator. He has proven that he cannot be rehabilitated and will not stop committing repulsive crimes. Covyaw will no longer be a danger to the children in our community as he serves the rest of his life behind bars,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “This life sentence is an affirmation of CCSO’s commitment to protecting our children from disgusting predators like Covyaw and making Citrus County the safest community in Florida. I am extremely proud of our High Tech Crimes Unit and our partnering agencies for their outstanding work in taking yet another child predator off of our streets.”

Covyaw has been a registered sex offender for previous offenses involving children since 2021 and was to remain on sex offender probation until May of 2028. Of the ten arrests resulting from ‘Operation Cyber Knights,’ Covyaw is the sixth to be sentenced and the first to be sentenced to life in prison.
CCSO COMMENDS THREE LEADERS ON THEIR RECENT PROMOTIONS
(Citrus County, FL) Please join the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and Sheriff Mike Prendergast in congratulating three dedicated professionals on their recent promotions. 

While these vital advancements took place on April 1st, today’s ceremony is a formal announcement of each member’s well-deserved promotion. These organizational changes were made to further strengthen and structure the leadership of the agency in order to better serve the citizens of Citrus County. In doing so, the following promotions took place:

Background Investigator Chris Evan to Director of the Emergency Management DivisionDirector Evan was first hired in 1997. During his 24 years of service, he served in the positions of Patrol Deputy, Operations Sergeant, Sergeant of Community Affairs, Lieutenant of Professional Standards, Deputy Director, and Director of Emergency Operations. After retiring, Evan returned to CCSO as a Background Investigator in 2022, and just a short year later, appointed Director of Emergency Management. 

Lieutenant Chris Ball to Captain over the Judicial & Juvenile Services Division Captain Ball began his career with CCSO in 2005 as a Deputy Sheriff. Since then, he has continued to further his education while serving his community. His past titles include School Resource Deputy, Detective, Patrol Sergeant, and Watch Commander. He earned the title of Lieutenant in 2016, where he served as the Major Crimes Lieutenant and as a District Lieutenant until his promotion.

Sergeant Jose Carreras to Lieutenant overseeing the Community Impact Section
Lieutenant Carreras has been a dedicated public servant to the citizens of Citrus County since 2005 when he joined CCSO as a Patrol Deputy. Since then, he has served as a Detective with our Tactical Impact Unit, Major Crimes Unit, and Special Victims Unit. He has also served in the capacity of Major Crimes Unit Officer in Charge (OIC) and SWAT member. 

“These are all well-deserved and truly merited promotions,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I am proud of each of these leaders and their outstanding dedication to their profession and their community. They have continuously persevered through challenge after challenge, and I look forward to seeing them achieve numerous triumphs in 
their new roles.”

Key factors that played a role in the decision to promote the above professionals include experience, expertise, and abilities to consistently exceed the expectations and requirements of their roles. Each will bring a wealth of knowledge and leadership to their new roles. Please join our office as we congratulate these outstanding professionals as they celebrate their significant career achievements.
NINE-TIME FELON SENTENCED TO MANDATORY LIFE

(Citrus County, FL) Today, Demare Tavis Barnes II (DOB 11/06/1987) of Crystal River, FL, was sentenced to mandatory life in the Florida Department of Corrections by the Honorable Judge Fritton for second-degree murder.

“Barnes is no stranger to violence and his extensive criminal history clearly indicates he is a danger to any community he’s in,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Knowing this, Judge Fritton reasonably agreed Barnes could no longer pose a deadly risk to citizens if behind bars. This mandatory life sentence could not have been handed down without the remarkable partnership between our office and that of the State Attorney’s Office.”

In December of 2020, while in custody at the Citrus County Detention Facility, Barnes became involved in a violent physical altercation with a fellow inmate, Mr. Wayne Washer. During this altercation, Barnes battered the inmate who unfortunately died after succumbing to the injuries inflicted by Barnes. After a thorough investigation, Barnes was arrested for the murder of Mr. Washer.   

Back in October of 2020, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) officials arrested Barnes on attempted murder charges stemming from a shooting that occurred in the early morning hours at the Circle K convenience store located on North Citrus Ave. in Crystal River. This arrest placed Barnes into custody at the Citrus County Detention Facility, just weeks after he was released from prison, on other charges ranging from narcotics to fleeing and eluding.  

The October 2020 attempted murder case is still pending prosecution.

CCSO COMMENDS COMMUNICATIONS OFFICERS DURING NATIONAL PUBLIC SAFETY TELECOMMUNICATIONS WEEK

(Citrus County, FL) April 9th through April 15th marks National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, an opportunity to recognize and honor our committed Communications Officers for their tireless dedication to public safety. These heroes are the calm voice on the other side of the phone when our citizens call for help during an emergency and are the connection between Citrus County residents and Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies, firefighters, and paramedics. From being the initial first responder relaying instructions and critical information to callers until help arrives, our Communications Officers are there to offer aid, guidance, support, and comfort every step of the way.

“Our remarkable Communications Officers at CCSO are of considerable importance and are the heroes who answer the call. I am extremely grateful for all of our Communications Officers and their unmatched professional service to the citizens of Citrus County,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “These remarkable professionals play an invaluable role in protecting our front-line responders and their unmatched ability to remain the calm voices of reason in the most chaotic of situations is critical to the daily operations of CCSO in attaining our vision to make Citrus County the safest community in Florida.”

In 2022 alone, CCSO’s Communications Officers processed 84,339 emergency calls and 187,108 non-emergency calls. Whether a citizen is calling 9-1-1 for an emergency, or ringing our non-emergency line for information, reporting a crime tip, or calling for another non-urgent matter, our Communications Officers are there 24/7, 365 days a year to pick up the phone and assist our citizens. Equipped with information to help those involved in ANY type of emergency, CCSO Communications Officers go through some of the most extensive training in the industry, ensuring the best service possible.

Our Communications Officers are the first responders to so many emergencies, said Communications Manager Mike Story. Their quick thinking and efficient responses are life-saving during some of the most chaotic moments when help is needed most. They are the unsung heroes behind the scenes and their dedication and commitment to the public is commendable. Their tireless efforts to keep the public safe and secure are appreciated more than they could ever know.”

At any given time, our agency has an average of 8 individuals working in our communications center. This includes those professionals answering the call, transcribing vital information during the call, and dispatching emergency services – every single role is essential in providing excellence in public safety to our citizens.

CCSO is thankful not only this week, but every single day for our exceptional Communications Officers.

CCSO HONORS COMMENDABLE SERVICE OF ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS

(Citrus County, FL) Please join the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and Sheriff Mike Prendergast in extending our sincerest gratitude for the outstanding work and dedication the members of our Animal Control Unit contribute to our mission.

April 9th through April 15th marks National Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week, where we take the time to highlight the amazing contributions of our Animal Control Officers (ACOs) and their superior commitment to protecting our animal residents in Citrus County.

As heartbreaking as it is, Citrus County is no stranger to animal abuse. Thankfully, our team is out there responding to calls for service concerning animal well-being. Animal Control Officers respond to a multitude of calls, from loose animals to noise complaints and, of course, welfare checks on animals when someone calls in concerned about their level of care.

“I am thankful for our dedicated Animal Control Officers and everything they do to help protect the lives of helpless animals,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I am grateful for our employees and the Citrus County Shelter staff as well, who ensure we have a safe place to bring these animals after they are removed from egregious conditions. This teamwork goes even further than a safe space for the animals; thanks to both our ACOs and other sheriff office staff, we have successfully charged multiple offenders, saving countless innocent animals from deplorable lives.”

A fine example of this teamwork can be seen when reviewing Jason Munn’s case. Munn attempted to relocate animals in his possession by surrendering 14 dogs to the shelter, three of which showed signs of long periods of neglect. Subsequently, Munn was arrested last year, and this February, he was sentenced to 9 years in prison for 21 counts of aggravated animal cruelty charges. Munn will also serve a 12-month period of home confinement, undergo mental health treatment, and never own an animal for the rest of his life.

This past year, our Animal Control team was able to put together an unprecedented number of criminal cases to hold errant pet owners responsible for abusive and neglectful environments they created for their animals. Because of their pursuit of excellence and dedication to care for all kinds of animals, they ended up doubling their numbers from 2021.

Some of these cases, such as the take-down of multiple cock-fighting rings, even extended beyond Citrus County borders reaching as far as the Philippines. Altogether, they were able to rescue 396 animals from disgusting, inhumane conditions, offering them the opportunity to thrive in safer conditions elsewhere.  

 “I just want to take a minute to applaud the most dedicated and hard-working team around,” said Animal Control Unit Supervisor Lora Peckham. “I’m so proud to be a part of this team and am so grateful to work with our amazing ACO volunteers.  Thanks to each and every one of you for continuing to focus on helping animals and being the voice of those that can’t speak!”

Please join our office in offering our sheer appreciation for the outstanding members of our Animal Control Unit and all they do.

CCSO CRIME SCENE SPECIALIST JOHN KLOSS RETIRES AFTER NINE YEARS OF DEDICATED SERVICE

(Citrus County, FL) Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Crime Scene Specialist (CSS) John Kloss is retiring after nine years of dedicated service to our agency.

John began his journey at CCSO on January 6th of 2014 as a Building Maintenance Assistant, where he was responsible for responding 24/7 to facilities maintenance and repair requests in order to maintain the full-spectrum mission capability of CCSO buildings through the end of December of 2016.

On December 31, 2016, John started his position as a Crime Scene Specialist in our Forensics Unit, where he investigated a variety of crime scenes through photography, observation, documentation, fingerprint development, and more. John also demonstrated his superior knowledge of locating, collecting, and preserving physical evidence to later establish guilt or innocence in court, along with preparing accurate and concise reports for his investigations.

John earned several distinguished awards during his time with our agency, including two Forensics Unit Citations in 2019 and 2020 and two Certificate of Commendations for his contributions to specific cases – one in October of 2017 and one in March of 2023.

“CSS John Kloss was an incredibly dedicated teammate and an immense help not only to our Forensics Unit but to our agency as a whole,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud of CSS Kloss’s investigative work that he’s accomplished in his time here at CCSO.”

Please join us in congratulating CSS John Kloss on his retirement!

CCSO TRAINS WITH U.S. COAST GUARD IN SEARCH AND RESCUE EFFORTS

(Citrus County, FL) Last week, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Marine Unit partnered with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) in a two-day training to strengthen Search and Rescue (SAR) efforts in our county’s waters. Nearly 25% of Citrus County is made up of various waterways, to include various rivers, canals, lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of this, it is essential our marine deputies have a complete understanding of the best practices to locate an overboard individual.

“We are proud to be able to provide this hands-on crucial training for our marine deputies in the event we experience a real-life scenario or are called to assist another agency,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast.  “As a member of the Regional Task Force, one of our Marine Unit’s prime responsibilities is to be of aid to our counterparts during an urgent situation. This training establishes that our team is well-prepared and experienced during a situation where every second matters.”

During any SAR effort, CCSO teams up with the USCG to deploy methods such as the Victor Sierra Model, Creep Model, and the Expanding Square Model to rescue an individual as quickly as possible. Following these methods increase the likelihood of our deputies locating an overboard individual within those critical first couple of hours. These SAR methods render a customized search pattern based on a variety of conditions, like water currents and wind force, that profoundly influence the displacement of an overboard person. 

The first day of training included mapping and practicing these models. The second day of training included a simulation of an overboard individual using a 5-gallon bucket with a life preserver, which is equivalent to a 180-pound individual. Our Marine Unit was able to utilize those SAR models to successfully locate the simulated overboard individual.

CCSO HOSTS EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT TRAINING  FOR CITRUS COUNTY OFFICIALS

(Citrus County, FL) Today, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) partnered with several other crucial organizations in our county to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season. CCSO’s Emergency Management (EM) Division conducted a table top exercise at our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to ensure agencies such as the Department of Health, Citrus County Fire Rescue, the Clerk of the Court, local utilities, and Citrus County Transit know what to do in the event of an emergency activation.

“I am proud that our EM Division is able to host this crucial training every year, and provide a significant amount of educational material and knowledge during this informative exercise,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Unfortunately, Citrus County is no stranger to hurricanes and other severe weather, so it is pivotal that our county partners are prepared for this inevitable situation. I am excited to see that so many county organizations joined us during this event, and I know that this group will be able to handle anything that comes their way.”

CCSO’s EM Division directed this annual exercise in collaboration with various agencies in Citrus County. During an actual activation, the EOC is operational 24/7 to ensure our citizens can stay updated with the latest information on how to stay safe in the event of an emergency such as hurricanes and other severe weather. Activations take place in the EOC ‘War Room,’ which facilitates an ample amount of room for over 60 county professionals to gather and disseminate important information to each other and the public.

“Today’s exercise was about readiness! It was an opportunity for our emergency partners to strengthen capabilities in the event we are impacted by a hurricane.  Even though the focus was a hurricane, we cannot forget that we live in an ‘All Hazard State,’” said Emergency Management Director Chris Evan. “It is incumbent on all residents to prepare now for natural or man-made disasters, as they can happen at any moment. I am so thankful for the dedicated professionals who participated, and I can say we are blessed as a county to have them.”

This tabletop exercise aimed to educate the group on how to handle large-scale emergencies that affect our county, such as hurricanes, through mock-scenario activities. This included practicing timely communications in support of situational awareness and operations that may affect our community and enhance participants’ ability to effectively communicate and work with other Emergency Support Function (ESF) individuals. Participants were also able to enhance their ability to anticipate needs or resources prior to official requests.

Thank you to all of the amazing organizations that joined us today!

  • Center for Independent Living of North Central Florida
  • Citrus County Board of County Commissioners
  • Citrus County Clerk of Courts
  • Citrus County Department of Health
  • Citrus County Department of Transportation
  • Citrus County Fire Rescue
  • Citrus County Libraries
  • Citrus County Schools
  • Duke Energy
  • Florida Department of Health
  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement
  • HCA Citrus County Sheriff's Office
  • Hernando County Emergency Management
  • Nature Coast Volunteer Center
  • SECO Energy
  • The Salvation Army

With the start of hurricane season a month away, now is the time to assess potential risks to your home or business & mitigate against costly impacts.

Find out what types of water & wind hazards your area is prone to on our website at www.sheriffcitrus.org or on FloridaDisaster.org/PlanPrepare with the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

 

CRITTERVILLE ANIMAL SHELTER OWNER ARRESTED ON 39 COUNTS OF ANIMAL CRUELTY

(Citrus County, FL) Last week, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies and Animal Control Officers (ACO) responded to a residence off East Yale Lane in Hernando following a call for service requesting a well-being check on the animals located at the home. CCSO ACOs have been monitoring this residence for several years – which is also the location of a local ‘animal shelter,’ Critterville. 

Upon arrival, deputies and ACOs were led to the backyard, where they discovered several dirty sheds and enclosures where most of the animals were housed. As deputies and ACOs investigated the area, they noticed a strong odor of ammonia and found urine-soaked floors, overflowing litterboxes, and fecal matter scattered across nearly every surface. Several cats were extremely sick and covered in fleas with urine and feces matted into their fur. Upon opening one cage, ACOs found a cat that was assumed to have been deceased for multiple days.

Following the investigation in the backyard, CCSO officials moved to the patio, which was also cluttered with debris and extremely small cages containing five dogs. Next to these cages, officials located a refrigerator filled with rotten food and dead maggots. When ACOs opened the freezer door, they discovered two blankets wrapped around a large item and zip-tied shut – when opened, they found two deceased cats.

Inside the home, officials initially located several more dogs and cats with oily, matted fur and covered in fleas. Most of these animals were sick with numerous other medical issues. When led to a room in the back of the house, thirteen more cats were found covered in fleas.

“It’s disturbing to see animal abuse and neglect cases in Citrus County – this is an inexcusable act. This so-called ‘shelter’ is undeniably repulsive to see,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud of our ACO team for vigilantly following up on this case and thankful for our partnership with the Citrus County Animal Shelter. These teams work endlessly to assist these helpless animals and provide them with the proper care that they deserve.”

All animals at the residence were seized by CCSO ACOs and transported to the Citrus County Animal Shelter for evaluation. A total of 42 animals - 35 cats and seven dogs - were rescued from the residence. 56-year-old Lisa Bennett was placed under arrest and charged with 39 counts of animal cruelty and four counts of aggravated animal cruelty with a total bond of $47,000.

Animal Control Officers are available to respond to routine calls for service between 8:00 am & 8:00 pm every day of the week, including holidays. Emergencies are responded to 24 /7. 

Requests for service should be made to CCSO Communications Center at 352-249-2790 or simply by dialing 9-1-1.

TWO ARRESTED IN ILLEGAL GROW HOUSE OPERATION

(Citrus County, FL) Shortly after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, 2023, members of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) and members of SWAT responded to a residence off of North Brutus Ave. in Dunnellon to serve a narcotics search warrant. 

Upon arrival, deputies gave instructions for all occupants of the home to exit the residence to execute the search warrant. After a brief period of time, deputies located two subjects who were then detained for the remainder of the investigation. Those subjects were identified as 35-year-old Cameron Richard Bosley and 32-year-old Alissa Paige Harding.

While searching the home and two other structures located on the property, deputies located 211 plants and 12 pounds of dried and processed cannabis bud, for a total combined weight of 68 pounds. Officials also seized a small amount of MDMA, various drug ledgers, scales, baggies, and a large quantity of cultivation equipment. 

“Although activities like selling marijuana or even owning a grow house may be legal in other states, let this serve as a reminder that they are NOT legal here in Florida,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “My team and I will not tolerate any kind of illegal drug being trafficked in Citrus County. We will treat this unlawful act the same as any other drug activity by making every effort possible to put a stop to it. I am extremely proud of our TIU and SWAT members for successfully putting an end to yet another criminal scheme.”

The following arrests were made as a result of this search warrant:

  • Cameron Richard Bosley, DOB 08/20/1987, charged with
    • Trafficking in Cannabis
    • Sell/Manufacture/Possess with intent to Sell/Manufacture/Deliver a Controlled Substance
    • Possession of a Controlled Substance (MDMA)
    • Own/Lease/Rent a Structure with knowledge to traffic a controlled substance
    • Possession of Manufacture/Cultivate/Grow/Plant paraphernalia for a controlled substance
    • Obstruction of a lawful search warrant
      • Total bond $39,000 – Bond set at NONE due to violation of felony probation
  • Alissa Paige Harding, DOB 10/17/1990, charged with
    • Obstruction of a lawful search warrant
      • Total bond $1,000

About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Tactical Impact Unit:

The Tactical Impact Unit responsibilities include narcotics investigations, street-level reverse stings, regular checks for narcotics in schools and traffic interdiction. The unit coordinates and assists other organizations and departments in combating street-level drug crimes. The unit’s detectives identify, investigate, and infiltrate street-level to mid-level narcotics dealers and their organizations within Citrus County. They work closely with other units within the Bureau of Special Investigations as well as local, state, and federal authorities.

TWO ARRESTED ON MULTIPLE FELONY CHARGES FOLLOWING ARMED HOME INVASION

(Citrus County, FL) Last night, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies responded to a 9-1-1 call referencing a home invasion at an occupied home in Crystal River. Upon arrival, one of the victims told deputies that they heard a noise coming from the bedroom. When they went to inspect the noise, they saw two unknown individuals – one of which was armed – in the hallway, later identified as Ryan Wainwright and Cameron Ingram.

Wainwright demanded the keys to the victims’ vehicle while Ingram pointed a gun at another resident who was sleeping. Once Ingram obtained the keys, he gave them to Wainwright, who then exited the residence to start the vehicle. The awake victim attempted to leave the residence on two separate occasions but was stopped by Wainwright, who directed that victim to sit on the couch. The suspects also took both victims’ phones before fleeing the residence. Once the suspects were gone, both victims went to a neighbor’s residence to call 9-1-1.

Shortly after the two suspects departed the residence, deputies were able to quickly locate the vehicle stopped on the side of the road with two male occupants inside. When deputies activated their emergency lights, the suspects immediately fled in the stolen vehicle, crossing North Suncoast Boulevard before crashing into the woods. Both suspects exited the vehicle and fled into the woods on foot. CCSO’s Air Unit was deployed to assist in locating the suspects, who were subsequently spotted in a nearby river. The Air Unit observed both suspects exit the river, remove their clothes, and make another attempt to hide. Additional units responded to the area and converged on both sides of the river, where they located both suspects hiding under a floating dock.

“It is exceedingly disappointing to see two individuals at such a young age committing crimes such as the ones in this case. These two juveniles ran away from their homes, caused us to spend valuable time and resources looking for them, and then turned to unconscionable felony behavior towards innocent citizens,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud of my team’s rapid actions in tracking down these individuals and putting an end to their criminal behavior before they caused any further harm to anyone else.”

All items stolen by the suspects were subsequently recovered. Ryan Wainwright and Cameron Ingram were arrested and transported to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Ocala.

  • Ryan Thomas Wainwright, DOB 5/27/2006, charged with
    • Home Invasion Robbery (with firearm)
    • False Imprisonment
    • Grand Theft Auto
    • Grand Theft (more than $750 less than $5000)
    • Battery on a Person 65 Years of Age or Older
    • Resist Law Enforcement Officer without Violence
    • Flee and Elude Law Enforcement
  • Cameron David Ingram, DOB 2/08/2007, charged with
    • Home Invasion Robbery (with firearm)
    • Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon
    • Grand Theft Auto
    • Grand Theft (more than $750, less than $5000)
    • Resist Law Enforcement Officer without Violence
    • Leaving the Scene of an Accident

 

CITRUS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE MARCHES ON  IN FIGHT AGAINST ILLICIT FENTANYL
(Citrus County, FL) In recognition of National Fentanyl Awareness Day, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office is raising awareness and educating people on fentanyl.

Illicitly manufactured and distributed fentanyl continues to be the deadliest drug threat facing our nation. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl kills more Americans between the ages of 18 to 45 than terrorism, car accidents, and cancer. This is not an exaggeration. The quantity of fentanyl seized off the streets of Citrus County by our agency alone over the past couple of years was enough to kill over 786,825 people, which is nearly five times the size of our population. Moreover, during 
the last couple of months of the calendar year 2022, Florida law enforcement officers seized enough fentanyl to kill the state’s entire population of more than 22 million citizens. This unlawfully manufactured synthetic opioid comes in many forms, from liquid to powder and, most recently, multicolored pills manufactured specifically to target young Americans.

“While we are not seeing an abundance of juvenile overdose deaths in our community, the DEA has reported seeing an alarming increase of deaths in children under 14. Please use this day to talk to your families about the dangers of fentanyl and other illegal substances,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I hope all of you have read my columns where I explain why I continue to support the classification of Fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction. The potency of this drug alone, not to mention in the hands of one malicious and ill-intended person, is reason enough to justify the fear of this drug and its potential for weaponization.”

By classifying fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction, the Department of Homeland Security and the DEA would be required to coordinate a response with other agencies, including the Department of Defense. This would, in turn, bring about new discussions and present new options for – fighting the opioid epidemic in our nation, disrupting the drug trafficking trade, and paving the way for harsher punishments for those found in possession of fentanyl. Like many of you, our agency is ready for better combative measurements – such as higher bonds and time served for those caught dealing and in possession of fentanyl. 

CCSO has encountered a multitude of remarkable cases involving the distribution of fentanyl. Just this year, on January 19th, we arrested a long-time dealer, 40-year-old Matthew Mullins, in Homosassa after he was found in possession of 51 grams of fentanyl during a traffic stop – that is enough to kill 25,000 people.

Mullins is not the only dealer we have been able to get off the streets. Thanks to House Bill 95, signed into law last year, we were able to arrest John Dylan Gromling in October for first-degree felony murder as a result of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance (fentanyl), which resulted in the overdose death of 53-year-old Bruce William Payne of Inverness.

Drug use of any kind comes with dangers, but did you know that any illegal drug could be laced with fentanyl? Fentanyl powder is getting mixed in with other substances such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin – and there are fake pills in circulation that contain fentanyl but resemble Xanax and oxycodone. This is a common practice for dealers trying to market their products as “purer” or as providing a better high to attract more buyers. 

Our office is here to protect and serve this community – not only by getting these drugs off our streets -but by educating the public, helping addicts get connected with resources, and of course, by saving lives. In response to the growing threat fentanyl poses to the people of Citrus County, CCSO began the process of equipping each deputy with double the standard issue of Naloxone (Narcan) as of last year. In addition, we have placed naloxone in all of our buildings, and we have conducted training for all of our employees – no matter their agency position – in recognizing the signs of, and taking action against, an opioid overdose.

We can already see the difference carrying Narcan has made in our community. In 2021 Citrus County suffered 81 losses due to an overdose – 55 of those were fentanyl-related. Since better arming our agency with Narcan, that number dropped to 37 fentanyl-related deaths for 2022.If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse disorder, please reach out to our Behavioral Health Department at 352-249-2790 and ask to speak with one of our Substance Abuse Advocates. 


About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Substance Abuse Advocates: Our substance abuse advocates are a key component in our agency, assisting those who are struggling with addiction. These civilian employees work in our Behavioral Health Unit, and their outreach efforts aim to connect those individuals to the programs and assistance they may need. Substance abuse advocates help those who are struggling every step of the way - from coordinating treatment goals, to collaborating with counselors or physicians, and even accompanying those individuals to appointments when necessary. We are looking to save a life, not make an arrest. 
CITRUS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE PARTICIPATES IN ANNUAL  SPECIAL OLYMPICS LAW ENFORCEMENT TORCH RUN
(Citrus County, FL) Tradition and service are two topics the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) holds dear. Today, deputies joined in the annual Florida Law Enforcement Torch Run that benefits Special Olympics Florida, a tradition that law enforcement agencies across the nation have participated since 1981.

The torch, also known as the “Flame of Hope,” symbolizes courage and celebration of diversity while uniting communities around the globe.

Law Enforcement Officers from over 300 Florida Agencies participate in the Torch Run, and over 5,000 officers carry the torch on a 1,500–mile relay through 67 counties in Florida.

Here at the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, we are proud to once again represent our county, region, and state by showing up and being a part of this event,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “For many members of the CCSO family, this is more than a one-day event. Some volunteer year-round, and some donate regularly, but each of our deputies put on their uniforms each day and proudly display their badges as a promise to protect and serve all residents of our county.” 

Citrus County's relay participants met at the Sheriff's Crystal River Community Resource Office on U.S. Highway 19, where the run started at 7:30 a.m. Runners covered a distance of over 3 miles, traveling east along S.R. 44 with the “Flame of Hope” to the Publix in the Crystal Springs Plaza at the intersection of C.R. 486. Publix grocery store chain, an event sponsor, provided fruit and drinks for all the relay participants. 

At 9:30 a.m., bicyclists started the second leg of the cross-county relay from the Crystal Springs Plaza to the Inverness Publix - about a 14-mile stretch. Upon their arrival, participants and clients from the Key Training Center began their walk to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office Operations building in downtown Inverness arriving around 11:30 a.m., whereCoreCivic then provided lunch for everyone involved.

If you or a loved one needs help connecting with area resources pertaining to an intellectual disability, please reach out to our Behavioral Health Department at 352-249-2790 and ask to speak with a member of our team. 

Special Olympics: The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and 
the community. Since its inception, the Law Enforcement Torch Run has raised more than half a billion dollars for the cause and changed millions of attitudes by engaging members of law enforcement worldwide to be champions of acceptance and inclusion.
CCSO HONORS FALLEN LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS DURING PEACE  OFFICER MEMORIAL DAY CEREMONY
(Citrus County, FL) Today, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) hosted the 2023 Peace Officer Memorial Day Ceremony. Peace Officer Memorial Day is an opportunity to come together and recognize the personal sacrifice and selfless service of those law enforcement officers around our great nation who have fallen in the line of duty. 

Each and every day across this country, brave men and women choose to put on the uniform of their community, their state, or our nation, clip on the badge, and holster their weapon, knowing they may not come home,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Knowing this, these heroes still don the very cloth of the uniform for the people they 
serve and go to work each and every day. It is, indeed, a special calling to serve in this noble profession.

The ceremony began with a welcome message, followed by a prayer led by CCSO Chaplain Pastor Joseph Ponds, Jr., and then CCSO’s Honor Guard performed a Presentation of the Colors and Taps. Sheriff Mike Prendergast closed the ceremony with a memorial tribute, honoring those who have put their lives on the line to serve and
protect their communities.

Since 1776, 26,283 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty. Two hundred forty-five law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2022 alone. Every single one of these remarkable individuals was killed while dedicating their lives to protecting their fellow citizens.

Citrus County has sadly lost three members of our own family in the line of duty:

Master Detective Aubrey Fred Johnson
   o End of Watch (EOW): February 11, 1997 – Cause: Automobile crash

Deputy Sheriff James McIntosh McMullen
   o EOW: December 26, 1899 – Cause: Gunfire

City Marshal J.W. Newsome
   o EOW: March 3, 1908 – Cause: Gunfire

Risk is part of everyday life of our peace officers around the country, but they remain committed to serving and protecting their communities every day, despite the risks.

“Our profession is not for the weak. It is a commitment to put yourself in harm’s way to unwaveringly serve, protect, and save others,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “God bless those officers that have given their all in the performance of their duties.”

CCSO would like to thank our law enforcement officers around the nation for their service, alongside their families, for their support and sacrifices that allow these individuals to keep their communities safe.
NARCOTICS SEARCH WARRANT LEADS TO ARRESTS
(Citrus County, FL) On Tuesday, May 16, 2023, 45-year-old Lisa Marie O'Callaghan, of Crystal River, FL, was arrested following an investigation conducted by the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) Tactical Impact Unit (TIU).

In early April 2023, TIU members received information about narcotics being sold at 4330 N. Mitchum Point in Crystal River. After conducting an investigation at the aforementioned location, TIU detectives verified the information and identified Lisa O'Callaghan as the narcotics dealer. Arrest warrants were then obtained for Lisa O'Callaghan, along with a search warrant for her residence. 

Earlier today, TIU detectives responded to Lisa O'Callaghan's home to serve the search warrant. Once O'Callaghan was located and detained, TIU detectives also located and detained an adult male subject, identified as Garry Lynn Inman, in an RV at the back of the property. While verifying Inman's identity, TIU detectives discovered Inman was wanted for charges out of Michigan.

While executing the search warrant, TIU detectives located a trafficking amount of Fentanyl, Methamphetamine, Crack Cocaine, and numerous items of drug paraphernalia.

  • Lisa O'Callaghan was arrested on warrants for Trafficking in Fentanyl, three counts of Sale of a controlled substance (fentanyl), and Child Neglect. O'Callaghan was further charged with Trafficking in Fentanyl, Possession with intent to sell Methamphetamine, Possession with intent to sell Crack Cocaine, Possession of Manufacturing Equipment, Possession of Paraphernalia, and owning a structure for trafficking controlled substances. O'Callaghan's total bond was set at $85,000.
  • Garry Inman was arrested on the Michigan warrants and charged as a Fugitive from Justice for three counts of Sexual Criminal Conduct, and one count of child abuse. Inman received no bond.
“Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered and, yet again, we find ourselves having to remove another dangerous drug trafficker from our streets who believes that it’s okay to peddle their deadly fentanyl in our community while carelessly endangering the life of a minor,”said Sheriff Michael Prendergast. “Fentanyl is a dangerous weapon of mass-destruction that has no place in our community, and we will remain vigilant in our pursuit of those who traffick this lethal 
poison.”
CCSO PARTNERS WITH CITRUS COUNTY FIRE RESCUE AND ZERO HOUR LIFE CENTER IN OUTREACH INITIATIVES

(Citrus County, FL) Earlier this month, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) partnered with Citrus County Fire Rescue and Zero Hour Life Center to engage individuals who are currently without housing.

“Being homeless, no matter how long the duration, is a life-altering event that creates stress in a person’s life. Often, navigating or having an understanding of the various resources within the community can be challenging,” said BHU Sergeant Montgomery. “Our BHU plays a vital role within the community by removing barriers, bridging gaps, and connecting individuals to the appropriate resources they need to live a healthy life.”

Members of this collaborative group met with approximately fifteen individuals in Homosassa and provided them with everyday necessitates such as water, snacks, hygiene products, and pet food. Each individual was also supplied with Narcan.

“I applaud the efforts of these organizations working together for a unified cause,” said County Administrator Steve Howard. “They are making a positive difference in Citrus County.”

The supportive team also informed the group of community resources and treatment options for substance use disorders.

“CCSO’s BHU was established in October of 2020 and has done outstanding and noteworthy work for our community in such a short period of time,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am extremely proud to see this unit working with our community partners to provide assistance in our community. This unit is momentous for our community. I am eager to see what the future holds for our Behavioral Health Unit.”

According to the Florida Coalition to End Homelessness, Florida has the third-largest homeless population in the United States. To reduce the number of individuals facing housing challenges in Citrus County, our BHU will continue to work collaboratively with our community partners, like that of Citrus County Fire Rescue, to address the needs of individuals who are here to help.

“We hope this collaboration will continue to impact our community and residents in a positive manner,” said Fire Chief Craig Stevens.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or needs assistance with finding resources, please contact our Behavioral Health Unit at (352) 249-2790.

CONGRATULATIONS TO CCSO CIVIL CLERK  SHERI MOECKEL ON HER RETIREMENT
(Citrus County, FL) Sheri Moeckel retires today from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office after dedicating over 35 years of service to our community.

Sheri began her career with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office back in January of 1988 as a Communications Officer, where she worked to dispatch first responders to calls for service throughout the county. In October of 2007, her passions led her on a new adventure as a Civil Clerk, where she has continued to help the citizens of Citrus County by receiving and administering judicial processes for execution by our Civil Deputies. 

Sheri has worked closely with the Clerk of the Courts and Comptroller personnel, various law enforcement agencies, private attorneys, the Public Defender's Office, and the State Attorney's Office. In addition, she frequently responded to both citizens’ and attorneys’ inquiries pertaining to the civil process and the judicial system.

During her career with CCSO, Sheri received awards and accolades for her continuous dedication to Citrus County, such as multiple letters of commendation, Certificates of Commendation, a Unit Citation, and letters of appreciation from citizens.

“It’s always difficult to say goodbye, but after a noteworthy career dedicated to faithful public service to our community, we wish Sheri the best in her retirement,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Whatever comes next, we hope it brings the same joy to her as she brought to usover these past many years.”

Please join us in congratulating Sheri Moeckel on a life of service to Citrus County and wishing her a well-deserved long, healthy, and happy retirement.
FLORAL CITY MAN ARRESTED BY CCSO FOR  DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INCIDENT
(Citrus County, FL) Last night, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies were dispatched to a home in Floral City regarding a physical domestic disturbance. The suspect, later identified as Theron Ashley Dunn, had threatened the victim several times and became aggressive, striking the victim with the firearm. 

Upon deputies approaching the residence to make contact with Dunn, they heard him shouting, followed by him firing several gunshots from the yard. Deputies were able to safely escort the victim off of the property and out of harm’s way. Dunn then left the yard and took shelter inside of a barn on his property.

Deputies attempted multiple times to communicate with Dunn through phone calls and a PA system but were unable to make contact with him. CCSO’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team responded alongside the Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT), the Aviation Unit, and additional Patrol Deputies to assist. After several hours, the CNT was able to safely talk Dunn into exiting the barn and surrendering. Dunn was taken into custody without further incident.

“I am saddened to see yet another incident of domestic violence within our community. I am proud that our team was able to safely and quickly remove the victim from the premises and that C.N.T. could carefully de-escalate this situation, while taking Dunn into custody without further incident,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I want to remind our citizens that you are not alone – if you or someone you know is living in an abusive relationship, please seek help. Our team is here to assist you at all times.”

In addition, officials removed six handguns, three rifles, one bulletproof vest, and an assortment of ammunition from Dunn’s possession. Animal Control Officers later responded to the scene as two severely emaciated dogs were located at the residence.

Theron Ashley Dunn, DOB 10/14/1976, was charged with:
  •  One count of domestic aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
  •  One count of domestic aggravated battery with a deadly weapon without the         intent to kill.
  • Two felony counts of animal cruelty and neglect.
About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Crisis Negotiation Team

The Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) responds to incidents involving barricaded persons, hostage situations, and other critical incidents. The mission of CNT 
is to respond to these critical situations in order to negotiate a safe and reasonable conclusion. Team members perform this function in addition to their 
regular duty assignments. “Resolution through communication” is their motto
CCSO OFFERS INTERACTIVE CRIME MAP TO CITIZENS
(Citrus County, FL) Recently, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) officially launched its Community Engagement Portal to provide a free, web-based site as a resource for citizens to file reports, submit tips, and stay updated on the latest crime news in their county. This portal is offered through Motorola’s CityProtect program, allowing CCSO to build awareness among its community members regarding local crime through a real-time crime map. 

This interactive map allows citizens to look at the various calls for service our county receives daily. Residents can explore the map to find more information about possible crimes occurring in the area or even see a simple traffic stop. 

The Crime Map is labeled with four different colored dots – red, yellow, purple, and blue – making it simple to find categories of incidents at a glance. Each dot stands for:

  • Red: Violent
  • Yellow: Property & Theft
  • Purple: Disorder/Disturbance
  • Blue: 9-1-1 or Other (Includes traffic stops)
Residents can click on an individual dot to see more information about each incident, including the agency case number, date and time, and a more detailed description of what occurred. Soon, users will also have an opportunity to anonymously submit a tip regarding specific incidents and file additional law enforcement reports – currently, online reporting is limited to just fraud cases. 

“Giving citizens access to this pertinent information is vital in enhancing our transparent line of communication with our community,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Not only will individuals have the ability to use this free tool to discover what’s going on in their area, but they also can sign up to receive daily, weekly, or monthly updates straight to their email. I am proud of our team for leveraging our new capabilities to provide our residents with continual reports of what CCSO is doing in our community.”

Our Crime Map is updated daily with new information. You can view this informational map by visiting our website at www.sheriffcitrus.org under the ‘Programs and Services’ tab or by visiting www.cityprotect.com/agency/sheriffcitrus
CCSO LIEUTENANT BOBBY LAMBERT GRADUATES FROM THE FSA COMMANDERS ACADEMY
(Citrus County, FL) Earlier today, May 19, 2023, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) 
Lieutenant Bobby Lambert graduated from the Florida Sheriffs Association Commanders Academy alongside personnel representing 33 other Florida Sheriff’s Offices. 

“Even with the various roles and responsibilities he holds in his service to the community, Lieutenant Lambert has never stopped seeking out opportunities to further his education and professional knowledge,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “The initiative he has shown over the years speaks highly to his commitment, not only to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, but to our community. I have no doubt that he will utilize this knowledge to better our service to our residents and help make Citrus County the safest community in Florida.”

The Commanders Academy is an informative educational experience that is vital for public safety leaders to serve the emerging needs of our profession and meet our state’s rigorous law enforcement standards. The Commanders Academy provides a comprehensive curriculum and offers programs on leadership skills, business and personal ethics, the history of the office of the sheriff in Florida, management, agency training and other topics that relate to the law enforcement profession.

“Congratulations to the 2023 Commanders Academy graduates for completing this rigorous course to advance their leadership skills, problem-solving tactics and business ethics,” said FSA President and Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis. “These commanders are now even more prepared to serve as law enforcement leaders who set a model example of protecting and uniting Florida’s citizens and visitors.”

Lieutenant Lambert began his career with CCSO in 2005 as a Deputy Sheriff. Since then, he has served the community in a variety of capacities, including Field Training Officer, Detective, Patrol Sergeant, and Operations Sergeant. In 2017, he earned a promotion to Lieutenant, and currently oversees our Special Operations Division.
CCSO PARTNERS WITH FDOT DISTRICT SEVEN FOR SAFER ROADS

(Citrus County, FL) In an effort to make Citrus County roadways safer, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District Seven through an Enhanced Law Enforcement Engagement (ELEE) program. From May through October 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office will expand officer presence on state roadways with high crash rates, increasing public awareness of the importance of safe driving.

“Last year, CCSO deputies conducted nearly 31,000 traffic stops,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “They issued over 23,000 citations and written warnings to help reduce deadly traffic crashes and save lives. Our citizens have been vocal in calling for enhanced traffic enforcement due to flagrant violators. Through this partnership, we will continue to enhance our capabilities to make our roadways safer for everyone.”

Enforcement efforts will focus on specific areas of the State Highway Strategic Safety Plan (SHSSP). The plan is the state's five-year comprehensive safety plan for achieving Florida's vision of zero traffic-related fatalities.

Focus areas include:

  • Intersection Violations
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Speeding, Aggressive, and Distracted Driving
  • Lane Departure
  • Work Zone Violations
  • Move Over Violations

"FDOT District Seven is committed to making our roads safer through partnerships with local law enforcement agencies,” said FDOT District Seven Safety Engineer Emmeth Duran, P.E. "Through this program, we are working to reach FDOT's target of zero fatal crashes and serious injuries."

The ELEE pilot program was launched in 2022 by FDOT District Seven to expand its efforts to improve traffic safety. In its second year, the purpose of the ELEE program is to partner with local law enforcement agencies to reduce crashes and injuries on the state roads and federal highways FDOT District Seven manages.

BOBBY LAMBERT PROMOTED TO  CAPTAIN OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS AND TRAINING
(Citrus County, FL) Please join the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and Sheriff Mike Prendergast in congratulating Lieutenant Bobby Lambert on his well-deserved promotion to the rank of Captain.

  • Lieutenant Bobby Lambert to Captain over the Special Operations and Training DivisionLieutenant Lambert began his career with CCSO in 2005 as a Deputy Sheriff. Since then, he has served the community in a variety of capacities, including Field Training Officer, Detective, Patrol Sergeant, and Operations Sergeant. In 2017, he earned a promotion to Lieutenant, and currently oversees CCSO’s Special Operations Division.
Captain Lambert’s continuous dedication to protecting and serving Citrus County is truly commendable. He has excelled no matter what role or responsibility was given to him,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I know Captain Lambert will accomplish great things as he enhances his knowledge in this new capacity, and I look forward to working closely with him as we steadfastly push forward towards our vision of making Citrus County the safest community in Florida.”

Some key factors that played a role in the decision to promote Bobby Lambert to Captain include his potential to serve as a key leader on the Sheriff’s staff, as well as his experience, expertise, and ability to consistently exceed the expectations and requirements of each position he has held over the years. 

Please join our office as we congratulate the newly promoted Captain Lambert as he celebrates this significant career achievement.

About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Special Operations and Training Division: The Special Operations and Training Division is a multifaceted division that operates at the highest levels of modern law enforcement. This division is comprised of various units, teams, and departments that collectively provide operational support during critical situations. The division also oversees the management of training standards and regulations for sworn & civilian personnel. In our mission to deliver excellence in public safety, our Special Operations and Training Division must maintain oversight of all agency in-service training programs related to civilian and sworn law enforcement officers
CCSO PARTNERS WITH NHTSA IN "CLICK IT OR TICKET" SAFETY CAMPAIGN
(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is urging drivers to always buckle up, but especially during the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) “Click It or Ticket” campaign. This high-visibility enforcement effort will take place throughout the Memorial Day holiday period, running from May 22 to June 4, 2023.

“Seat belt use should be an automatic habit for any driver or passenger the second they enter a vehicle,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Buckling up is the simplest thing you can do to limit injuries or save your life in the event of a traffic crash. Our agency strives to keep our citizens safe, and to do that, we NEED everyone to be wearing their seat belts – it’s not just the law, it’s for your safety.”

According to the NHTSA, in 2021, there were 11,813 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in the United States. In that same year, 57% of those deaths occurred at nighttime (6 p.m. – 5:59 a.m.). Our Traffic Unit will be enforcing seat belts at all times.

“The best way to stay safe in the event of a vehicle crash is by wearing your seat belt,” said CCSO Traffic Unit Sergeant Laura Anstead. “No matter what vehicle you’re driving or where you’re going, you should always take the simple measure to buckle up immediately.”

In 2022, CCSO issued 363 citations for seat belt-related violations. In Florida, the maximum penalty for a seat belt violation is $116.00. Seat belts must also be worn PROPERLY – wearing your seat belt under your arm or behind your back isn’t safe and is also considered a violation, resulting in a fine.

About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Traffic and Motors Unit:

The Traffic and Motors Unit is responsible for Traffic Enforcement and the safety of pedestrian school children, the issuance of parking tickets to those illegally parked in handicapped parking and other locations, and the enforcement of DUI statutes in support of the patrol function. The traffic unit routinely works traffic crashes throughout the county and conducts traffic enforcement in areas of violations. If you want to report a problem with speeding or any other traffic-related issue, call our non-emergency line at 352-249-2790, so we can take appropriate action in response to your complaints. 
CCSO FORENSIC UNIT OIC GRADUATES FROM THE INTERNATIONAL LATENT PRINT EXAMINER ACADEMY
(Citrus County, FL) Earlier today, May 26, 2023, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Forensic Unit Officer in Charge (OIC) Johan Bravo graduated from the Ron Smith and Associates International Latent Print Examiner Training Academy (RS&A). 

RS&A is internationally known as the premier forensic identification training company. Students are required to meet stringent educational, ethical, and visual acuity standards to be accepted into the program. Throughout the academy, they are routinely tested to ensure their competence in each module of instruction. As soon as they complete the course, they will be ready for supervised casework and will have already met or exceeded all requirements for the International Association for Identification (IAI) Latent Print Examiner certification, with the possible exception of work experience. They will have already passed written examinations and comparison practicals, with some being more difficult than the actual IAI Certified Latent Print Examiner (CLPE) examination.

“I want to extend my congratulations to Johan for this exceptionally outstanding achievement,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “His outstanding attention to detail has assisted in the apprehension of many suspects, including ones in some of our very high-profile cases. CCSO is glad to help him further his mission essential skills to contribute in the field as we work to protect and serve the residents of Citrus County from all manner of crimes.”

Johan Bravo began his career with CCSO’s forensics team in 2018. Since then, he has continued his education, graduating with his Bachelor of Science in Public Safety Management with a Criminal Justice concentration and Master of Science in Forensic Medicine. He has received five letters of commendation, two unit citations, and four certificates of commendation as recognition of his many professional achievements.

About CCSO’s Forensics Unit:

The Forensic Unit is responsible for the processing of all types of crime scenes, print examinations, and processing evidence in our crime lab. There are different types of fingerprints that can be left behind at a crime scene. Latent fingerprints are any chance 
or accidental impression left by friction ridge skin on a surface, regardless of whether it is visible or invisible at the time of deposition – this means that the print may not be obvious to the human eye.
CCSO MARINE UNIT TEAMS UP WITH FWC DURING  MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND BOATING SAFETY ENFORCEMENT
(Citrus County, FL) This past Memorial Day weekend, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Marine Unit worked alongside the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) as part of a combined safety enforcement initiative. CCSO and FWC were out on the county’s waterways from Saturday, May 27th, through Monday, May 29th, in full force to ensure boaters were having a safe holiday weekend. 

Florida is currently the leading state for both the number of registered vessels and the number of boating accidents. As of 2021, Florida had 1,013,211 registered vessels with 751 accidents and 61 deaths compared to other states, like Georgia, with only 6,323 registered vessels having 91 accidents and 17 deaths. It’s imperative to follow safe boating habits, not just because it’s the law, but to keep you and your family safe while out on the water. Don’t become another number in these statistics – taking simple precautions can easily prevent an accident or save your life.

In 2021, the United States had a total of 4,439 boating accidents – Florida encompasses nearly 17% of that number. Our Marine Unit is consistently patrolling our waters, whether it be the Gulf of Mexico or one of our many magnificent rivers or lakes, and Memorial Day weekend is no exception. Over this three-day period, CSSO issued 329 written warnings and citations – an 8% increase from last year, where 304 written warnings and citations were given out. Officials also reported a slight rise in boating under the influence arrests, with seven BUIs arrests this year in comparison to five last year. 

“Our Marine Unit patrols our Citrus County waterways with safety at the forefront, especially during popular boating holidays,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Although our marine deputies do everything possible to keep our waterways safe – they NEED your assistance in following boating laws. These laws are put in place for a reason, 
and it’s not to ruin your fun – it’s to save your life. I hope these numbers remind you of the significance of following the law while boating – it’s still possible to have a great day out on the water while keeping safety in mind.”

About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Marine Unit:

The Marine Unit enforces marine laws and ordinances in order to maintain safe recreational boating throughout the 192 square miles of waterways in Citrus County. Marine deputies provide high-visibility patrol in waterways while promoting boating education and safety to the residents and tourists that visit Citrus County. Aside from routine patrol duties for manatee zones and safety violations, the Marine Unit is also tasked with responding to boaters in distress and searching for missing boaters. The Marine Unit actively works with the U.S. Coast Guard and other State and Federal agencies in the area to enforce these safe boating operations. 
CCSO ARRESTS MAN FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER AFTER SHOOTING  INCIDENT IN CRYSTAL RIVER
(Citrus County, FL) Sixty-seven-year-old Oscar Omar Delbono of Homosassa is being held without bond for the charge of attempted murder, following a shooting incident on Sunday, June 4, 2023, at the Dollar General located at 6798 W. Gulf to Lake Hwy in Crystal River. 

Through a preliminary investigation, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) detectives determined that the suspect, later identified as Delbono, got into a verbal dispute with the victim at the entrance of the store. Following the dispute, Delbono walked to his vehicle, put his items inside, and grabbed his .45 caliber handgun. He then walked across the parking lot, where he confronted the victim, who was attempting to get into their car. 

Witnesses advised that they watched the defendant point the firearm at the victim and fire multiple times. No one observed the victim with a weapon.

Six shell casings were located just feet from the victim's vehicle. The victim was shot a total of four times, twice in the abdominal area, once in the elbow, and a single round grazing the victim’s side. At this time, the victim remains in critical, but stable condition.

"Thoughtless and avoidable acts of violence such as this are shocking to our entire community. I am proud of the quick response of our deputies and detectives who ensured this incident was isolated and our citizens were safe,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “To be a member of law enforcement is to hold service above self. When we run to incidents with gunfire without hesitation, it is yet another reminder of the types of perilous situations we face in order to protect our community.”

About CCSO’s Major Crimes Unit: Arguably one of the busiest divisions of the agency, the Criminal Investigation Division is staffed with highly skilled, dedicated men and women who are devoted to solving crime in their community. The principal function of this division is to conduct follow up investigations of reported crimes. These investigations consist of interviewing suspects, victims, and witnesses; analyzing information for validity, reliability, and accuracy; and compiling a comprehensive and factual case file to be presented in court. 
COLONEL FERRARA GRADUATES FROM FBI NATIONAL ACADEMY

(Citrus County, FL) Today, June 8, 2023, Colonel Justin Ferrara graduated as a member of the 286th session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Academy.

The FBI National Academy (FBINA) is one of the premier law enforcement training programs in the world. Only 1% of the world’s law enforcement personnel ever get the privilege of attending this prestigious program. The FBINA was established in 1935 to provide advanced investigative, management, and fitness training to senior law enforcement officers who are proven leaders within their organizations. The graduation ceremony was held at the National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, earlier this morning.

“I congratulate Colonel Justin Ferrara on his significant achievement in graduating from the FBI’s National Academy,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “His dedication, commitment, and hard work have paid off, and we are all incredibly proud of his accomplishment. He is ready to embrace new challenges and opportunities, and continue his drive for excellence in all that he does. I have no doubt that Colonel Ferrara’s leadership skills will continue to thrive and make a positive impact here in our community.”

Internationally known for its academic excellence, the National Academy offers ten weeks of advanced communication, leadership, and fitness training. Participants must have proven records as professionals within their agencies to attend. On average, these officers have decades of law enforcement experience and usually return to their agencies to serve in executive-level positions.

The 286th session consists of 238 law enforcement officers from 47 states, 25 countries, five military organizations, and six federal civilian organizations.

Colonel Ferrara is a graduate of Lecanto High School. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Florida. Throughout his career in law enforcement, he has garnered an impressive list of accomplishments and has been instrumental in the development of new units, policing strategies, and innovative processes to better serve the citizens of Citrus County.

Congratulations to Colonel Ferrara and his fellow graduates on this accomplishment! May this milestone serve you all well for a successful and fulfilling career in public safety.

FENTANYL DRUG TRAFFICKER ARRESTED BY CCSO
(Citrus County, FL) A surveillance operation conducted by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Wednesday evening resulted in the seizure of 21.9 grams of fentanyl and the arrest of 25-year-old Stephen Kiernan. 

CCSO’s Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) learned through investigation that Kiernan was distributing Fentanyl throughout Citrus County on a daily basis. Wednesday evening, TIU detectives witnessed Kiernan, who has had a suspended driver’s license since 2022, get into his vehicle and leave his residence. 

“Our agency will continue to fight against and protect our residents from this weapon of massdestruction,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “It is important to stop illicit narcotics from being brought into our county in the first place. The TIU’s dedication to halting the distribution train into Citrus County is truly commendable, and thanks to their hard work we have one less dealer and over 21 grams of fentanyl off our streets.”

Later in the evening, Kiernan’s vehicle arrived back in Citrus County from Marion County and a traffic stop was initiated by K-9 Deputy Riemer near the intersection of North Carl G Rose Highway and East Stokes Ferry Road. Kiernan immediately began fleeing, leading to a brief pursuit before a tire deflation device was deployed. 

Kiernan continued traveling south at a low speed with his tires flattened, exiting the highway and making a left-hand turn onto East Orchid Street. He then turned onto North Flower Terrace, traveled south to East Delight Street, and continued fleeing towards North Carl G Rose Hwy. 

While on Delight Street, Kiernan fled across the opposite lane of traffic into a residential front yard and opened the driver’s side door for a short period. The vehicle then returned to the roadway and turned left back onto North Carl G Rose Highway before coming to a complete stop along North Carl G Rose Highway.

A felony stop was conducted, and Kiernan was taken into custody without incident. Deputy Riemer then deployed his K-9 partner Ranger for a free air sniff around the exterior of the vehicle and received a positive alert for the presence of a controlled substance. 

Within the vehicle, detectives observed white powder on the interior and located a clear glass smoking pipe on the front driver’s side floorboard. The pipe and white powder both yielded a positive test for the presence of fentanyl. 

Deputies further located a fountain drink cup on South Delight Street and observed a white substance scattered throughout the ground, where Kiernan briefly stopped during the pursuit. The white powdery substance yielded a positive result for the presence of fentanyl.

The fentanyl located near the cup provided a weight of 11.5 grams. The fentanyl located inside the vehicle provided a total weight of 3.7 grams. The liquid inside the cup contained fentanyl and provided a weight of 6.7 grams. The total weight of fentanyl collected was approximately 21.9 grams.

  • Stephen Leonard Kiernan, 25, of Floral City, was charged with one count of trafficking fentanyl; one count of fleeing and eluding law enforcement officer with lights and sirens activated and wanton disregard; one count of tampering with evidence; one count of possession of drug paraphernalia; and one count of knowingly driving while license suspended. His bond was set at $64,000 per the bond schedule.
About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Tactical Impact Unit: 
The Tactical Impact Unit's responsibilities include narcotics investigations, street-level reverse stings, regular checks for narcotics in schools, and traffic interdiction. The unit coordinates and assists other organizations and departments in combating street-level drug crimes. The unit’s detectives identify, investigate, and infiltrate street-level to mid-level narcotics dealers and their organizations within Citrus County. They work closely with other units within the Bureau of Special Investigations as well as local, state, and federal authorities. 
AGGRAVATED BATTERY LEADS TO DEPUTY-INVOLVED SHOOTING
(Citrus County, FL) Earlier today, June 23, 2023, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) 
deputies attempted a traffic stop on a black four-door sedan in Citrus Springs. The driver of the vehicle failed to pull over and stop for law enforcement and subsequently fled the area.

Later this afternoon, just shortly before 2 p.m., CCSO deputies spotted a vehicle and driver matching the description from earlier on East Gulf to Lake Highway (State Road 44) in Inverness. After verifying it was the same vehicle, a traffic stop was initiated, but the driver once again failed to pull over. 

The vehicle continued to travel west on East Gulf to Lake Highway and was forced to stop in congested traffic near the intersection of South Croft Avenue. While stopped, deputies attempted to make contact with the suspect, who refused all commands. A K9 was deployed and, after the vehicle began to lunge forward, the K9 handler retrieved the K9 just before the suspect vehicle struck another vehicle nearly slamming the door shut on the K9. 

The suspect vehicle then began to intentionally and violently ram the vehicles in front of it in an attempt to flee, carelessly and recklessly disregarding the safety of the innocent motorists and the deputies who were on scene. As a result of the suspect’s lethal actions, deputies fired upon the suspect in an attempt to put a stop to this motorist’s deadly action. 

The suspect’s ramming actions of nearby vehicles created a gap for him to leave this deadly scene and continue his flight from law enforcement through heavily congested traffic in an area with numerous commercial stores on Gulf to Lake Highway. He continued west on Gulf to Lake Highway for another seven and a half miles, at times traveling at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, before driving into oncoming traffic and eventually losing control of the vehicle. The vehicle side-swiped several vehicles before coming to a complete stop near the entry / exit ramps of the Suncoast Parkway along Highway 44. 

Deputies immediately secured the suspect and began rendering first aid until EMS arrived. The subject, who has not been identified at this time, is in custody and was transported to the hospital for medical treatment.

“Traffic stops can be dangerous; when we initiate one, everyone’s safety is always at the forefront of our minds,” stated Sheriff Prendergast. “Thanks to the courage, quick thinking, and immediate actions of our deputies, no law enforcement or citizens were injured due to this suspect’s chaotic and irrational actions.”

Multiple charges are pending in this case, which is still under investigation. Any additional details regarding this incident will be released when possible.

As is common practice with deputy involved shootings, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) responded and is conducting an independent investigation into the incident.
UPDATE ON FRIDAY'S DEPUTY-INVOLVED SHOOTING
(Citrus County, FL) Shortly before 2 p.m. Friday, June 23, 2023, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies attempted a traffic stop on a black four-door sedan, which failed to pull ove and stop for law enforcement. Instead of complying to instructions from law enforcement the suspect continued to flee from the area.

The driver, later identified as Ahvi Samaad Deberry-Howe, a 23 year old male out of Elgin, South Carolina, caused multiple traffic accidents by intentionally and violently ramming vehicles in front of him. 

Deputies attempting to stop Deberry-Howe from continuing his violent flight from law 
enforcement through the area with heavily congested traffic in all directions yelled commands at the driver, which he failed to comply with subsequently, a K-9 was deployed before turning to lethal force to stop the deadly threat to public safety. 

Following the use of lethal force, the suspect broke through the vehicles damaged by him and continued west on Gulf to Lake Highway for another seven and a half miles. At times he traveling at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, and after driving into oncoming traffic, the suspect eventually lost control of the vehicle and crashed.

Deberry-Howe was transported to a hospital in Pasco County where he was treated for a non-life threatening bullet wound from being shot by a deputy when he tried to run several deputies over and for injuries sustained while being apprehended by the Sheriff’s Office K-9.

“Our deputies have a split second to assess the scene and take action to prevent further harm to our community,” said Sheriff Prendergast “Thankfully, no innocent civilians or law enforcement were injured during this violent rampage across multiple miles of highly utilized and congested roadway in our county.”

Once released from the hospital, Deberry-Howe will be picked up by authorities and brought to the Pasco County Jail on a Citrus County arrest warrant.

Deberry-Howe, will be facing charges of attempted murder of a Law Enforcement Officer, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated fleeing and eluding, and resisting with and without violence and held with no bond. 

As is common practice with deputy involved shootings, the Florida Department of Law 
Enforcement (FDLE) is conducting an independent investigation into the incident, and the deputies involved will be placed on administrative leave pending the investigation. 
SHERIFF'S MUTUAL AID RESPONSE TEAM TRAINS IN PREPARATION FOR HURRICANE SEASON
(Citrus County, FL) Last week, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Sheriff’s Mutual Aid Response Team (SMART) participated in an all-day training session in preparation for the 2023 hurricane season. Our SMART is a specialized team that may get deployed to assist other counties throughout Florida in emergency law enforcement activities, 
search and rescue missions, and requests for mutual aid. This team is comprised of twenty individuals equipped with a variety of technical skills that can be essential in emergency situations. CCSO’s SMART is prepared 24/7, 365 days a year, to quickly and safely respond to requests for assistance and to coordinate the needed services while promoting the safety and security of the community. 

Although our SMART responds to various circumstances, more frequently, they are deployed to assist with relief efforts in areas impacted by major storms. This week’s training entailed everything from operating high-water vehicles to setting up power for sleeping areas and hygiene stations. During storm recoveries, SMART must be prepared for self-sustainability –they can assist for over two weeks, often in areas without access to power or water. We bring equipment such as two large shelter systems and two restroom trailers, fully equipped with a shower. After learning to set up these new systems, the team practiced maneuvering vehicles such as shallow-water rescues, ATVs, and high-water vehicles used to traverse areas impacted by severe storms or flooding.

“The primary goal of our SMART is simply to help others in need, not necessarily just in Citrus County, but all over the state. We train diligently for these emergency situations and are prepared to assist at a moment’s notice,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “We are ready and willing to support any agency in need, and we know that if we needed any kind of aid, they would equally have our back, showing up with every asset they have.”

The Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) Regional Task Force is made up of CCSO and 66 other sheriff’s offices divided into seven zones, all with the goal of working together during emergency operations. CCSO is part of the FSA’s Regional Task Force Zone 4, alongside Hernando, Sumter, Pasco, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, and Hardee counties. Under the authority of The Florida Mutual Aid Act, sheriffs in the state are able to enter into an operational assistance mutual aid agreement for law enforcement service, which provides for rendering of assistance in law enforcement emergencies such as a catastrophic or major disaster. In the event an area is impacted, the sheriff of that region can request assistance from other sheriff’s offices. This is considerably important in the event Citrus County is critically impacted as this mutual aid agreement 
would allow for outside assistance to aid our operations in continually providing adequate public safety services to protect lives and property while our community begins recovery efforts. 

We are fortunate to receive the necessary equipment and gear from the FSA to deploy and share amongst the regional task force. The equipment this task force was provided includes:
  •  Enclosed trailer
  •  Shower trailer
  •  Shelter systems
  •  Water trailer
  •  Generator
  •  Mobile Kitchen
  •  Cots (40)
CCSO OPERATION SUMMER IN THE SLAMMER PUTS 64 BEHIND BARS

(Citrus County, FL) Today, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is releasing the results of our recent covert-operation, “Summer in the Slammer”. This collaborative effort between CCSO and the U.S. Marshal’s Service aimed to take numerous drug dealers and habitual drug abusers off of our streets. Led by CCSO’s Tactical Impact Unit (TIU), this 3-week long operation ended with 64 individuals destined to spend part of their summer behind bars.

The following subjects were arrested in Citrus County during this operation:

  • Ahmad Sulieman (DOB 07/20/1964), Citrus Springs, FL - Possession of crack cocaine.
  • Angela Foster (DOB 01/11/1996), Homosassa, FL - Possession of fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Anterrio Harvin (DOB 01/17/1983), Beverly Hills, FL - Trafficking in methamphetamine, trafficking in fentanyl, rent/own/lease a house for trafficking in narcotics, possession of drug paraphernalia, evidence tampering, obstruction of a search warrant, and possession of cannabis under 20 grams.
  • Ashley Wells (DOB 05/27/1982), Holder, FL - Possession of fentanyl and introduce contraband into a detention facility.
  • Carmelo Velez (DOB 06/10/1988), Okeechobee, FL - Introduce contraband into a detention facility.
  • Casey Rickel (DOB 10/14/1986), Hernando, FL - Possession of fentanyl.
  • Christopher Davis (DOB 06/10/1983), Crystal River, FL - Possession of fentanyl and introduce contraband into a detention facility.
  • Christopher Franke (DOB 06/21/1991), Crystal River, FL - Trafficking methamphetamine and introduce contraband into a detention facility.
  • Cody Wayman (DOB 01/15/2000), Inverness, FL - Two counts of trafficking in methamphetamine, unlawful use of a two-way communications device, sale of methamphetamine, and resist without violence.
  • Courtney Hall (DOB 10/14/1993), Homosassa, FL - Trafficking fentanyl, resisting with violence, child neglect, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of fentanyl.
  • Courtney Pressley (DOB 08/05/1984), Crystal River, FL - Possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, possession of fentanyl, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Daisy Freeman (DOB 12/11/1961), Oxford, FL - Trafficking in phenethylamines 10 grams or more, possession of synthetic narcotic with intent to sell, and rent/own/lease a house for trafficking in narcotics.
  • Daniel Bookout (DOB 03/14/2005), Lecanto, FL - Possession of fentanyl and introduce contraband into a detention facility.
  • Darcy Fuentes (DOB 02/17/1982), Beverly Hills, FL - Possession of methamphetamine.
  • Denise Roddenberry (DOB 09/13/1960), Crystal River, FL - Possession of a controlled substance.
  • Eddie Freeman (DOB 06/02/1986), Spring Hill, FL - Two counts of possession of cocaine, two counts of possession of cannabis over 20 grams, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Edwin Rolon (DOB 01/16/1983), Norfolk, VA - Trafficking in methamphetamine.
  • Everette Dicks (DOB 11/03/1997), Homosassa, FL - Possession of methamphetamine, possession of cannabis, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Felicia Murphy (DOB 06/13/1989), Inverness, FL - Possession of fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Jahnalynn Davis (DOB 07/21/1997), Homosassa, FL - Possession of fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • James Burke Jr. (DOB 11/23/1964) Homosassa, FL - Trafficking methamphetamine over 28 grams.
  • James Mentz (DOB 06/10/1996), Hernando, FL - Possession of MDMA, possession of fentanyl, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Jennifer Jo Howe (DOB 07/21/1983), Homosassa, FL - Possession of methamphetamine, possession of fentanyl, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Jesse Wells (DOB 08/19/1992), Center Hill, FL - Fleeing and eluding.
  • Joseph Sherouse (DOB 11/01/1979), Citrus Springs, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Julius Gardner (DOB 10/03/2002), Inverness, FL - Trafficking in methamphetamine, possession of cannabis with the intent to sell, unlawful use of a two-way communications device, trafficking heroin, trafficking in fentanyl, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, rent/own/lease a house for trafficking in narcotics, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Justice Lucas (DOB 05/02/1995), Beverly Hills, FL - Three felony counts of driving while license suspended or revoked.
  • Kayleigh Van Ness (DOB 05/14/2003), Beverly Hills, FL - Possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Kevin Barnett (DOB 12/21/1981), Brooksville, FL - Possession of methamphetamine.
  • Kolyn Moss (DOB 04/20/1996), Inverness, FL - Trafficking in fentanyl and sale of methamphetamine.
  • Krista Brock (DOB 08/26/1992), Homosassa, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Kristopher Borgen (DOB 10/24/1971), Homosassa, FL - Possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Lindsey Chamberlain (DOB 05/14/1991), Inverness, FL - Possession of suboxone and possession of trazodone.
  • Mark Mathews (DOB 03/03/1970), Crystal River, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Mary Wallace (DOB 03/17/1984), Inverness, FL - Possession of fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Matthew Clarkson (DOB 08/10/1982), Crystal River, FL - Two counts of possession of methamphetamine.
  • Michael Guinan Jr. (DOB 08/08/1987), Lecanto, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and introduce contraband into a detention facility.
  • Michael Marcum (DOB 09/01/1967), Homosassa, FL - Possession of a controlled substance.
  • Michael Miller (DOB 10/05/1970), Hernando, FL - Possession of methamphetamine, possession of cannabis under 20 grams, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Michele Clayton (DOB 06/11/1977), Brooksville, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and failure to appear for driving while license suspended or revoked.
  • Nicholas Kiernan (DOB 07/18/1997), Floral City, FL - Two counts of sale/manufacturing/distribution of fentanyl.
  • Phillip McKinney (DOB 05/14/1973), Hernando, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Rachel Smith (DOB 08/16/1990), Homosassa, FL - Possession of fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Robert Williams (DOB 11/30/1991), Brooksville, FL - Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, carrying a concealed weapon, grand theft, failure to appear, flee/elude from law enforcement, and driving while license suspended or revoked.
  • Ronald Ramsey (DOB 12/15/1974), Homosassa, FL - Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of fentanyl, possession of drug paraphernalia, and third offense driving while license suspended or revoked.
  • Ronnie Dixon (DOB 09/06/1979), Floral City, FL - Possession of methamphetamine.
  • Rufus Hoyt (DOB 01/09/1981), Homosassa, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and possession of fentanyl.
  • Ryan Groom (DOB 11/09/1987), Crystal River, FL - Possession of fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Ryan Smith (DOB 04/24/1983), Homosassa, FL - Trafficking methamphetamine over 200 grams.
  • Shawn Newbanks (DOB 12/09/1975), Lecanto, FL - Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, carrying a concealed weapon, and resisting without violence.
  • Shelby Rehmund (DOB 05/02/2002), Floral City, FL - Possession of fentanyl.
  • Sherry Lee (DOB 06/08/1983), Inverness, FL - Possession of fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Stephanie Tapley (DOB 01/05/1980), Summerfield, FL - Possession of cocaine, possession of fentanyl, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Stephen Kiernan (DOB 07/18/1997), Floral City, FL - Trafficking fentanyl, fleeing and eluding law enforcement, and tampering with evidence.
  • Tammy Poole (DOB 08/09/1963), Inverness, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Tasha Robbins (DOB 05/15/1986), Homosassa, FL - Trafficking in fentanyl (over 28 grams), possession with intent to sell a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Teresa Davis (DOB 11/20/1974), Homosassa, FL - Possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Thomas Caromano (DOB 11/13/1973), Inverness, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and third offense driving while license suspended or revoked.
  • Tina Newberry (DOB 07/01/1966), Beverly Hills, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Tyler Cote (DOB 09/21/1991), Homosassa, FL - Trafficking fentanyl, resisting with violence, child neglect, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of fentanyl.
  • Vicki Howington (DOB 02/19/1985), Homosassa, FL - Possession of drug paraphernalia and failure to appear for possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Wayne Gaskill (DOB 06/28/1967), Homosassa, FL - Felony driving while license suspended or revoked.
  • William Cavaco (DOB 12/18/1974), Floral City, FL - Possession of fentanyl and possession of drug paraphernalia.
  • Zachariah Armstrong (DOB 03/20/1987), Homosassa, FL - Possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“I am appalled to see so many individuals trafficking illicit fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other deadly drugs in Citrus County. These criminals have no concern for others’ lives and put our community in danger,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud of our TIU detectives, patrol deputies, communications officers, our neighbors at the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, and our partners at the U.S. Marshal’s Service for their tireless effort to ensure these individuals are put behind bars where they belong. Unfortunately, these aren’t the last drug dealers and habitual drug abusers we will stop – but we will remain steadfast in our mission to put an end to illicit drug activity.” 

During this operation, over 200 grams of illicit fentanyl were seized, which could kill up to 103,500 people. Additionally, 636 grams of methamphetamine and 1,024 grams of other various narcotics were seized.

We would like to thank our partners at the U.S. Marshal’s Service for relentlessly assisting us in protecting our citizens and making Citrus County the safest community in Florida. We would also like to thank the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office for aiding us in this operation.

If you know of anyone who may be dealing in illegal narcotics or know of someone struggling with addiction, call our non-emergency line at 352-249-2790 to make a report, or to speak with our Behavioral Health Unit for assistance.

CCSO LT. SCOTT FARMER SELECTED FOR FASRO LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
(Citrus County, FL) Members of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) live a life of service above self every day. It often goes unnoticed, but today we are proud to announce that Lieutenant Scott Farmer was selected for the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Florida Association of School Resource Officers (FASRO).

“Over the years, Lieutenant Farmer has brought many great and innovative proposals to our agency and followed through on implementing those ideas to better our community,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Receiving this award is an outstanding career achievement. There is no doubt that Lt. Farmer, who has spent almost his entire career pursuing his passions as a School Resource Deputy (SRD), is highly deserving of this prestigious honor. Thanks in part to his remarkable commitment, we have been honored nationally time and time again for our model SRD program”

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to a current or retired member of FASRO, who exemplifies the true spirit of, “Service before Self” through his/her ongoing actions. According to FASRO, those selected to receive this award have demonstrated through their actions the qualities and characteristics of a School Safety Advocate, Leader, Visionary, Mentor, and Teacher.

“Lieutenant Farmer is Citrus County famous,” said Captain Chris Ball. “When you hear the name ‘Scott Farmer’, you automatically associate him with the School Resource Deputy Program because he has been part of the foundation and an integral part of the development and success of the program for many years.”

Farmer, who first started as a Communications officer in 1991, became a Deputy Sheriff, and later an SRD in 1994 when the program expanded. From there, he helped bring to life the F.O.C.U.S. Program, also known as "Filtering Out Crime United with Students." This program is a ten-week course taught to area fifth graders, and it covers topics like the dangers of drugs, peer pressure, and social media dangers.


So, please join CCSO in congratulating Lieutenant Scott Farmer on receiving the 2023 FASRO Lifetime Achievement Award.


About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s School Resource Deputy Program:
The main goal of the SRD is to prevent juvenile delinquency by promoting positive relations between youth and law enforcement. This program encompasses three major components that allow the SRD to achieve this goal: law enforcement, education, and counseling. Each SRD is assigned to a specific school which allows the deputy to become familiar with the school's internal atmosphere. SRDs also provide a variety of services and benefits for the school community, including a safe and secure learning environment; a more efficient and effective response to emergencies, law enforcement investigations, and applicable arrests; classroom lessons concerning the law, personal choices/responsibilities, and other law-enforcement-related topics; a better opportunity to establish a positive relationship with the students in a non-confrontational setting. Allowing for the SRD to serve as a role model, resource, and mentor to students that may need additional support.
CCSO ARRESTS MAN ON TWO COUNTS OF AGGRAVATED ANIMAL CRUELTY
(Citrus County, FL) On Thursday, July 6, 2023, deputies with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) responded to a call for service in reference to suspected animal cruelty and neglect. A complainant stated that the dogs were thin and living in pitiful conditions.

Upon arrival, deputies were advised that the dog owner, 39-year-old Andrew Teachman, had left the home over 24 hours ago and not returned. Having no response at the residence’s front door, deputies began a perimeter search of the house and were able to locate a window into the home that was left slightly ajar. While standing at the window, deputies could smell a strong odor of feces and urine coming from the room. Through the window, they observed that the room, which contained two dogs in appalling condition, was covered with feces. One dog, a noticeably thin black bulldog mix, was loose in the room. The second dog, who was housed in a wire crate, had his spine clearly protruding.

From the window, they also took note of one metal bowl that was empty and dry. Deputies eventually made contact with Teachman, who claimed he would send someone to the residence to meet with them since he was currently out of town. After waiting a while, the deputies realized no one was coming and attempted to reach Teachman again, but were unsuccessful. Deputies then made entry into the residence through the ajar window into the room where the dogs were residing to provide immediate care.

Once inside, deputies noticed the dog in the crate was extremely emaciated, and his entire body was covered in dry and wet feces. 

The dogs were removed through the open window, and deputies immediately provided them with water. The dogs began drinking the water very quickly, since the room they were housed in was extremely hot, due to the window air conditioning unit being off. According to weather reports on Thursday, the heat index was 109 degrees.

“CCSO Deputies and our Animal Control Unit work tirelessly to help and defend innocent animals who are mistreated by irresponsible owners. Having those dogs kept in a room with no ventilation and no air conditioning on such a hot day was clearly animal abuse,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am extremely thankful for the concerned citizen who reached out to find help for these two dogs and hold Teachman accountable for his gross negligence. Please, especially with the record-breaking heat we have been experiencing lately, if you suspect someone is  neglecting animals, call us.”

The dogs were transported to the Citrus County Animal Shelter. Andrew Teachman was later located and placed under arrest for two felony counts of animal cruelty.

About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Animal Control Unit:
Animal Control Officers (ACO’s) joined the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office on September 1, 2009, and are part of the Patrol Division Special Operations Unit. ACO’s respond to complaints involving domestic animals and livestock, including calls involving animals that are abused, dangerous, or a nuisance to the citizens of Citrus County. They have the authority to remove these animals and issue citations for violations of the county’s Animal Control ordinance.
CCSO AND ABT TEAM UP IN UNDERCOVER OPERATION ON ALCOHOL SALES
(Citrus County, FL) This past Friday, July 7, 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) partnered with state investigators from the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) during an enforcement effort to ensure establishments are adhering to their licensure.

During this operation, 15 random establishments in Citrus County were visited to test their internal processes concerning the sales of alcohol or tobacco to minors. Four of those establishments were not in compliance with their licensure.

“Selling alcohol and tobacco to minors is not only illegal, but tremendously irresponsible and reckless for a business,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “It’s unfortunate to see several establishments in our county blatantly disregard the law by skipping the simple step of checking an identification card."


The below establishments were NOT in compliance:

  • Race Track - 3310 W Gulf to Lake Hwy, Lecanto. 1 misdemeanor citation was issued.
  • Circle K #5995 - 2025 N Lecanto Hwy, Lecanto. 1 misdemeanor citation was issued.
  • Skippers Liquors - 3451 E Louise Ln #104, Hernando. 1 misdemeanor citation was issued.
  • Sunoco - 6971 W Gulf to Lake Hwy, Crystal River. 1 misdemeanor citation was issued.

The below establishments DID OPERATE IN COMPLIANCE with their licensure:

  • WAWA - 2932 W Norvell Bryant Hwy, Lecanto
  • Shamrock Inn - 8343 East Orange Avenue, Floral City
  • Dollar General #14249 - 6915 N Florida Ave, Hernando
  • Niko’s Neighborhood Bar - 5210 N Florida Ave, Hernando
  • Texaco Food Mart - 645 W Norvell Bryant Hwy, Hernando
  • CVS Pharmacy #3700 3506 Norvell Bryant Hwy, Hernando
  • Walgreens #5980 795 W Norvell Bryant Hwy, Hernando
  • Ozello Island Outpost 14231 W Ozello Trail, Crystal River
  • Walgreens 310 NE US Hwy 19, Crystal River
  • Walgreens 9427 S Suncoast Blvd, Homosassa

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office and ABT will continue to work constructively with local retail establishments to ensure employees are well-educated in Florida Beverage and Tobacco Laws.
TWO JUVENILES AND 13 ANIMALS REMOVED  FROM DEPLORABLE LIVING CONDITIONS
(Citrus County, FL) Wednesday, July 12, 2023, deputies with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) responded to a complaint from Code Enforcement, who was working a case referencing junkyard conditions at a residence in Beverly Hills due to the accumulation of junk and garbage outside the house.

Upon arrival, deputies made contact with residents Michael Clayton Howey, 36, and Brenda Darla Howey, 37, who advised that they resided in the home with two children, ten dogs, and three cats.

Upon entering the home, deputies noticed a potent smell of ammonia and items scattered over the floor. During the walk-through of the residence, responding units noted dried feces covering multiple areas throughout the house, including a sizable amount of dried feces inside the laundry room, which was also cluttered with debris. 

Two children were observed to have feces stuck to the bottom of their feet and between their toes. Deputies had to catch themselves from slipping and falling from the wet urine on the floor of the home, noting in the affidavit that the entire house had garbage all over and that the house appeared to have not been cleaned in some time.

“It is sickening to me that there are so many irresponsible people out there who are not providing safe living conditions for their children or their ‘pets,’ said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “No human or animal should be subjected to live in the abhorrent conditions as seen in this case, and thanks to the great teamwork by our animal control unit and code enforcement, these victims won’t be subjected to this neglectful environment again.”

The two children were removed from the home and placed with family friends, while the animals were transported to the Citrus County Animal Shelter.

Both Michael and Brenda Howey were arrested on thirteen counts of animal cruelty and were transported to the Citrus County Detention Facility, where they will each be held on a total bond of $13,000 per the bond schedule.

About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Animal Control Unit:
Animal Control Officers (ACO’s) joined the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office on September 1, 2009, and are part of the Patrol Division Special Operations Unit. ACO’s respond to complaints involving domestic animals and livestock, including calls involving animals that are abused, dangerous, or a nuisance to the citizens of Citrus County. They have the authority to remove these animals and issue citations for violations of  the county’s Animal Control ordinance. 


STAYING CONNECTED WITH CCSO JUST BY A THREAD

(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is excited to announce the official launch of its newest social media account, Threads.

Threads is a new app, built by Instagram, for sharing text updates and joining public conversations. The social media platform is aimed at fostering stronger connections with our community. Furthermore, the developers of Threads are currently working to make the platform compatible with the open, interoperable social networks that they believe can shape the future of our connectivity with real-time updates.

The addition of Threads as another social media tool will enhance CCSO’s ability to continue to engage, inform, and collaborate with our community. Additionally, Threads will facilitate two[1]way communication, allowing residents and visitors to share their thoughts, concerns, and feedback with our office directly. As a law enforcement agency committed to delivering excellence in public safety, we recognize the importance of staying connected. By expanding our social media presence, we strive to reach a wider audience and facilitate meaningful interactions with the citizens we proudly serve.

We strongly believe that open dialogue and active engagement are crucial in building trust and strengthening our office’s relationship with our community. We invite all members of the community to connect with us on Threads and join the conversation today!

“I am excited for our agency to join this platform as a new way to connect with our citizens,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “We are consistently determined to make a lasting impact with our community, and Threads gives us another opportunity to interact with, and gather feedback to improve our operations.”

To follow our Threads account, simply visit this new social media platform and search for Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, or click this link: https://www.threads.net/@sheriffcitrus

IMPOSTER POSING AS A SHERIFF'S DEPUTY  ARRESTED ON MULTIPLE FELONY CHARGES

(Citrus County, FL) Eric William Johnson, 32, of Homosassa, FL, is being held at the Citrus County Detention Center on a $201,000 bond, as the result of an investigation by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Patrol Division and Major Case Section (MCS).

On Wednesday, June 19th , Johnson, who was driven to the scene by Maynard David Selvog, arrived at a residence in Homosassa. Johnson exited the vehicle carrying what appeared to be an AR-15 style rifle and knocked on the door of a camper while shouting "Citrus County Sheriff's Department,” according to victims. The rifle was later identified as an “Air-soft” rifle.

While pointing the weapon at the victims, Johnson demanded that they exit the camper. Believing Johnson was an armed law enforcement officer, they complied. Once outside, Johnson kept both victims together at gunpoint.

The female victim attempted to call 9-1-1; however, Johnson took away the phone. While Johnson was distracted, the male victim ran to the nearest home for help, and noticed Selvog sitting in the driver seat of an SUV parked near the road.

Johnson chased after the male victim and kicked in the door of the home the victim entered. Once inside, a fight between the victim, the homeowner, and Johnson ensued. The homeowner disarmed Johnson and struck Johnson’s in the head with the buttstock of the weapon. Johnson and Selvog then fled the property.

Sheriff’s Office personnel located Selvog at another residence, who disclosed Johnson was hiding in a nearby shed. Deputies found Johnson, who was holding a gun to his head. After failed attempts to gain compliance, K-9 Deputy Elias released K-9 Odie to apprehend Johnson. As K-9 Odie grabbed Johnson, he positioned his gun underneath K-9 Odie's chin and pulled the trigger.

When the gun malfunctioned, he reloaded the gun and pulled the trigger again. After the second malfunction, the deputies moved in and gained control of Johnson.

After receiving treatment at Oak Hill Hospital for injuries, Johnson was charged with:

  •  Home invasion robbery while armed;
  • Two counts of kidnapping to commit a felony;
  • Burglary of a dwelling while armed;
  • Aggravated assault on a person 65 years of age or older;
  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon;
  • Hinder, delay, or prevent communication to law enforcement;
  • Impersonating law enforcement;
  • Battery on police canines;
  • Resisting law enforcement without violence.

Selvog was arrested and charged with:

  • Home-invasion robbery while armed with a weapon;
  • Principle in the first degree.

His bond was set at $50,000.

“Incidents like this are incomprehensible, and the fear this suspect put these victims through is unforgiveable”, said Sheriff Mike Prendergast, “I am thankful none of the victims were seriously injured, and all law enforcement personnel made it home safely”.

CCSO PARTICIPATES IN USSS THREAT ASSESSMENT TRAINING

(Citrus County, FL) Today, July 27, 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) hosted the United States Secret Service (USSS) “Enhanced School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model” training at CCSO’s Emergency Operations Center in Lecanto, FL.

This crucial, informative training was attended by various organizations, all with the goal of protecting our schools against threats:

  • CCSO School Resource Deputies (SRD)
  • Seven Rivers School Safety Deputy
  • CCSO Behavioral Health Unit
  • CCSO Major Crimes Detectives
  • CCSO Intelligence Analysis Unit
  • CCSO Community Crimes Detectives
  • CCSO Administration
  • CCSO Patrol
  • CCSO Emergency Management Division
  • Florida Department of Juvenile Justice
  • Marion County Sheriff’s Office
  • LifeStream
  • Citrus County School District
  • Solid Rock Christian Academy
  • Inverness Christian Academy

This training is critical for our team to be fully prepared in the event of a school threat and has equipped our SRDs, detectives, and support staff with the knowledge they need to assess potential threats in order to negate them before they happen,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud of our partnership with the USSS and would like to thank them for coming to present this information to us today, so we can keep our school children and faculty safe and secure.”

The training included reviewing the research of previous attack statistics and comparing information such as the area they occurred, the type of school targeted, and whether they were averted or completed. This training also looked into how different threats have been formulated, such as the selection and procurement of weapons, setting the location and date, victim selection, and how to divert first responders through planned misdirection.

Following the investigation of previous attacks, this training also examined the USSS’s ‘threat assessment model.’ This model can assist in identifying any potential threats, but also focuses on how to assess and intervene with students exhibiting concerning or threatening behavior as early as possible.

The training was led by the USSS National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), which has conducted studies on the behaviors of those who have committed acts of targeted school violence in an effort to prevent future tragedies. NTAC has found this research, combined with establishing threat assessment teams and consistently encouraging individuals to report any concerning behaviors, can help prevent targeted violence at our schools.

 If you see or hear any possible threats of targeted violence, please report them immediately to our office by calling 9-1-1. Never wait to report a potential threat – any information is useful and may prevent a potential tragedy.

CCSO EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR COMPLETES FEMA ADVANCED PROFESSIONAL SERIES COURSEWORK

(Citrus County, FL)  Earlier this month, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Emergency Management Coordinator Lane Schneider completed his Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Advanced Professional Series (APS) coursework. The APS provides emergency managers and first responders with numerous practical skills relating to disaster operations, emergency management, and coordination. These vital skills are established through over 140 hours of “how-to” training focused on practical information.

“I congratulate Lane on this superior achievement,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Lane is a remarkable asset to our Emergency Management team. I know our team will be prepared for any potential disasters that come our way with Lane’s diligent work and extensive knowledge of emergency management procedures.”

Lane began his career with CCSO’s Emergency Management Division in 2021 as the Emergency Management Coordinator. This position entails developing and maintaining emergency management plans for Citrus County, monitoring severe weather or hazardous conditions, and coordinating response and recovery plans for natural, manmade, and technological events. When not working on an active emergency situation, Lane conducts training exercises for CCSO and county partners, manages the AlertCitrus program, and administrates the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

He currently holds a bachelor’s degree in Emergency Management from the University of Central Florida and is continuing his education at Columbia Southern University, where he is pursuing his master’s in Public Administration. Recently, Lane was awarded a Humanitarian Service Medal for his crucial aid to Cape Coral following the devastation of Hurricane Ian. 

Congratulations on this outstanding achievement, Lane!

About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Emergency Management Division:

The Emergency Management Division builds a comprehensive preparedness program that focuses on five missions: prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. This division is the lead coordinator of emergency and disaster response activities.  The goal of these response activities is to preserve life, mitigate hazards, preserve property, and restore social functions. Emergency Management is key to preparing and protecting the community.  In the event of an emergency, be sure to monitor the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office's Facebook and Twitter pages, or download our CCSO app for live updates and safety recommendations.

TWO ARRESTED FOLLOWING ARMED ROBBERY
(Citrus County, FL) On Friday, July 28, 2023, two victims, who were already on their way to the hospital, reported a shooting to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). The victims, one of which was injured from a gunshot wound to his hip, stated the incident occurred at their residence in Crystal River. 

Investigation revealed that Savion Harris, 20, and Semaj Shackleford, 15, both of Marion County, were driven to the victim’s home to assumingly engage in the private sale of several firearms. During the sale discussions, Shackleford pulled a pistol from his waistband, pointing it at the two victims saying, “This is a stick-up.” 

One of the victims pulled out a handgun of their own, warning Shackleford to drop his weapon. Shackleford instead chose to shoot one of the victims striking him in the hip. The victim fired back as he was falling to the ground. 

Harris took this opportunity to flee while carrying several of victim’s guns. 

The victim, fearing for his life and already shot by Shackleford, managed to retrieve another nearby firearm. He subsequently shot at the suspects as they fled the scene carrying multiple firearmsthat were stolen from the victim. 

After the initial 9-1-1 call from the victims, a second 9-1-1 call was received, requesting EMS for two males with possible gunshot wounds in the nearby area. 

Deputies responded to the location given by the caller and located both suspects and a disabled vehicle, matching the one described by the victims. One of the suspects was transported to the hospital due to gunshot wounds. The other was treated on scene and immediately taken into custody. 

“Selling items, especially firearms can be dangerous,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “During private sales, you come into direct contact with complete strangers – of whom you have no knowledge of their character or moral fibers. While it may initially appear to be a straightforward transaction, there are inherent risks and potential consequences – like in this case. The seller needs to be aware of their moral and legal responsibilities, including safety concerns, all of which become intertwined into this seemingly simple but complex transaction."

As a result of our investigation, the following arrests have been made:

Harris was charged with:

  • Armed Robbery Harris’s bond was set at $50,000.00

Shackleford was charged with:

  • Attempted Murder
  • Armed Robbery

Shackleford is in custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice and is being held without bond at this time.

CAREER CRIMINAL MAKES PLEA, RECEIVES 10-YEAR SENTENCING
(Citrus County, FL) Earlier this week, August 7, 2023, the Honorable Judge Fritton sentenced 25-year-old Mario Lorenzo Farmer, Jr. to 10 years in the Florida Department of Corrections as part of a plea agreement for his 2021 trafficking narcotics arrest.

“Today's sentencing sends a clear message that our community will not tolerate the destructive influence of drug trafficking,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “A 10-year sentence for this convicted drug trafficker reflects our commitment to maintaining the safety and well-being of our residents. We will continue to work tirelessly to keep illegal drugs off our streets and hold those who seek to harm the citizens of our community accountable for their actions. I’d like to also thank the State Attorney, Bill Gladson, and his team for their persistence in this case.”

Back in August of 2021, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) and SWAT team served a search warrant at a residence on South Ignot Point in Lecanto, FL. During the search, detectives located numerous items which are commonly used to distribute illegal narcotics. Four individuals on scene at the residence were arrested for various possession charges. 

While still on scene, CCSO Detectives and SWAT team members observed a blue Nissan Altima pull into the residence. Detectives immediately recognized the driver of the vehicle as 23-year-old Mario Farmer, Jr. (DOB 1/16/98). Farmer was an active drug dealer residing in Sumter County who has an extensive criminal history including 31 felony arrests with prior convictions for cocaine sales, fleeing/eluding law enforcement, and felon in possession of a firearm. Most of Farmer’s arrests were violent in nature or involved firearms.

Upon trying to take Farmer into custody, he fled the scene. After a brief pursuit and with the assistance of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Farmer was taken into custody without further incident.

During the vehicle pursuit, deputies and detectives observed Farmer throwing multiple items of narcotics out of the window. Detectives diligently searched a mile-long area and were able to recover all of the narcotics that were discarded during the chase. These narcotics included over 3 ounces (approximately 88.1 grams) of methamphetamine, 4 grams of heroin, and 8.6 grams of cocaine. Also located in Farmer’s vehicle, and in his possession, was over $8,800 in U.S. currency.

Farmer was arrested for trafficking methamphetamine and heroin, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and fleeing/eluding law enforcement. In addition to his plethora of law violations for drug possession, trafficking in narcotics, and fleeing/eluding law enforcement, Farmer was also arrested on his two active Sumter County warrants for flee/elude, possession of cannabis, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“The outcome of the sentencing of Mario Farmer, Jr. underscores our dedication to upholding the law and safeguarding our society from the devastating impacts of drug-related crimes,” said State Attorney Bill Gladson. “We remain resolute in our pursuit of justice, working to ensure that those who engage in illegal drug trafficking are held accountable for their actions. This sentence stands as a testament to our commitment to a safer and healthier future of our state, for the well-being of our citizens.”


If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or needs assistance with finding resources, please contact our Behavioral Health Unit at (352) 249-2790
SHERIFF MIKE PRENDERGAST SELECTS HIGHLY ACCOMPLISHED  SERGEANT TO HEAD HIS BEHAVIORAL HEALTH UNIT
(Citrus County, FL) Please join the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and Sheriff Mike Prendergast in congratulating Sergeant Allison McLaughlin-Perry on her appointment to Sergeant over the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU).

Sgt. Allison McLaughlin-Perry began her career with CCSO in 2005 as a Deputy Sheriff. She was assigned to the Tactical Impact Unit from 2008 to 2017 as a Deputy/Detective, then transferred to East Operations as a Community Crimes Detective from June 2017-2019, where she obtained the East Operations OIC position until her promotion to Patrol Sergeant in 2020.

As a law enforcement organization, we respond to many unfortunate circumstances where citizens need help, not prison sentences and fines - this is where the BHU comes in. This team stands at the forefront of mental health awareness in addition to the substance abuse pandemic, dedicating themselves to providing mental health support and assistance to those who are facing these problems.

The BHU is comprised of two behavioral health detectives, two domestic violence detectives, two victim advocates, and two substance abuse advocates that work together to get individuals access to the help they need.

“Sergeant McLaughlin-Perry has shown tremendous dedication in every role she has undertaken over the years,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Early intervention is key; we want to help people have a successful life. Our Behavioral Health Unit is imperative to preventing crime in our county, and I look forward to seeing what new achievements the unit will accomplish under her leadership.”

Recently, the BHU organized Citrus County’s first “Here to Help” event. Thanks to collaborations with our community partners, this event was able to provide services at no cost, including health screenings, peer support, hot meals, hygiene products, and pregnancy assistance. Having access to these basic needs can ease stress and support a healthy mental state.

Please join our office as we congratulate the newly appointed Sergeant Allison McLaughlin-Perry as she celebrates this career achievement.
CCSO IS SEEKING THE PUBLIC'S ASSISTANCE  REGARDING INFORMATION ON DECEASED PERSON
(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office is currently seeking the public's assistance in gathering information related to a recent incident. Last night, CCSO deputies, with the close support and assistance from our Aviation Unit, located a deceased person – white male, early sixties – along eastbound State Route 44 (SR 44) near Simms Furniture Galleries. Our agency is reaching out to the community to help piece together the events leading up to this tragic incident.

The deceased individual was found close to the wood line of eastbound SR 44 around 8 p.m. last night. The circumstances surrounding the person's death are currently under investigation, and officials are actively working to determine the cause and sequence of events. We are aware the deceased was bicycling first and left behind various items and began walking. 

As part of the ongoing investigation, our office is requesting the cooperation of the public in providing any relevant information that could aid in establishing a timeline of the events leading to the discovery of the deceased person. In particular, our office is interested in hearing from motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians who might have been in this vicinity, August 11th, between 8:30am and 6:00pm and who may have witnessed a bicyclist or pedestrian walking close to the wood line.

Anyone with information that could be connected to this case, is urged to call the Sheriff’s Office. Even the smallest piece of information could prove to be valuable.

Citizens are encouraged to contact our office via the non-emergency line at 352-249-2790, with any relevant information. Individuals who wish to remain anonymous can share their tips through Citrus County Crime Stoppers at 1-888-ANY-TIPS or visiting www.crimestopperscitrus.com.

Our office is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our community, and we greatly appreciate the assistance of our citizens. By working together, we can help shed light on this unfortunate incident and bring closure to the affected family and loved ones.
 
DILIGENT DEPUTY STRUCK BY VEHICLE WHILE  THWARTING A BURGLARY IN PROGESS
(Citrus County, FL) Last night, August 11, 2023, shortly before 11 p.m., the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a possible burglary in progress. Deputies responded out to a business located off of West Cedar Street in Crystal River, where they observed two individuals attempting to load wood onto a trailer. 

“The deputies involved in the incident displayed remarkable dedication and courage in their efforts in apprehending these two suspects,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I commend their swift and effective response to this challenging situation. This incident serves as a reminder of the risks law enforcement officers face while protecting our community and upholding the law. We remain committed to maintaining the safety and security of our community and will continue to work diligently for such.” 

Upon arriving at the scene, deputies made contact with both defendants – later identified as 26-year-old Kelly Jean Delmar and 25-year-old Wyatt Morgan Arnow, both of Fort McCoy – who initially refused to provide their information or an explanation for being on the premises. The situation escalated when attempts were made to detain the suspects, resulting in a physical altercation between Arnow and deputies on scene. Arnow was able to flee on foot while Delmar, who during the altercation, returned to a parked vehicle. 

The incident took a dangerous turn when Delmar, operating the vehicle with a trailer attached, accelerated towards deputies. One deputy was able to narrowly escape being struck by the vehicle while the other deputy was struck by the vehicle operated by Delmar. Thankfully, the deputy sustained no serious injuries.

After this deadly attempt to flee, Delmar was then able to stop and pick up Arnow. The two suspects subsequently fled the scene in the vehicle, leading deputies on a brief pursuit. The chase came to an abrupt end when the suspects crashed into a tree near the intersection of West Balloon Lane and North Turkey Oak Drive. Both Delmar and Arnow were subsequently apprehended, though not without further resistance from Arnow, who was then apprehended by K-9 Ranger. 

Delmar was transported to the local jail, while Arnow was taken to a nearby hospital for medical treatment before being placed under arrest. Subsequent to their arrest, a search was conducted on the suspects’ vehicle were officials seized a trafficking amount of Fentanyl and drug paraphernalia. 

Delmar and Arnow were arrested and charged as follows:

Delmar was charged with:

  • Two Counts of Aggravated Battery on Law Enforcement
  • Aggravated Battery – uses a Deadly Weapon
  • Aggravated Assault on Law Enforcement
  • Trafficking in Fentanyl
  • Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Delmar’s bond was set at $61,000.00

Arnow was charged with:

  • Two Counts of Battery on Law Enforcement
  • Resisting without Violence
  • Fleeing and Eluding Law Enforcement
  • Driving while License Suspended
  • First Offense
Arnow’s bond was set at $13,500.00




OPERATION SAFE KIDS AIMS TO ENHANCE SCHOOL  SAFETY THROUGH EDUCATION
(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) is proud to announce its 
participation in the Florida Sheriffs Association’s (FSA) statewide campaign, Operation Safe Kids, a comprehensive school safety initiative set to commence on Monday, August 21st, and conclude on Friday, August 25th. 

“Operation Safe Kids exemplifies our commitment to fostering a safe environment for our students by ensuring their well-being when traveling to and from school. In the same way we protect our community, we're here to safeguard our students as they continue their educational journey. Let's work together to make this school year a safe, secure, and successful one. Remember, safety starts with all of us,” said Sheriff Prendergast.

Committed to the safety of students, pedestrians, and cyclists, this operation will focus on identifying high-risk areas for traffic crashes, pedestrian and bicycle accidents, and traffic violations within school zones. Through strategic planning, education, and targeted warnings;participating law enforcement agencies such as CCSO aim to raise awareness and promote safer communities.

The mission of this operation is to identify potential danger zones around schools, create directed patrol plans, and distribute educational messages, warnings, and citations to ensure the safety of students, pedestrians, and motorists. Individual law enforcement agencies will tailor their approaches to suit their community's unique needs, focusing on a combination of education, warnings, and enforcement measures.

The operation's strategy encompasses the following key elements:

Identification of High-Risk Areas:
Law enforcement agencies will collaborate to pinpoint high-risk locations prone to accidents and violations in proximity to schools.

Public Education: Empowering the community with knowledge about school zone safety will be a primary focus. Educational outreach programs will be employed to provide guidance on responsible driving, safe pedestrian practices, and bicycle safety.

Public Safety Service Announcements: The campaign will leverage various communication channels to deliver safety messages to residents, parents, students, and drivers, emphasizing the importance of cautious behavior near schools.

Warnings and Enforcement: The operation will involve the issuance of warnings and citations to drivers found violating traffic laws in school zones, reinforcing the gravity of adhering to safety regulations.

Operation Safe Kids represents a significant step toward achieving the Florida Sheriffs 
Association's strategic goals of enhancing public safety and protecting the future of Florida's youth. By embracing an all-inclusive approach to school zone safety, law enforcement agencies statewide are demonstrating their dedication to creating safer communities and nurturing responsible citizens.
CCSO HOSTS SENATOR SCOTT'S ROUND TABLE  ON HIS "KEEPING OUR KIDS SAFE" TOUR

(Citrus County, FL) Today, August 15, 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) hosted a round table discussion alongside U.S. Senator Rick Scott, to discuss the significance of the School Guardian Act of 2023 in enhancing school safety, along with the dangers of fentanyl and the threats of unmonitored social media. This crucial bill, proposed by Senator Scott, will support the hiring, training and equipping of armed law enforcement officers to provide full-time security at every K-12 school in the nation. Through a block grant program, the School Guardian Act of 2023 will be administered by the U.S. Department of Justice and funded by reallocating currently unused portions of the $80 billion appropriated to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the Inflation Reduction Act. Every law enforcement officer assigned to a school will complete rigorous training and be dedicated to protecting and keeping students and faculty safe from harm.

“The safety of our students and faculty will always remain a top priority. The School Guardian Act of 2023 proposed by Senator Scott prioritizes school safety at the national level, which I am a strong advocate for,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I believe we will soon see this vital legislation come to fruition with the immense support that we’ve already seen from the Florida Sheriff’s Association, the Florida Police Chiefs Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and so many more. I urge everyone to support this proposed bill and reach out to your congressional leaders. Let’s keep our children and our schools safe and protected.”

This round table discussion was held at our Emergency Operations Center in Lecanto and attended by several community members and leaders. In attendance was:

  • Senator Rick Scott
  • Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast
  • Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis
  • Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods
  • Doug Dodd – Chairman, Citrus County School Board and Appointed Commissioner for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission
  • Shannon Rodriguez – Hernando County School Board
  • Dana James – Headmaster at Seven Rivers Christian School
  • Gary Marriage – Parent, CEO & Insurance Professional
  • Nick Choto – Director at HCA Florida Citrus Hospital
  • Nicki Greene– Parent, community leader
DUNNELLON RESIDENT ARRESTED ON  MULTITUDE OF FRAUD-RELATED CHARGES
(Citrus County, FL) Yesterday, August 16, 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) arrested Austin Sellars, 28, of Dunnellon, on several offenses, including 16 counts of unlawful possession of a stolen debit or credit card following the traffic stop of a fraudulently purchased truck. 

During the traffic stop, Sellars was found to be in possession of multiple credit and debit cards belonging to 16 different victims, with three of the credit or debit cards belonging to a victim our agency was already in contact with concerning fraudulent activity in their name.

After taking Sellars into custody, CCSO Community Crimes Unit (CCU) Detectives served a search warrant at Sellars’ residence, where they located a large duffle bag full of mail, none of which belonged to him.

Our initial investigation into Sellers began on May 02, 2023, when CCSO responded to the scene of a vehicle burglary, where the victim’s work iPhone, work iPad, and wallet containing credit and debit cards, driver's license, and cash had been stolen.

As the investigation progressed, the victim reported suspicious activity on his credit report, and it appeared that the suspect, Sellars, had used the victim’s stolen identification to purchase a vehicle through Carvana on June 08, 2023.

“It is important to be vigilant, monitoring things such as your credit report regularly to be sure no one is attempting to steal your identity,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Our CCU Detectives have already begun sorting through the collected evidence, which includes checks, W2 forms, health and car insurance cards, court papers, and several other sensitive documents Sellars had collected. Thankfully, Sellars has now been apprehended, and we can begin contacting these victims and bringing closure to everyone involved.”

Sellars also attempted to acquire a personal loan for home improvements using the victim’s stolen Florida Driver’s License.

As a result of our investigation, Sellars has been arrested for the following charges:

Sellars’ bond was set at $102,500.00. 

This investigation is ongoing and may lead to additional charges.
SERGEANT BRIAN CASALVIERI GRADUATES  FROM FDLE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY
(Citrus County, FL) Today, August 25, 2023, Sergeant Brian Casalvieri with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) graduated from class 54 of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Leadership Academy.

The Florida Leadership Academy consists of four one-week-long sessions where participants learn skills necessary to support the needs of their agencies and communities in preparation for future challenges. The goal of the Academy is to prepare first-line supervisors in criminal justice organizations to exemplify the character and integrity expected of criminal justice professionals while examining the various components necessary to become successful leaders. 

“I congratulate Sergeant Casalvieri on this significant achievement in graduating from the Florida Leadership Academy. Sergeant Casalvieri has shown compelling initiative by dedicating time to continue his education and develop his leadership skills,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I look forward to seeing where his new skills will be applied as he embraces new challenges and opportunities.”

Sergeant Casalvieri began his career with CCSO in 2013 as a Deputy Sheriff. He was promoted to Field Training Officer (FTO) Deputy in 2016. In 2018, Sergeant Casalvieri was promoted to Major Crimes Detective, where he served until his promotion to Operations Sergeant in 2021.

Congratulations to Sergeant Casalvieri on this accomplishment! May this milestone serve you well as you continue your successful and fulfilling career in public safety.

About the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute:
The Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute, which is housed within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and affiliated with the State University System, was established in 1990 by the Florida Legislature to address the need for an innovative and multi-faceted approach to the education and training of criminal justice professionals.
CCSO DEPUTIES ARE PARTNERING WITH FWC TO  RESCUE INJURED MANATEE
(Citrus County, FL) Today, August 26, 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) received reports of a large injured manatee within the Homosassa River. 

Responding CCSO Marine Deputies were able to locate the injured manatee and subsequently notified the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) Wildlife Research Department to speak with their biologist to determine the best course of action.

The biologist said that due to the size of the manatee a large crew of highly trained personnel will need to be assembled to rescue the injured manatee. In the meantime, please do not disturb, attempt to corral, or rescue the injured manatee if you happen to come across it.

At this time, the manatee has made itself comfortable in a cove. However, if you do see the injured manatee travelling in open waters call FWC Dispatch at 904-359-6584 to report its direction of travel.

“It is very important for everyone’s safety that we listen to the biologist’s instructions and await the trained crew’s arrival,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Although we don’t know exactly where in our waterways this manatee was injured, I want to remind all boaters to observe all posted signs: No Wake Zones, Speed Limits, and Idle Speeds.”

Manatees are federally protected species and only trained, experienced, and federally permitted specialists/organizations are authorized to capture, handle, and transport these animals. These types of rescues can be very dangerous posing a safety risk to both the rescuers and the manatee. 

CCSO Marine Deputies will partner with FWC and other professionals to rescue the injured manatee when the team has been assembled. The manatee will be transported in a specialized box truck to Zoo Tampa for treatment.

We will provide an update once we have rescued the manatee.
CITRUS COUNTY DECLARES LOCAL STATE OF EMERGENCY  IN PREPARATION OF TROPICAL STORM IDALIA

(Citrus County, FL) Local government officials, including the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Emergency Management Division met today to discuss potential emergency actions in relation to Tropical Storm Idalia.

It was decided that Citrus County is declaring a Local State of Emergency effective immediately. We urge all citizens and businesses of Citrus County to make preparations - residents living in campers, recreational vehicles, tents, other structures unable to withstand the winds of a tropical storm, or along the west side of U.S. Highway 19 are advised to voluntarily evacuate. 

“Although there are many uncertainties surrounding the impact of Tropical Storm Idalia, we are not taking any chances when it comes to your safety. As this storm begins to strengthen in the Gulf, we will feel certain impacts,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “I strongly encourage everyone to get prepared: Make sure you have a plan in place before the storm reaches Florida, gather your important documents, and pack your go-bags. Even tropical storms can affect our county first responder’s ability to respond out in an emergency. Once those winds reach upwards of 45 miles per hour emergency vehicles cannot respond out to your location.”

The National Weather Service believes that the West Coast of Florida could experience the storm’s impact sometime Tuesday into Wednesday. Based on best available information, the National Hurricane Center predicts that counties along the coast may receive catastrophic storm surge from 6-9 feet above ground level.

Remember, with any storm, you should NOT focus on the cone, rather focus on the impacts. The track could always move toward Citrus County and even if it does not, storm impacts can be far reaching. For those in coastal surge areas, be prepared to move sooner than later - DO NOT WAIT. When water starts coming in, it can move quickly and trap you.

We will open up the Citizen Information Lines tomorrow, please continue to monitor our social media for updates throughout the duration of Tropical Storm Idalia.

COUPLE ARRESTED ON MULTIPLE SEX-RELATED CHARGES

(Citrus County, FL) Tuesday, August 29, 2023, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) detectives within our High-Tech Crimes Unit arrested two Inverness residents, 37-year-old Krystal Dawn Rose and, 37-year-old Jacob Michael Rose, an already registered sex offender, on multiple sex-related offenses.

Our agency was notified of an incident involving two adults, who had traveled to meet with an individual who they believed to be a thirteen-year-old female with the intention of engaging in sexual acts.

CCSO detectives responded out to a local business in Inverness where a confrontation had ensued between the Rose’s and the complainant. During the investigation, it was determined that both Krystal and Jacob Rose had sent several nude images to the “juvenile” they had come to meet up with along with a video of them engaging in oral sex. They then asked for photos of her in return.  

Even though a major hurricane was barreling towards our county during this arrest, our dedicated team was still hard at work protecting our citizens,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “This couple not only knowingly sent vile, sexually explicit messages to a minor, but went as far as to meet up with them to carry out repulsive acts. I am extremely proud of our detectives for putting this abhorrent couple behind bars and away from our children.”

The two were charged with the following:

  • Jacob Michael Rose:
    • One count of travel to meet a minor
    • Three counts of transmission of harmful material to minors
    • One count of online solicitation of a minor and one count of sex offender failure to register online account.

He is being held at the Citrus County Detention facility without bond.

 

  • Krystal Dawn Rose:
    • One count of travel to meet a minor

She is being held on a $5,000 bond per the bond schedule.

DETECTIVE DOWLING PROMOTED TO SERGEANT OVER MAJOR CRIMES UNIT

(Citrus County, FL)  Please join the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and Sheriff Mike Prendergast in congratulating Detective Thomas Dowling, Major Crimes Officer in Charge, on his well-deserved promotion to the rank of Sergeant over CCSO’s Major Crimes Unit.

Detective Dowling has consistently demonstrated his exceptional investigative skills and leadership qualities throughout his tenure with CCSO. His tireless efforts in solving complex cases and his ability to connect with the community have made him a valuable asset to the agency. As Sergeant, Detective Dowling will take on increased responsibilities, including supervising personnel, guiding investigations, and playing a pivotal role in maintaining public safety within Citrus County.

“CCSO detectives are skilled and experienced investigators with in-depth training. I am proud to see Sergeant Dowling apply the skills he has obtained through years in the field to help lead our agency in protecting and serving all residents of Citrus County,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Dowling has consistently exceeded the expectations and requirements of each position he has held over the years, and I have no doubt he will continue to excel in his new role and inspire others to do the same.”

Dowling began his career with CCSO in 2010, assuming the role of Deputy Sheriff. In 2012, Detective Dowling embraced a crucial role within the CCSO's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, where he dedicated six years to honing his skills and enhancing his expertise. This intensive training laid the groundwork for his promotion in 2016 to the esteemed position of Field Training Officer. For an entire year, he played an instrumental role in molding the next generation of law enforcement officers, sharing his knowledge and experience.

Subsequently, Dowling's exceptional talents led him to the Major Crimes Unit, where he took on the role of Detective, delving into intricate investigations and contributing significantly to the pursuit of justice. In recognition of his outstanding leadership and investigative prowess, he ascended to the position of Major Crimes Unit Officer in Charge (OIC) in 2020, further solidifying his reputation as a dedicated law enforcement professional.

Please join our office as we congratulate the newly promoted Sergeant Dowling as he celebrates this significant career achievement.

FLORIDA DEPUTY SHERIFFS ASSOCIATION MOBILIZING IN SUPPORT OF  LAW ENFORCEMENT FAMILIES DEVASTATED BY HURRICANE IDALIA

(Citrus County, FL) Sheriff Mike Prendergast, along with the men and women of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and the Florida Deputy Sheriffs Association (FDSA) stand in solidarity with our fellow law enforcement families facing the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Idalia. In response to the urgent needs of our colleagues in affected areas, FDSA is launching a heartfelt initiative to provide essential aid and support.

Hurricane Idalia relief efforts are underway, led by the associations' president, Citrus County Sheriff, Mike Prendergast, other board members including Franklin County Sheriff, AJ Smith, and Marion County Sheriff, Billy Woods, FDSA staff and strategic partners, including INSPIRED TECHNOLOGIES and LOYALTY CREDIT UNION.

FDSA Board President, Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast expressed his unwavering commitment to supporting those affected, stating, "In times of crisis, it is our duty and privilege to rally behind our law enforcement families who have dedicated their lives to serving and protecting our communities. Together, we can overcome the challenges posed by Hurricane Idalia and emerge stronger."

Hurricane Idalia, a powerful and destructive force of nature, has left a trail of destruction in its wake, affecting numerous communities and law enforcement families across the northern counties of our great state. FDSA recognizes the tremendous challenges these families are currently enduring and is committed to offering assistance during this trying time.

To address the immediate needs of our law enforcement colleagues and their families, FDSA is coordinating relief efforts that include:

  • Emergency Supplies: Distribution of critical supplies, including food, water, hygiene products, and basic essentials to those in need.
  • Financial Assistance: Providing financial aid to law enforcement families who have suffered losses and damage due to the hurricane.
  • Support Services: Offering emotional and mental health support through counseling services to help individuals cope with the trauma caused by the hurricane.
  • Community Outreach: Collaborating with local organizations and agencies to ensure that aid reaches every affected law enforcement family.

FDSA has already received donations of and purchased over 30 generators that have been or are currently being distributed to deputies and their families without power.  Zach Dunlap and strategic partner INSPIRED TECHNOLOGY are distributing over 100 gallons of fuel to accompany the generators.

“We’ve got boots on the ground and are steadily working on getting additional financial assistance, generators, and fuel to law enforcement officers in the affected counties of Taylor, Madison, and Dixie counties,” said FDSA Executive Director Keith Dean. “During the storm, the most critical of times, our deputy sheriffs persevered to assist citizens. In the aftermath, we are now defined by our compassion and willingness to lend a hand to those who selflessly lent theirs.” 

FDSA encourages its members, partners, and the broader community to join in this compassionate endeavor. Donations and contributions can be made through their website https://www.fldeputysheriffs.org/

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS VISITS CRYSTAL RIVER TO ASSESS HURRICANE IDALIA'S IMPACT
(Citrus County, FL) Earlier today, Governor Ron DeSantis, accompanied by Sheriff Mike Prendergast, local officials from the City of Crystal River, along with other first responders, visited the City of Crystal River to assess the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia and engage with the resilient residents of Citrus County. This visit underscores the Governor's commitment to the well-being of Floridians and the swift recovery of communities affected by this powerful category-three hurricane. 

Hurricane Idalia, which made landfall earlier this week, brought significant storm surge to Citrus County. The Governor's visit aimed to gain on-the-ground knowledge of the storm's impact so that he could better understand the needs of our affected community.

During his visit, Governor DeSantis met with local residents, business owners, and first responders to discuss their experiences during the storm and the ongoing recovery efforts. He expressed his unwavering support for Citrus County and emphasized the state's dedication to providing assistance and resources to help the community rebuild and recover. 

Sheriff Prendergast, who accompanied Governor DeSantis throughout the visit, stated, "We are grateful for Governor DeSantis's prompt response to our community's needs during this challenging time. His presence here today reinforces our shared commitment to preserving the safety and well-being of our residents. We cannot thank him enough for ensuring our community has the needed resources to recover, as well as those other affected counties north and south of us."

The Governor also toured areas significantly affected by storm surge, including Crystal River's Main Street District, waterfront recreational areas, and residencies to witness the extent of the damage firsthand. This assessment will aid in the allocation of state resources to expedite recovery efforts and assist residents in returning to normalcy as quickly as possible.

The Citrus County Sheriff's Office remains dedicated to working in partnership with state, local, and federal agencies to support our community's recovery. We appreciate Governor DeSantis' visit and his commitment to the people of Citrus County. Before he departed for a briefing in Tallahassee, the Governor promised a return to Citrus County in the near future.
CCSO INTRODUCES ´SCAMTEMBER' SAFETY CAMPAIGN
(Citrus County, FL) Unfortunately, scams are becoming more prevalent and difficult to identify. Scammers are finding new ways to take your personal information and money. Don’t fall for their tricks - protect yourself from these scams by staying vigilant and being aware of the warning signs.

In our fall-themed safety campaign, Scamtember, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) will inform our citizens about the latest and most common scams we’ve seen circulate through the use of educational videos and social media posts. 

“Protecting citizens from any potential threats is a top priority at CCSO. With ‘Scamtember,’ we are aiming to keep our citizens informed with tips on how to protect themselves from this malicious activity,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “We are urging our citizens to stay vigilant and up-to-date on these ever-evolving scams. Taking simple precautions can play a vital role in protecting your personal information. If you ever believe you are the victim of a scam or receive any potential threats, please call our office at 352-249-2790.”

There are several common scams to watch out for. From receiving a phone call or text message to a scammer walking up to your door, you should always keep a watchful eye out for scams.

Topics covered during this campaign will include:

  • Job Scams
  • Text and Email Scams
  • Card Skimmers
  • Gift Card Scams
  • Door-to-Door Scams
  • Change Your Password Scams
  • Student Loan Scams
  • Sweepstakes Scams
  • How CCSO Investigates Scams
Don’t let them rake in your information – carve out time during Scamtember to learn how to protect your information. Scamtember will begin on September 11, 2023, and end on September 22, 2023.
COLONEL ELENA VITT GRADUATES FROM FSA  COMMANDERS ACADEMY
(Citrus County, FL) Friday, September 15, 2023, Colonel Elena Vitt with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) graduated from the Florida Sheriffs Association’s prestigious Commanders Academy. The Commanders Academy is an exceptionally informative and educational experience that is vital for the next generation of public safety leaders. The Commanders Academy has become recognized as the premier course of executive study for mid to upper-level criminal justice leaders.

“Colonel Vitt’s dedication to serving Citrus County is truly commendable. Over the years, she has persevered and continued to seek out opportunities to grow her leadership skills in a field that even today lacks a female presence,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “Last week, we celebrated National Police Woman Day, where it was pointed out that women only make up 10 percent of law enforcement nationwide. I am beyond proud to serve alongside Elena and Citrus County is lucky to have her as a community leader.”

The core curriculum focuses on leadership, ethics, discipline, and areas related to upper-level leadership in law enforcement. The remaining curriculum is adjusted according to emerging trends and issues that impact law enforcement at the executive 
level. Each topic is threaded with issues that are unique to the culture of the Office of Sheriff. Throughout the two-week course, the class hears from more than 50 presenters and panelists. No other criminal justice program in the state provides this level of executive training.

“Today we celebrate the hard-earned success of the 2023 Commanders Academy graduates. These commanders have undergone rigorous training to sharpen their leadership skills, problem-solving tactics and business ethics,” said FSA President and Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper, on Friday. “Having fortified their capabilities, these leaders are now exceptionally well-prepared to set the precedent for protecting and uniting Florida’s citizens and visitors.”

Colonel Vitt has served in many sworn and civilian positions throughout her career at the Sheriff’s Office. She launched her career with CCSO in 1987 with a civilian role as a communications officer and has held numerous positions of leadership since. By 2017, her extensive knowledge paved the way for her promotion to Major over the Bureau of Support Operations. Two years later, she was promoted to the rank of Colonel.

In addition to successfully completing this training course, Commanders Academy Class 13 also raised more than $28,000 for the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches. Their generous donation will help support the mission of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches in preventing delinquency and developing lawful, resilient, and productive citizens.

The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office would like to congratulate all graduates of the 2023 Commanders Academy Class 13 on their new achievement.

METHAMPHETAMINE AND FENTANYL DRUG TRAFFICKERS ARRESTED
(Citrus County, FL) An undercover operation conducted by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) on Friday afternoon, September 22nd, concluded in the seizure of 226 grams of methamphetamine and 104 grams of fentanyl, resulting in the arrest of 49-year-old Robert Paul Kowanko and 37-year-old Sean Thomas Joyce.

Through their investigation, CCSO’s Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) learned Kowanko, who resides in Port Charlotte, Florida, was involved in the sale and delivery of large quantities of methamphetamine within Citrus County. Friday afternoon, TIU detectives conducted a covert operation and purchased a large quantity of methamphetamine from Kowanko. 

Kowanko traveled from Port Charlotte, Florida with his associate, Sean Thomas Joyce, to deliver approximately 1/2 pound of methamphetamine. A controlled purchase was made from Kowanko resulting in the seizure of approximately 226 grams of methamphetamine. A short time later, Kowanko and Joyce were arrested in the parking lot of the Denny’s restaurant in Crystal River by TIU detectives, with the assistance of K9 Deputy Miller and K9 Deputy Danner. Kowanko was found in possession of approximately 59 grams of fentanyl, while Joyce was found in possession of approximately 45 grams of fentanyl, as well as 1 gram of crack cocaine. Multiple items of paraphernalia were also recovered from the vehicle driven by Kowanko. 

The amount of fentanyl seized during this investigation has the potential to kill approximately 52,000 adults.

“Our agency will continue to fight against and protect our residents from these deadly substances,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “It is important to stop illicit narcotics from being brought into our county. The TIU’s dedication to halting the distribution train into Citrus County is truly commendable, and thanks to their hard work we have two fewer dealers and a large amount of deadly fentanyl and methamphetamine off our streets.”

  • Robert Paul Kowanko, (DOB 6/27/1974), of Port Charlotte, FL, was charged with trafficking methamphetamine over 200 grams, trafficking fentanyl over 28 grams, sale of methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a place of worship, illegal use of a 2-way communication device, and possession of paraphernalia. His bond was set at none. 
  • Sean Thomas Joyce, (DOB 9/1/1986), of Port Charlotte, FL, was charged with trafficking methamphetamine over 200 grams, trafficking fentanyl over 28 grams, sale of methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a place of worship, possession of crack cocaine, illegal use of a 2-way communication device, and possession of paraphernalia. His bond was set at none.
About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Tactical Impact Unit: 

The Tactical Impact Unit responsibilities include narcotics investigations, street-level reverse stings, regular checks for narcotics in schools and traffic interdiction. The unit coordinates and assists other organizations and departments in combating street-level drug crimes. The unit’s detectives identify, investigate, and infiltrate street-level to mid-level narcotics dealers and their organizations within Citrus County. They work closely with other units within the Bureau of Special Investigations as well as local, state, and federal authorities. 
CCSO LEADERS GRADUATE FROM ST. LEO'S 29TH COMMAND OFFICER  MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
(Citrus County, FL) Today, four Citrus County Sheriff’s Office sergeants graduated from Saint Leo University’s Command Officer Management Program. 

“Congratulations to our graduates for completing Saint Leo University’s Command Officer Management Program,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “This is a commendable achievement -I am proud of the exceptional dedication these individuals have demonstrated throughout this program. A career in law enforcement requires continual education and training to keep our communities as safe as possible. I look forward to seeing how these leaders will implement what they’ve learned from this rigorous program and how they plan on sharing their knowledge with colleagues.”

Law enforcement officials from six Florida counties, who make up the 29th cohort of Saint Leo University’s Command Officer Management Program, received their diplomas earlier today.

Of this group, CCSO’s very own graduates were:

  •  Patrol Sergeant, Heath Schaffer
  •  Tactical Impact Unit Sergeant, (undisclosed)
  •  School Resource Sergeant, Jonathan Holtzhouse
  •  Patrol Sergeant, Michael Sanchez

Law enforcement personnel who aspire for a leadership position benefit greatly from this comprehensive, six-week-long program, which provides on-site education, specifically focusing on leadership, ethics, human resources, critical incident management, and other relevant administrative competencies. 

Congratulations again to all of the graduates!
CCSO & U.S. MARSHALS ARREST FOUR ON A MULTITUDE OF DRUG  AND FIREARM-RELATED CHARGES
(Citrus County, FL) In the early morning hours of September 28, 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) and the United States Marshals Service Florida/Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force completed an investigation that resulted in four arrests. 

TIU initially received information from confidential sources in August 2023 regarding Niko Valentino Dedaj trafficking in illegal substances. Through a collaborative investigation with the U.S. Marshals Service Task Force, members learned that Mr. Dedaj already had active warrants out of Marion County for weapons-related offenses and was known to frequent an address in Citrus Springs. 

Combining efforts, CCSO TIU members, the CCSO SWAT Team, and the U.S. Marshalls Service launched a surveillance operation on the residence. As soon as Mr. Dedaj was spotted, all members surrounded the home and took Mr. Dedaj into custody. 

Following the arrest, TIU members initiated a search warrant investigation due to the discovery of firearms and narcotics being in plain sight. At the conclusion of the investigation, members located fifteen different firearms, one being stolen, one being a “ghost gun” (untraceable), and another was modified to be fully automatic. The search also revealed a trafficking amount of fentanyl, cannabis, paraphernalia, and a stolen 
vehicle.

“This is yet another example of the utter disregard criminals have for the law. Yesterday, I made my oppositional stance known on Washington’s proposed ‘gun crime prevention’ plan. It is alleged the outright banning of firearms will lead to a significant reduction in gun-related crimes. Criminals, like these four men, will continue to seek out and acquire firearms illegally, regardless of what laws are in place, leaving law-abiding victims defenseless,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud of our team and the partnership we have with our fellow law enforcement agencies. Thanks to ourcombined efforts,illicit drugs, illegal firearms, and four dangerous criminals are off the streets of Citrus County.”

Individuals taken into custody were:


  • Niko Valentino Dedaj, 20, of Wildwood, FL, was charged with obstruction of a search warrant, trafficking in fentanyl over 28 grams, possession with intent to sell cannabis, possession of a firearm in commission of a felony, rent lease or own a structure for the purpose of trafficking in a controlled substance. He is being held on a total bond of $65,000, per the bond schedule.
  • Jonathan Penalvert, 30, of Ocala, FL, was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, grand theft of a firearm, possession of a firearm in commission of a felony, obstruction of a search warrant, and possession of paraphernalia. He is being held on a total bond of $18,000, per the bond schedule.
  • Antonio Amaurys Perez, 22, of Ocala, FL, was charged with obstruction of a search warrant. He is being held on a total bond of $1,000, per the bond schedule.
  • Gabriel Ruiz, 38, of Ocala, FL, was charged with obstruction of a search warrant, trafficking infentanyl over 28 grams, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession with intent to sell cannabis. He is being held on a total bond of $70,000, per the bond schedule.
About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Tactical Impact Unit: 

The Tactical Impact Unit’s responsibilities include narcotics investigations, street-level reverse stings, regular checks for narcotics in schools and traffic interdiction. The unit coordinates and assists other organizations and departments in combating street-level drug crimes. The unit’s detectives identify, investigate, and infiltrate street-level to mid-level narcotics dealers and their organizations within Citrus County. They work closely with other units within the Bureau of Special Investigations as well as local, state, and federal authorities. 

CITRUS COUNTY PURSUIT ENDS IN FELONY ARREST
(Citrus County, FL) Last night, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies were involved in a pursuit ending in Hernando County. Initially, the victim of an aggravated assault reported to the Sheriff’s Office, when he contacted a driver of a wrong way vehicle at the intersection of West Cypress Boulevard and Pine Street, the driver threatened the victim with a firearm. The victim also stated he believed the driver was wearing ballistic armor.

Deputies immediately responded to the area and began looking for the suspect vehicle. Deputies were able to locate the vehicle, which was still travelling in the wrong lane, and a traffic stop was attempted. The driver, later identified as Christopher Coto of Homosassa, immediately sped off while failing to stop at a red light. Based upon Coto’s previous threatening actions, deputies began pursuing. 

Deputies pursued Coto onto U.S. Hwy 19 and then onto U.S. Hwy 98, where he maintained low speeds but failed to stop at other red lights while continuing to proceed eastbound on Hwy 98. The pursuit entered Hernando County, where the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) began to assist. Tire deflation devices were deployed by the HCSO, eventually leading to Coto stopping just east of the intersection at Hwy 98 and Yontz Road. 

Once stopped, Coto could be seen wearing a tactical vest, and he continued to disobey all commands. Deputies tactically approached the vehicle and detained Coto without further incident. Upon searching the vehicle, the firearm in question was located.

“I am grateful that no one was injured during the apprehension of this dangerous individual,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “It is imperative to have a great working relationship with all of our law enforcement partners. Instances like yesterday’s pursuit are precisely why close relationships amongst partner law enforcement agencies are so vital. Together, we seamlessly protected the citizens we swore an oath to serve.” 

Coto was taken to the Hernando County Detention Center and is being held on a $13,000 bond for the Citrus County charges of: 

  •  Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. 
  •  Resisting officers flee/elude with lights and sirens activated.
  • Resisting without violence.
  • Smuggle contraband into a prison.
He is also being held on a $5,000 bond for the Hernando County charge of:

  • Flee/elude police with failure to obey LEO.
TWO ARRESTED FOLLOWING EARLY MORNING  RESIDENTIAL SHOOTING INCIDENT
(Citrus County, FL) Early this morning, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) responded to a call for service near East Hampton Lane in Inverness in reference to an alleged shooting. It was reported that multiple occupants of a silver in color Toyota Tundra pickup truck discharged their firearms during a dispute in the residential area.

Units responded to the area and located a vehicle matching the description, which was traveling westbound on East Holly Street toward South Apopka Avenue. Deputies initiated a felony traffic stop, leading to a subsequent search of the vehicle where they located a loaded firearm. The driver, Christopher George Thatcher, 21, of Inverness, was quickly detained and transported to the Citrus County Detention Facility for booking and processing.

As the investigation continued, it was determined that the victims were agitated by Thatcher’s alleged speed in the neighborhood near the victim’s residence. Following a verbal altercation between the two parties, Thatcher and passenger, 21-year-old Avery Jones of Fort Stewart, Georgia, left the area and obtained two firearms. 

Thatcher and Jones later returned to the victim’s residence, where multiple people were still outside, and began discharging their firearms several times before driving away. Jones, who was sitting in the bed of the truck during this incident fell out of the vehicle and fled on foot.

Detectives with CCSO’s Major Crimes Unit were able to locate Jones some time later, recover the second firearm, and take him into custody.

“Thankfully, the victims were not injured during this incident,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “It is truly infuriating when individuals don’t follow laws and endanger our residents. I strongly encourage our citizens to call and report suspicious or illegal actions such as this to our agency as these situations can escalate quickly.” 

Jones was charged with:

  • Four counts of aggravated assault
  • Knowingly and willfully discharging a firearm from a vehicle within 1,000 feet of a person
He is being held on a total bond of $9,000 per the bond schedule. 

Thatcher was charged with

  • Four counts of aggravated assault
  • Shooting or throwing deadly missiles into dwellings, vessels, or vehicles
  • Discharging a firearm in public
He is being held on a total bond of $19,000 per the bond schedule.
LATE NIGHT PURSUIT LEADS TO ARREST OF OCALA MAN  FOR MULTIPLE FELONY CHARGES
(Citrus County, FL) Last night, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) K-9 Deputy Danner initiated a traffic stop in the area of Hwy 486 and Hwy 491, at which time the driver, later identified as 23-year-old William Lindo II, fled westbound on Highway 486.

Due to Lindo refusing to stop, CCSO units deployed tire deflation devices near the intersection of Highway 486 and Donovan Avenue. The tire deflation devices were effective, but Lindo decided to turn off all of his vehicle lights in an attempt to evade law enforcement. Lindo then turned onto Turkey Oak Drive and fled on foot. 

While K-9 Deputy Danner continued to pursue Lindo on foot, ground units and the CCSO air unit responded to the area to set up a perimeter. Continuing to try to elude capture, Lindo attempted to carjack a male juvenile near the 8000 block of Crystal Street. However, Lindo’s attempt failed, resulting in him exiting the victim’s vehicle and running off. Subsequently, K9 Deputy Danner and his partner Riggs were able to catch up and apprehend Lindo.

After a K-9 alert on Lindo’s vehicle, a search was conducted where deputies’ located two clear plastic baggies containing approximately 25.33 grams of a white powdery substance that field tested positive for fentanyl. Deputies also located 28.5 grams of cannabis inside of the vehicle.

“Lindo not only put himself at risk last night, but countless citizens along the way,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am incredibly proud of my team for apprehending this reckless individual and thankful no one was harmed. CCSO will remain relentless in our fight against illicit narcotics in our county.”

He was charged with: 

  • Trafficking in fentanyl
  • Possession of cannabis
  • Burglary with battery
  •  Grand theft of a motor vehicle
  • Fleeing and eluding
  • Resisting without violence
  • Attaching a tag not assigned to a vehicle
Lindo is being held at the Citrus County Detention Facility on a total bond of $61,000 per the bond schedule. 
CCSO INTRODUCES ´IT'S ALL CONNECTED,'  A CRIME PREVENTION CAMPAIGN
(Citrus County, FL) For the month of October, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) wants to reiterate how connected mental health issues, substance abuse, and criminal offenses really are. It is no coincidence that October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, National Bullying Prevention Month, and has a whole week dedicated to Mental Health Awareness – because it is ALL connected. 

It’s all connected, CCSO’s October campaign begins next week on our social media sites. It will highlightour Behavioral Health Unit (BHU), as they discuss the correlation seen between both adult and juvenile substance abuse and: 

  • Criminal Behaviors 
  • Work/Home Life
  • Physical and Mental Health
  • How You Can Help
  • Available Treatment Options

“Mental Health issues are on the rise in Florida - in fact, According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), nearly 2.9 million Florida adults have a mental illness,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “The Behavioral Health Unit takes pride in assisting and offering a hand to the citizens of Citrus County suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. They not only listen to people’s needs but can provide referrals to several resources that are tailored to each case - going so far as to develop relationships with those resources in and around Citrus County to deliver effective and professional care.”

CCSO has also launched a sub-campaign focusing on the myths and facts of domestic violence called “You are not Alone.” Each Monday and Friday this month we will post information on our social media pages explaining what domestic violence is and what can qualify as domestic violence. More importantly we want to provide you with the signs to watch out for and how victims can get access to services. Getting connected 
to organizations whose primary goal is ending the cycle of violence is a huge step for today’s survivors. 


MISSING IN FLORIDA DAY AIMS TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT MISSING  AND UNIDENTIFIED PERSONS IN FLORIDA
(Citrus County, FL) In Florida, over 3,200 individuals are entered as Missing/Endangered in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), but only 1,726 of these are entered in NamUs.gov, and 647 are listed in the Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse (MEPIC). Only NamUs.gov and MEPIC are accessible by the public, resulting in over 2,000 Florida families being unable to access information on their loved one’s case. 

There are also over 900 unidentified John or Jane Doe cases in Florida. Due to these cases not matching anyone in the missing person’s database, they remain open. This can occur because reports were not filed or entered into the system or because many cases are not up to current investigative standards and lack the essential biometric information,such as DNA, which is needed to make a match. 

The purpose of Missing in Florida Day is not only to raise awareness to those who are missing, but to enter more missing persons cases into the current system so they may be found and identified and offer families an opportunity to provide biometric information to bring older cases up to current standards. 

Missing in Florida Day will take place on October 19, 2023, and will:

  • Raise public awareness about the problem of missing and unidentified persons
  • Open new missing person investigations, to include reports for families
  • Collect necessary identifiers (DNA, fingerprints, dentals, photographs, etc.) to help resolve open cases
  • Re-open cases that were erroneously closed
  • Give support to families in their search for loved ones
  • Help families preemptively collect identifiers for their children in the event they go missing
  • Disseminate information on Amber and Silver Alerts and identify possible high-risk victims
  • Resolve and open cases when possible

The Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science at the University of South Florida and the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office will be hosting a free DNA drive on October 19, 2023 from 12 PM-6 PM at the Italian Club of Tampa located at 1731 E, 7th Ave.

This event aims to assist families and friends affected by the disappearance of a loved one, as well as students and professionals in the medicolegal field. Expert resources will be available throughout this event, such as law enforcement agencies from throughout the state to take reports and collect identifying information, as well as opportunities for free genealogical testing. 

If your family plans on attending this event, if possible, please bring: 

  • Photographs
  • Any prior police report and leads
  • Dental/medical records
  • Doctor or dentist information
  • Multiple family members on the mother’s side to give DNA samples to develop a profile.
“Missing in Florida Day is a significant step in the right direction to assist those families who are affected by the disappearance of a loved one. Unfortunately, Florida has over 3,000 cases of missing individuals - our goal is to provide an opportunity to re-open or close these cases and provide closure,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am excited for this chance to give families support that are searching for their loved ones, and raise awareness of the problem of missing and unidentified persons.”


THREE ARRESTED AFTER NARCOTICS SEARCH WARRANT YIELDS  LARGE AMOUNTS OF METHAMPHETAMINE AND FENTANYL
(Citrus County, FL) A several-month-long covert investigation conducted by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) resulted in the seizure of large quantities of methamphetamine and fentanyl, and the arrest of 29-year-old James Junior Lauture, 31-year-old Jesse Stuart Tanis, and 23-year-old Megan Elaine Ames. 

CCSO’s Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) received information that Lauture was involved in the sale and delivery of methamphetamine and fentanyl within Citrus County. Through investigative means, detectives determined that Lauture was indeed trafficking large quantities of these illicit substances within the county, and established probable cause for a search of his residence. 

On Friday, October 13th, 2023, TIU detectives executed a narcotics search warrant at his home located at 11830 North Gatlen Avenue in Dunnellon. Approximately 1,214.7 grams (2.68 pounds) of methamphetamine, 162.51 grams of fentanyl, 6.61 grams of cocaine, 325.2 grams of cannabis, 20.5 oxycodone pills, a Jennings 9mm pistol, multiple rounds of ammunition, multiple items of paraphernalia, and $13,786.00 in United States currency were seized from the residence.

“Narcotics investigations, especially that of a larger scale operation, can be time-consuming and require hours of investigation in order to secure a successful outcome,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Thanks to the efforts of the Tactical Impact Unit, we were able to take a significant amount of fentanyl and methamphetamine off our streets – in fact, enough fentanyl was seized during this investigation to kill approximately 81,300 adults. Illicit drugs and those who deal in these dangerous substances have no place in our community.”

Lauture, an eleven-time convicted felon, was arrested for:

  • Trafficking Methamphetamine over 200 grams
  • Trafficking Fentanyl over 28 grams
  • 3 counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Sell
  • Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon
  • Rent/Lease/Own a Structure for Drug Trafficking
  • Warrant for Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Sell
  • Warrant for Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Sell and Trafficking Methamphetamine
He is being held on a total bond of $295,000 per the warrant and bond schedule.


Tanis, a one-time convicted felon, was arrested for:
  • Warrant for Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Sell
He is being held on a total bond of $5,000 per the warrant schedule.

Ames was arrested for: 
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance
She is being held on a total bond of $2,000 per the bond schedule. 

Citrus - If you SEE something, SAY something! Our non-emergency line is staffed 24/7 and can be reached at 352-249-2790.


About the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s Tactical Impact Unit: 

The Tactical Impact Unit's responsibilities include narcotics investigations, street-level reverse stings, regular checks for narcotics in schools, and traffic interdiction. The unit coordinates and assists other organizations and departments in combating street-level drug crimes. The unit’s detectives identify, investigate, and infiltrate street-level to mid-level narcotics dealers and their organizations within Citrus County. They work closely with other units within the Bureau of Special Investigations as well as local, state, and federal authorities.
CITRUS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE ANNOUNCES FREE FIREARM SAFETY COURSE FOR CITIZENS

(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) has partnered with the Outpost Gun Range to provide a free basic firearms course designed to establish a strong foundation for individuals new to firearms. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) Local Firearm Safety Training Program has provided CCSO with grant funding under Chapter 2023-18, Section 37 to provide this program to our citizens.

This course is tailored for those with limited or no prior firearm experience and incorporates a blend of classroom instruction, live-range exercises, firearm handling, manipulation exercises, and recent changes to concealed carry statutes. Participants will receive guidance from certified firearms instructors with extensive experience in law enforcement marksmanship throughout the course.

Upon successful completion of the course, attendees will attain a CCSO Basic Firearms Safety Certification. Additionally, there will be opportunities for further firearm skill development and knowledge enhancement, through advanced courses.

“I am excited to provide our citizens with this opportunity to learn about firearm safety - the safe handling of a firearm is critical for everyone to know,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “This course will not only educate citizens on the proper techniques of firearm use, but will also allow them to practice hands-on with a certified firearms instructor and ask questions.”

Requirements:

  • Must be 21 years of age or older, unless you are a service member or a veteran of the Armed Forces who was discharged under honorable conditions.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen and resident of Citrus County.
  • Must bring a state-issued photo ID or drivers license the day of event.
  • Must wear pants or slacks, full size shirt, closed-toe shoes. A baseball style hat is optional.
    • No red shirts, shorts, or tank tops will be allowed.
  • Handguns, ammunition, and targets will be provided. Please do not bring your own.
  • Eye and hearing protection will be provided, or you may bring your own if preferred.

Space is limited – sign up click here. All courses will be held at Outpost Range located at 2930 S. Cauthen Point, Lecanto, FL 34461.

Available Course Dates:

All courses will run from 8am-12pm.

  • Sunday, November 19th, 2023
  • Sunday, December 10th, 2023
  • Sunday, January 7th, 2024
  • Sunday, February 11th, 2024

Possible Reasons for Ineligibility:

  • Renouncement of U.S. citizenship.
  • A dishonorable discharge from the armed forces.
  • Being a fugitive from justice.
    • A felony conviction (unless civil and firearm rights have been restored by the convicting authority).
    • A conviction for violation of controlled substance laws or multiple arrests for such offenses.
    • A record of drug or alcohol abuse.
    • A conviction for a misdemeanor crime of violence in the last three years.
    • Having been issued a domestic violence injunction or an injunction against repeat violence that is currently in force.
    • Being committed to a mental institution or adjudged incompetent or mentally defective.
    • Having adjudication withheld or sentence suspended on a felony or misdemeanor crime of violence unless three years have elapsed since probation or other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled.
    • Two or more DUI convictions within the previous three years.
    • The physical inability to handle a firearm safely.
NARCOTICS SEARCH WARRANT LEADS TO THREE ARRESTS
(Citrus County, FL) On Wednesday, October 18, 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) SWAT team and the Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) executed a search warrant at 208 South Harrison Street, Beverly Hills, which resulted in the arrest of 29-year-old Jose Valentine Alamo Jr., 37-year-old James Ray Forrest, and 34-year-old Brandi-Lyn Bracken.

CCSO’s TIU received information that Alamo was selling illegal narcotics within Citrus County. Through investigative means, detectives determined that Alamo was dealing illicit substances in Beverly Hills and established probable cause to search his residence. The early morning search yielded multiple baggies of methamphetamine, fentanyl, ammunition, and drug paraphernalia.

“Thanks to the efforts of our Tactical Impact Unit and SWAT team, three drug offenders have been removed from our streets,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “This type of illegal activity puts everyone in danger and will never have a favorable outcome. Drug dealers have no place in Citrus County, and we will continue to fight illicit drug activity in our community at every given opportunity.”

Alamo, a three-time convicted felon, was arrested for:

  • Trafficking Methamphetamine
  • Possession of Paraphernalia
He is being held on a total bond of $26,000 per the bond schedule.

Forrest, a three-time convicted felon, was arrested for:
  • Possession of ammunition by a felon
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance
  • Possession of Paraphernalia
He is being held on a total bond of $13,000 per the bond schedule. 

Bracken was arrested for:
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance
  • Possession of Paraphernalia
She is being held on a total bond of $3,000 per the bond schedule.


Citrus - If you SEE something, SAY something! Our non-emergency line is staffed 24/7 and can be reached at 352-249-2790.
CCSO PATROL DEPUTIES RESPOND TO URGENT WELL BEING CHECK AND DISCOVER DECEASED FEMALE
(Citrus County, FL) The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) responded to an urgent well-being check near North Dawnflower Avenue, Crystal River, Friday, October 20.

When units arrived on the scene, they could see evidence of a struggle inside and made entry into the home. Deputies located a deceased female, identified as Debora Jefferys, 64, lying on the utility room floor. As deputies continued their search of the residence they located a male on the living room floor in need of medical attention. He was transported to a medical facility for treatment where he is in stable condition.

Detectives with CCSO’s Major Crimes Unit and CCSO Crime Scene Technicians responded to the scene, obtained a search warrant, and subsequently collected all pertinent evidence to continue their investigation.

“This incident is beyond devastating,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “This type of violence is a very serious matter. Our office works diligently to solve crimes such as these. If you have information pertaining to this incident please contact us at 352-249-2790.”
INVERNESS MAN ARRESTED FOR DOMESTIC BATTERY FOLLOWING VERBAL DISPUTE
(Citrus County, FL) Last night, deputies with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office responded to North Paul Dr., Inverness, FL, in reference to a call reporting multiple gunshots being fired in the area.

The investigation revealed that following a verbal dispute, Rudolph Holton Jr., 49, of Inverness, pulled out a handgun and fired three shots. The victim sustained a single gunshot wound as a result of Holton’s deliberate actions and was later transported for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. Holton was taken into custody without further incident.

The firearm involved in this case was located at the scene in a wooded area behind the residence.

“I am proud of the quick response of CCSO deputies that ensured this remained an isolated incident,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Domestic violence is a serious matter. Too often, domestic incidents are not reported until they become deadly. Our office works diligently alongside our community partners to help educate citizens on the signs to look for regarding domestic violence.”

Holton was charged with:

  • Aggravated domestic battery with a deadly weapon
  • Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon
He is being held without a bond per the bond schedule.

Our Domestic Violence Detectives offer help to victims of domestic violence. If you or someone you know are experiencing signs of domestic abuse and need to file a report, please call us at 352-249-2790. If you would like to speak with a domestic violence advocate, you can also contact the Citrus Abuse Shelter Association (CASA) at 352-344-8111.
MURRELL SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR  2021 MURDER OF STANLEY HAYBRON

(Citrus County, FL) Today, David Julian Murrell was sentenced to mandatory life in prison for the 2021 murder of Stanley Haybron III in Floral City after he was found guilty on the charges of murder in the first degree; attempted first-degree murder; attempted robbery with a firearm; and shooting at, within, or into an occupied vehicle.

Back on December 27, 2021, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) communications center received a call in reference to a shooting that had just occurred off South Great Oaks Drive in Floral City.

Within minutes, deputies arrived on the scene and located victim one, a 27-year-old white male with multiple gunshot wounds who stated he had been shot and described the vehicle in which the suspects possibly fled. While rendering aid to the victim, the deputies saw a vehicle matching the description roughly 50 yards away. After ensuring the victim’s safety, deputies approached the vehicle, where they discovered victim two, Haybron, who had also been shot multiple times. Despite attempting life-saving efforts on scene, his injuries were not survivable. 

In less than 24 hours after the incident, an arrest warrant was obtained for Murrell, and he was taken into custody by 5 p.m. on December 28.

“Today, justice was served thanks to the outstanding teamwork displayed by CCSO and the State Attorney’s Office throughout this case,said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “This life sentence reflects our commitment to maintaining the safety and well-being of our residents. We will continue to work tirelessly to hold those who seek to harm the citizens of our community accountable for their actions.”

STAY SAFE AND BE SEEN THIS HALLOWEEN
(Citrus County, FL) Safety should be a top priority regardless of the day of the year. Here at the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), we have been broadcasting different tricks all October to help you make this Halloween a treat!

Maybe you have heard the Sheriff on the radio reminding you that the ideal time for trick-or-treaters is 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. when you are more visible. It's a scary fact, but children are twice as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween. We recommend you make safety fun for your trick-or-treater with glow sticks that look like props or accessories. Other options include carrying flashlights or using reflective tape on costumes.

CCSO has also made Facebook posts about vehicle safety. As a recap, always be cautious and cognizant of hazards and pedestrians while driving, especially in neighborhoods and low-lit areas. However, this weekend and next week, it is essential that you pay extra attention, looking out for trick-or-treaters in our neighborhoods!

These tricks are absolutely lifesaving, but we have one more fundamental treat to share with you! While trick-or-treating, if you come across a house without lights, do not approach it! While not always the case, a house without lights could mean a sexual offender lives there.

During Halloween, these individuals are required to keep their lights off and not answer their doors to trick-or-treaters. You can use our CCSO app to see a map and track where any sexual offender lives in the county to ensure you aren't approaching these homes OR look on our graphics to find out what predators could be living in your area.

“Protecting citizens from any potential threat is a top priority at CCSO. Parents – predators know how susceptible and trusting children can be. These individuals prey upon our children for their own deviant and disgusting benefit,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “While I urge you to stay vigilant and use caution while out enjoying Halloween festivities, rest assured that we will have extra units out patrolling neighborhoods and making sure these predators are abiding by the law.”

Stay safe and be seen this Halloween, Citrus! Remember to call 9-1-1 in an emergency and 352-249-2790 during a non-emergency. Our deputies and communications officers will be hard at work throughout the night protecting our community.
CCSO APPREHENDS 19 OFFENDERS IN OPERATION BREAKING SILENCE, A NATIONAL FAMILY VIOLENCE APPREHENSION SWEEP
(Citrus County, FL) Each October, as part of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) joins forces with agencies nationwide to locate and arrest persons with outstanding family violence warrants. In coordination with the 20th Annual National Family Violence Apprehension Detail, CCSO is breaking the silence and reminding offenders that no matter where they flee, we will work to hold them accountable for their crimes. As a result, 19 individuals were arrested for domestic violence-related offenses.

In 2022, Citrus County had 612 reported cases of domestic violence. Four hundred of those were battery or assault, 61 were aggravated battery or assault, 51 cases involved strangulation, 27 were stalking incidents, and four were homicides. Regretfully, many of these reports deal with repeat offenders – in fact, the other 91 cases were violations of injunctions or pretrial conditions.

"The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office responds out every day to some type of domestic situation – many of these violent. Domestic calls are one of the most dangerous calls deputies are confronted with because crimes of passion deal with many unknown dangers – especially when it comes to repeat offenders. Our Behavioral Health Unit works diligently to reduce domestic violence across the county by following up and assisting victims with resources,” said Sheriff Prendergast. “We want these offenders to know their actions are unacceptable, and they will be held accountable. We will continue to speak up and raise awareness of domestic violence as we work vigorously to stop the power and control these individuals have over their victims. Thanks to our dedicated team, these 19 individuals are locked up and unable to cause further harm to their victims."

Starting on October 25th, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office jumped into action, not only capturing active wanted domestic violence suspects but also helping to raise awareness in our communities. The National Apprehension Detail calls for agencies across the United States to participate in serving outstanding family violence warrants. Warrants are served for all types of family-related crimes, including domestic violence, interfering with making 9-1-1 calls, injunction violations, pretrial release agreement violations, non-payment of child support, child abuse crimes, elder abuse crimes, and any other type of family violence.

Detectives from our Behavioral Health Unit, Tactical Impact Unit, Community Crimes Unit, Aviation Unit, and K9 Unit began searching for subjects with outstanding warrants across Citrus County. Our office attempted to serve 29 arrest warrants and simultaneously conduct pre-trial release spot checks.

By 5 p.m. today, this outstanding effort resulted in the arrests of the following 19 suspects in Citrus County:

  • Matthew Kenneth Pierce (DOB 08/19/1989), Hernando, FL - WRIT - Failure to Pay Child Support.
  • James Earley (DOB 08/07/1975), Beverly Hills, FL - WRIT - Failure to Pay Child Support, DWLSR Subsequent Offense (Misdemeanor), Alter/Tamper/ with the Operation of Electric Monitoring Device (Felony).
  • Jason Collins (DOB 02/28/1984), Hernando, FL - WRIT - Failure to Pay Child Support.
  • Larry Naylor Jr. (DOB 11/06/1992), Inverness, FL - WRIT - Failure to Pay Child Support.
  • Rudolph Holton Jr. (DOB 12/20/1974), Inverness, FL - WRIT - Failure to Pay Child Support, Aggravated Battery - Uses Deadly Weapon (Domestic), Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.
  • David Scheibelhoffer (DOB 1/19/1982), Homosassa, FL - WRIT - Failure to Pay Child Support.
  • Joshua Resto Rivera (DOB 08/29/1993), WRIT - Failure to Pay Child Support.
  • Donna Perry (DOB 09/14/1955), Homosassa, FL - Violation of Pretrial Release Terms F.S.S. 741.29(6).
  • Travis Chagoya (DOB 09/09/1982), WRIT - Failure to Pay Child Support.
  • Howard Witchel II (DOB 10/19/1968), Homosassa, FL - WRIT - Failure to Pay Child Support.
  • Paula Collier (DOB 11/12/1983), Homosassa, FL - Violation of Probation for Possession of Paraphernalia - History of Domestic Violence.
  • Jillian Panarelli (DOB 05/23/1996), Violation of Injunction (Stalking) - Picked up in Hillsborough County.
  • Denzel Massey (DOB 03/17/1994), Beverly Hills, FL - Fraud (Criminal Use or Possession of Another's Personal Information), Grand Theft, scheme to defraud / Picked Up in Hernando County.
  • Michael England (DOB 04/22/1994), Beverly Hills, FL - Pick up Order - Extensive History of Domestic Violence.
  • Solomon Cummings (DOB 05/19/1974), Floral City, FL - Violation of Injunction (having two or more prior convictions.)
  • Jesse Smith (DOB 11/21/1983), Inverness, FL - WRIT - Failure to Pay Child Support.
  • Jean Sheldon (DOB 03/13/1966), Homosassa, FL - Abuse of an Elderly Disabled Adult / Batter on a Person 65 or Older.
  • Nicholas Rivas (DOB 03/02/1980), Beverly Hills, FL – Domestic by strangulation.
  • John Dunn III (DOB 07/16/1956), Beverly Hills, FL - Violation of Probation for an original charge of Violation of Injunction Protection against Domestic Violence.
Even though National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is ending, our fight against domestic violence is still ongoing. The purpose of recognizing this month is to raise awareness of domestic violence issues and connect victims to those organizations working toward the common goal of ending the cycle of violence. Although our deputies are always diligently looking to serve these warrants, Thursday and Friday were designated solely to gathering intelligence, chasing down leads, and tracking offenders that have been eluding capture.

If you or someone you know are experiencing signs of domestic abuse and need to file a report, please call us at 352-249-2790. If you want to speak with a domestic violence advocate, you can also contact CASA at 352-344-8111.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS CHAPLAIN ARRESTED ON MULTIPLE CHILD SEX OFFENSE CHARGES
(Citrus County, FL) Friday, Oct. 27, Robert William Austin, 58, of Sanderson, Florida, was arrested as a result of an undercover investigation that members of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s (CCSO) High Tech Crimes Unit (HTCU) began during the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Operation Lucky Strike.

During Operation Lucky Strike, which was conducted in March, law enforcement officials created fictitious profiles on various websites, waiting to be solicited through online messages by these subjects. Despite the acknowledgment of the child’s age, many individuals still chose to send sexually explicit pictures, messages, and detailed requests of various deviant activities they wanted to perform with the child. Some even drove over an hour thinking they were meeting a minor to engage in sexual activity but were instead greeted by law enforcement personnel.

Austin was among the subjects speaking with one of our sworn personnel, who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. Despite knowing the age of the “juvenile,” he began sending sexually explicit images. CCSO obtained a warrant for Austin’s arrest; however, he was not at his residence located in Baker County. On Friday, he advised the ‘juvenile” that he was fishing near Jacksonville and sent a lewd picture. CCSO Detectives made contact with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Office in Jacksonville, who identified the location where Austin was fishing.

The CCSO HTCU then traveled to Jacksonville, where they made contact with Austin and confirmed he was the subject communicating with the “juvenile.” He was then arrested on a bench warrant.

“The safety of everyone in our respective communities is a common goal amongst all law enforcement of this great state,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Austin knowingly sent sexually explicit messages to who he believed was a minor. Preying on children is despicable – especially when you are in a position of trust, and you utilize that status for vile acts. Thanks to the continuous partnerships between CCSO and fellow agencies throughout Florida, this abhorrent individual was brought to justice.”

Austin was arrested for:
  • Seven counts of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor
  • Two counts of Computer Pornography – seducing, soliciting, luring, or enticing a child to engage in an illegal act.
  • One count of Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device.
He was booked at the John E. Goode Pre-trial Detention Facility with a bond of $20,000.

CCSO would like to thank all of our law enforcement agency partners who played an integral role in this arrest and their unwavering commitment to protecting our youth.

If you suspect someone is committing crimes against our youth, call (352) 249-2790 to immediately report your suspicions to our office. Or download the Sheriff’s App (search Citrus County Sheriff’s Office) to use the ‘Submit a tip’ feature to make a report instantly.

CCSO App users can look up Sexual Offenders in their area by clicking on the ‘Sexual Offenders’ feature, which will show a photo of the offender, their name, physical descriptors, address, and your approximate distance from their location (if the user turns app location settings on).

CCSO CONDUCTS PREDATOR CHECK-INS DURING OPERATION CANDY CORN
(Citrus County, FL) Leading up to Halloween, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) teamed up with the State Probation Office to make contact with sexual predators and offenders on probation to remind them of restrictions.

Per Florida Statute 948.21 subsection B, a probationer or community controlee who is subject to supervision for any sexual-related criminal offense against a victim who was under the age of 18 at the time is prohibited from distributing candy or other items to children on Halloween.

Between both State Probation and CCSO, we were able to complete 54 Halloween contacts, as well as security checks on multiple residences during the evening, confirming that the subjects complied with their restrictions.

"I am thankful for our deputies and communications officers who were hard at work throughout the night protecting our community," said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. "I urge you to stay vigilant and use caution while out enjoying all holiday festivities. The law has restrictions in place to protect our children throughout the year from these sick individuals."

You can use our CCSO app to see a map and track where any sexual predator in the county lives to ensure you aren't approaching these homes at any time.
CCSO HOSTS 5TH ANNUAL SENIOR SUMMIT
(Citrus County, FL) Today, November 1, 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) hosted our 5th Annual ‘Law Enforcement Summit to Serve and Protect Our Seniors’ alongside our partners at ‘Coping With Dementia’, a Citrus County-based organization that helps raise awareness for Alzheimer’s and Dementia. The goal of the Senior Summit is for law enforcement agencies and local organizations to learn about individuals with memory impairment issues, along with how these agencies can help them.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Florida has the second-highest population of senior citizens - in Citrus County, 36% of our residents are over the age of 65. Law enforcement agencies and local organizations specializing in memory-impairment issues must work together and learn about the best practices and methods to protect our senior citizens.

We were honored to host several presenters from around the state of Florida, including Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez, who spoke on the Framework for Freedom Budget, which includes over $65 million for Alzheimer’s support. We were also joined by Attorney General Ashley Moody who explained the steps Florida government is taking to combat crimes against seniors, such as fraud. Throughout the day, over sixty attendees learned how those diagnosed with dementia may perceive law enforcement or caregivers, the importance of human scent preservation kits, crimes targeting the elderly, local programs aimed at protecting our seniors, and more. Our agency’s own Behavioral Health Unit Sergeant Allison McLaughlin-Perry also presented on CCSO’s efforts in protecting senior citizens with programs such as the Sheriff’s Memory Impaired Locating Endeavor (S.M.I.L.E.) Program.

“As a law enforcement agency, our top priority is to serve and protect our community – especially our senior citizens,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud that our agency has been able to host this informative event for five years now, and I look forward to continuing to learn about the best practices to serve our seniors in collaboration with our fellow law enforcement agencies and local organizations.”

Thank you to our presenters for sharing their knowledge and ideas about this crucial topic.

  • Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez
  • Attorney General Ashley Moody
  • State Attorney Bill Gladson
  • Coping with Dementia
  • The Florida Department of Elder Affairs
  • Find’Em Friends
  • Ocala Fire Rescue
  • Sumter County Sheriff’s Office
Thank you to all agencies who attended the 5th Annual Senior Summit.

  • Alachua County Sheriff’s Office
  • Florida Highway Patrol
  • Franklin County Sheriff’s Office
  • Hernando County Sheriff’s Office
  • Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
  • Indian River County Sheriff’s Office
  • Lake County Sheriff’s Office
  • Levy County Sheriff’s Office
  • Marion County Sheriff’s Office
  • Orange County Sheriff’s Office
  • Polk County Sheriff’s Office
  • Seminole County Sheriff’s Office
  • Washington County Sheriff’s Office
CCSO MEMBERS AWARDED FOR RESCUING BOATER IN DISTRESS

(Citrus County, FL) Recently, members of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Marine Unit, along with members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) were recognized for their efforts in rescuing a boater in distress.

On October 11, 2023, CCSO received a call from the USCG regarding a boater in distress 15 miles off the coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, who was on a 16-foot aluminum vessel and advised the vessel was sinking. This call came in just hours before a devastating tornado touched down in Crystal River. As dangerous, life-threatening storms were approaching, CCSO quickly initiated rescue efforts and contacted FWC for assistance to utilize FWC’s 29-foot SAFE Boat. The USCG arrived on-scene just moments before CCSO and FWC, locating the vessel 18 miles off-shore. CCSO and FWC were able to get the subject on FWC’s vessel and bring him safely to shore.

In recognition of the team’s dedication to safety and rescue efforts, they received two separate awards, one from First Lady Casey DeSantis and another from Attorney General Ashley Moody. First Lady Casey DeSantis presented CCSO Sergeant Evan Marshall and Deputy Jimmy Sudlow, alongside two FWC and four USCG members with the ‘First Lady’s Medal for Courage, Commitment, and Service.’ Two days later, these brave first responders were also recognized with a ‘Back the Blue’ award presented by Attorney General Ashley Moody.

“I am beyond proud of Sergeant Marshall and Deputy Sudlow for their superb example of service above self, and for their collaboration with FWC and the USCG in making this dangerous rescue,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “These individuals truly exemplify our mission of Excellence in Public Safety and put service above self every single day. We are very thankful for their dedication to keeping our community safe.”

HOMOSASSA RESIDENT ARRESTED FOLLOWING EARLY MORNING STABBING
(Citrus County, FL) Early this morning, Thursday, November 2, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies responded to a residence in Homosassa regarding a domestic incident.

Upon arrival, deputies observed the victim lying on the ground inside the home near the front door with an apparent stab wound to the torso area.

The investigation determined that Stephanie Rankin, 33, of Homosassa, used a screwdriver to stab the victim multiple times.

Rankin was charged with one count of Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon, and she was transported to the Citrus County Detention Facility for booking and processing. Her bond was set AT NONE per the bond schedule due to the incident being domestic in nature.

“Today’s incident could have turned fatal,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “We have spent countless hours in the past month educating everyone who would listen on the signs of domestic violence. This is an ongoing battle that we will continue to stand firm and fight in hopes of ending the cycle of violence.”

The victim was transported with non-life-threatening injuries.

Our Behavioral Health Unit can help victims of domestic violence. If you or someone you know are experiencing of domestic abuse and need to file a report, please call us at 352-249-2790. If you would like to speak with a domestic violence advocate, you can also contact the Citrus Abuse Shelter Association (CASA) at 352-344-8111.
PRIMARY SUSPECT DEAD IN TRAGIC OCTOBER DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INVESTIGATION
(Citrus County, FL) On Friday, October 20, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) responded to an urgent well-being check near the area of North Dawnflower Avenue and West Riverwood Drive in Crystal River.

When patrol deputies arrived on the scene, they immediately observed signs of someone being severely injured and entered the home. Once inside, deputies located a deceased female, identified as Debora Jefferys, 64, lying on the utility room floor with multiple stab wounds. As deputies continued their search of the residence, they located Donald Parker, 64, lying on the living room floor. Parker was still alive but in need of immediate medical attention.

Detectives with CCSO’s Major Crimes Unit, CCSO Crime Scene Technicians, and the High-Tech Crimes Unit responded to the scene and began their investigation, identifying signs of a domestic dispute, which turned deadly.

Through forensic evidence collected at the scene, it was subsequently determined Parker was responsible for both his and Jefferys’ wounds. Due to Parker’s self-inflicted injuries, detectives were unable to interview him at the hospital. After consulting with the State Attorney’s Office, an arrest warrant was obtained for Parker, charging him with Second Degree Murder. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his injuries and passed away in the hospital on October 31.


“This horrific incident is beyond tragic and absolutely shocking to the senses,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Further disheartening is that this, unfortunately, was not the first time Parker was suspected of Domestic Violence. Please, I urge you to call 911 if you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone who is too scared to call. We must break this cycle of abuse before it is too late for another victim.”

If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic abuse and need to file a report, please call the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office at 352-249-2790. You are not alone; if you see something, say something. For more information on Domestic Violence Awareness, our Behavioral Health Unit can help. If you would like to speak with a domestic violence advocate, you can also contact the Citrus Abuse Shelter Association (CASA) at 352-344-8111.
UPDATE ON FLORAL CITY DEPUTY-INVOLVED SHOOTING
(Citrus County, FL) Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) officials remain on-scene of an officer-involved shooting investigation in Floral City. At approximately 12:45 PM, CCSO deputies responded to a call for service regarding a well-being check for a male subject who was acting erratically at a residence on E. Trails End Road.

Upon arrival, deputies discovered that the situation had quickly escalated, and the subject had multiple gas cans that he used to pour gasoline over the residence and yard. Citrus County Fire Rescue (CCFR) also responded to this incident due to the dangerous, life-threatening actions of the subject. When units arrived on-scene, they made several attempts to talk to the subject, who began to light the gasoline on fire, setting the home on fire as well.

The subject, who was armed, began to shoot at responding deputies, who fired back. This incident is ongoing, and there are multiple agencies on-scene. As per CCSO policy, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) will be investigating the officer-involved shooting. More information will be provided when it becomes available.

“The suspect in this incident posed a significant threat to our entire community today,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am extremely thankful our deputies are able to go home at the end of their shift due to their courageous quick actions and their selfless dedication to public safety.”

UPDATE ON FLORAL CITY DEPUTY-INVOLVED SHOOTING
(Citrus County, FL) On November 3, 2023, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) along with the Citrus County Fire Rescue (CCFR) responded to a residence on East Trails End Road in Floral City in reference to a well-being check on a subject now identified as 57-year-old Paul Vincent Noeller.

When units arrived on-scene, Noeller’s erratic behavior continued to escalate, putting all responding member’s lives in jeopardy. With multiple gas cans, Noeller poured gasoline over the residence and yard. Responding units made several attempts to de-escalate the situation, but Noeller began to light the gasoline on fire. Noeller was successful in setting the entire structure on fire and began randomly shooting a firearm in the direction of first responders.

While CCFR was attempting to extinguish the fire, Noeller became uncontrollable, forcing CCSO personnel to protect not only themselves and the community, but also the other first responders who selflessly put their lives on the line for the public’s safety. Noeller’s actions escalated exponentially, forcing CCSO personnel to engage with deadly force. Noeller succumbed to his injuries while on-scene.

“The courageous actions of CCSO and CCFR personnel are truly commendable,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “These dedicated individuals put their own lives in jeopardy to protect the community in which they serve.”

Noeller is no stranger to the criminal justice system, having been arrested in Florida for resisting arrest without violence, battery, and trespassing, and has also been arrested in Oregon for violation of a restraining order.

The Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) arrived on-scene to assist in this investigation. As per CCSO policy, FDLE will be investigating the officer-involved shooting.

“I cannot express how appreciative we are at the Sheriff’s Office to have such great working relationships with our community and state partners,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “Incidents like these challenge all of our capabilities, and knowing at a moment’s notice our partners come to our aid is truly appreciated and a blessing.”

CCSO INTRODUCES ´TIS THE SEASON TO SHOP SAFELY' SAFETY CAMPAIGN
(Citrus County, FL) As the holiday season is quickly approaching, so is the time to shop. Unfortunately, criminals take advantage of this time of the year, both online and in-store, while shoppers are busy and distracted. Don’t fall victim to these criminals – take extra precautions, stay vigilant, and be aware of your surroundings while you shop.

In our holiday-themed safety campaign, ‘Tis the Season to Shop Safely, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) will inform our citizens about the best ways to protect themselves while shopping both in-person and online through educational videos and social media posts.

“Our top priority at CCSO is keeping our citizens safe. Unfortunately, criminals take advantage of the hectic shopping season and look for crimes of opportunity,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “We are urging our citizens to stay aware of their surroundings while they shop and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately. ”

Topics covered during this campaign will include:

  • Package Theft Prevention
  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday Tips
  • Parking Lot Safety
  • Online Scams
  • CCSO’s Safe Exchange Zone
  • In-Person Shopping Tips
  • Online Shopping Tips
Be sure to look out for a familiar Grinch throughout this campaign. ‘Tis the Season to Shop Safely will begin on November 20, 2023, and end on December 13, 2023.
CCSO RESPONDS TO EARLY MORNING URGENT WELL-BEING CHECK AND DISCOVERS DECEASED MALE
(Citrus County, FL) Early this morning, Thursday, November 23, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies responded to an urgent well-being check near Eden Drive, Inverness.

When units arrived on the scene, they could see evidence of a struggle and attempted to contact the homeowner, who is currently a suspect in the case. As deputies made entry into the house, they found the suspect suffering from a possible self-inflicted gunshot wound to the stomach. He was transported to a medical facility for treatment, and deputies are waiting for an update on his condition.

As responding units continued their search of the residence, they located the body of a deceased male inside the trunk of the suspect’s vehicle.

Detectives with CCSO’s Major Crimes Unit and CCSO Crime Scene Technicians have responded to the scene, obtained a search warrant, and are collecting all pertinent evidence to continue the investigation.

“Any death in our community is devastating, but it is especially tough to deliver the news that a loved one will not be able to join their families on a holiday,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “This is an ongoing investigation. We will release more information as it becomes available. However, thankfully, the men and women of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office who serve this county 24/7 have secured a suspect and ensured public safety.”

Please continue to avoid this area so detectives and other first responders can thoroughly investigate this incident.
VEHICLE PURSUIT INTO MARION COUNTY ENDS WITH OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING
(Citrus County, FL) This evening, Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) deputies attempted a traffic stop in the area of Hernando on a Mitsubishi SUV where the driver was suspected of having a felony warrant.

The driver failed to stop, and a vehicle pursuit ensued. Deputies attempted to end the pursuit by utilizing a tire deflation device but were unsuccessful. Deputies engaged another tire deflation device and successfully slowed the vehicle – however, the driver continued into Marion County along Highway 200.

At this time, Marion County Sheriff's Office deputies joined in the pursuit and used the Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT), successfully stopping the feeling vehicle, which crashed into a power pole.

The suspect then exited the vehicle with a rifle in hand, posing an immediate threat to the deputies and nearby citizens. CCSO deputies drew their firearms and fired at the suspect, stopping the threat. The suspect was transported to a medical facility for treatment. There is no threat to the public or surrounding communities, but we ask that you avoid the area at this time.

"The suspect in this incident posed a significant threat to two communities today through his reckless actions. At the end of the day, the deputies on scene had only seconds to decide how to respond to protect every citizen in the area before the suspect decided to further endanger the lives of both law enforcement officers and civilians present," said Colonel Elena Vitt. "This is yet another example of why having a great working relationship with all of our law enforcement partners is imperative. We joined forces and seamlessly protected those we swore an oath to serve."

As per CCSO policy, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) will be investigating the officer-involved shooting along with the Marion County Sheriff's Office. More information will be provided when it becomes available.
SUSPECT IN THANKSGIVING DAY HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION DEAD AFTER SELF INFLICTED GUNSHOT WOUND
(Citrus County, FL) On Thursday, November 23, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) responded to an urgent well-being check near the area of Poe Street and Eden Drive in Inverness, after receiving information that a murder had potentially taken place.

When units arrived on the scene, they knocked on the front door and announced themselves, but there was no answer. Being concerned for the suspect and victim’s safety, deputies began checking the home’s perimeter.

Once in the back yard, patrol units observed a large butcher style knife on the ground, blood, and drag marks. At that time, deputies believed that the complainant’s claims were true and a crime had been committed.

After making further attempts at contacting the suspect, deputies made entry into the house. The suspect, 75-year-old Jonathan Dimick Senior was found sitting in his living room, unresponsive, but alive with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his abdomen. The suspect received emergency medical treatment from members of Citrus County Fire Rescue before being transferred over to a helicopter and transported for medical treatment. He succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

Further investigation lead deputies to the gruesome discovery of the dismembered body of 67-year-old James Banks, who was found in the trunk of his own vehicle.

“The scene our deputies responded to was absolutely shocking. It is rare that a case this horrific occurs in Citrus County, but this is what we prepare for,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “It is truly unfortunate that our suspect will never be prosecuted for this brutal crime - However, thanks to the caller’s courage and our team’s quick response, Mr. Banks’ family can begin their grieving process with the knowledge that no one will ever again suffer by the hands of Mr. Dimick.”
DRIVER FROM PURSUIT INTO MARION COUNTY DECEASED
(Citrus County, FL) Last night, November 24, Citrus County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) deputies pursued Skyler Wentworth, 33, of Titusville, who led into Marion County.

Deputies had attempted a traffic stop in the area of Hernando on Wentworth for a traffic infraction when he decided to flee from deputies. Wentworth, who had not been positively identified at this point, immediately threw a black bag from his vehicle while attempting to elude pursuing units.

The bag, which was collected for evidence, was found to be holding pressed pills that tested positive for Fentanyl.

The pursuit was initially canceled due to safety concerns when units noticed a female passenger in the front seat and a child in the back seat who appeared to be in distress and attempting to exit the moving vehicle. However, units re-initiated the pursuit when the suspect slowed the vehicle down, allowing the passengers to exit along the roadside.

At the end of the pursuit, approximately 10 miles into Marion County, Wentworth exited his vehicle with a rifle in hand. CCSO deputies discharged their firearms at the suspect, stopping any further threats to both the public and law enforcement.
The suspect was transported to a medical facility for treatment, where he later succumbed to his injuries.

"Wentworth is no stranger to our deputies; he is registered as a career criminal and has an extensive drug-related criminal history," said Colonel Elena Vitt. "None of our deputies ever WANT to use lethal force, but they are prepared to if it means saving countless others."

As per CCSO policy, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is investigating the officer-involved shooting.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse and needs assistance with finding resources, please contact our Behavioral Health Unit at (352) 249-2790.
FSA COLD CASE ADVISORY COMMISSION ASSISTING PUTNAM COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE IN REOPENING 1981 COLD CASE
(Citrus County, FL) Yesterday, November 28, 2023, the Florida Sheriff’s Association (FSA) Cold Case Advisory Commission (CCAC) assisted the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) with a 1981 East Palaka cold case. Under the leadership of Sheriff Mike Prendergast, the FSA’s Cold Case Advisory Commission works closely with local and national law enforcement agencies to revisit unsolved cases and explore new leads by utilizing advanced forensic technologies.

In collaboration with the Florida Institute for Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science and the University of South Florida (USF), the FSA CCAC assisted in reopening Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Case # SO 81-14219. In 1981, a body was located face down and completely nude in a wooded area 30 feet off of Old San Mateo Road in East Palatka. At the time, the autopsy exam was limited due to decomposition, and anthropological analysis was not available for skeletal remains. No biological samples were retained, and the remains were buried in a ‘John Doe’ grave. The FSA CCAC is assisting PCSO’s homicide unit with identifying, locating, collecting, processing, and analyzing evidence in this case.

“The Commission’s previous work has proven to be pivotal in numerous cold cases across Florida,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “As Chairman of the FSA CCAC, I am proud to be able to assist PCSO in furthering the investigation of this case and bringing justice to the victim’s family.”
INVERNESS COUPLE ARRESTED ON FELONY ANIMAL CRUELTY CHARGES IN ┬┤OPERATION RESCUE THOR'

(Citrus County, FL) Last week, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) conducted ‘Operation Rescue Thor,’ where Animal Control Officers (ACO) and Community Crimes Detectives served a search warrant to rescue over 100 animals from a residence in Inverness.

On July 31, 2023, CCSO ACOs began an animal cruelty and neglect investigation at a residence located on East McCartney Loop in Inverness. The residents of this address, 66-year-old Faustino Alfredo Valladares and 46-year-old Patricia Maria Villadamigo were alleged to have over 16 dogs and 40 chickens and turkeys on their .22-acre lot, with animals suffering from neglect. Throughout a four-month investigation, ACOs worked diligently to check on the well-being of the animals and investigate the allegations despite Valladares and Villadamigo’s minimal cooperation. All dogs in their possession were found to be without current vaccinations, and they did not have a kennel license, which is mandated by county ordinance with ownership of ten or more dogs.

Thor, a 7-year-old German Shepherd, was discovered to be displaying signs of pain and suffering from a severe ear infection, as well as issues with his hips. Valladares and Villadamigo refused to provide treatment for Thor, regardless of being issued a citation and a 24-hour mandate to be treated. Villadamigo ultimately made it known to ACOs that they would not be allowed to check on Thor and any other animals' well-being on their property.

CCSO’s East Operations Community Crimes Detectives then assisted ACOs in obtaining arrest warrants for both Valladares and Villadamigo for one count of felony animal cruelty each. A search warrant was also obtained and served last week to rescue Thor from the property so he could receive proper treatment. During the execution of the search warrant, 18 dogs, 11 puppies, and 73 varying species of fowl, one of which was deceased, were located on the property. Partners with Citrus County Animal Services responded with deputies to assess the animals on-site, alongside Citrus County Code Enforcement. All animals were surrendered by Villadamigo and Valladares, and given to Citrus County Animal Services, where veterinary forensics and treatment will continue for all rescued animals.

“Our ACOs work tirelessly to help defend innocent animals, such as Thor, whom irresponsible owners mistreat. It is sickening to see how Villadamigo and Valladares had such disregard for taking care of their animals,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “I am proud of the quick investigative work of both our ACOs and Community Crimes Detectives, as well as our partnership with Citrus County Animal Services for their assistance in saving these helpless animals.”

Patricia Maria Villadamigo was charged with:

  • Felony Animal Cruelty
  • Resisting Arrest Without Violence
  • Obstruction of a Search Warrant

Faustino Alfredo Valladares was charged with:

  • Felony Animal Cruelty


“This is why we established our Animal Cruelty Taskforce – an expert team dedicated to investigating and preventing animal abuse,” said William “Bill” Gladson, Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney. “Last week, Sheriff Mike Prendergast and his team took decisive action to rescue innocent animals from continuous, unimaginable harm. We will work together to ensure justice prevails in this case and to show compassion triumphs cruelty every time.”

“This is why we established our Animal Cruelty Taskforce – an expert team dedicated to investigating and preventing animal abuse,” said William “Bill” Gladson, Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney. “Last week, Sheriff Mike Prendergast and his team took decisive action to rescue innocent animals from continuous, unimaginable harm. We will work together to ensure justice prevails in this case and to show compassion triumphs cruelty every time.”

FLORAL CITY MAN ARRESTED FOR CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
(Citrus County, FL) Yesterday, December 28, 2023, detectives with the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) arrested 55-year-old John Downing Jr. for multiple counts of possession of Child Pornography.

Downing’s arrest was the result of a lengthy investigation conducted by Detective Patrick Martin of the CCSO High Tech Crimes Unit (HTCU) in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.

Detective Martin received a report from NCMEC identifying potential images of child pornography associated with a residence in Citrus County. Using cutting-edge investigative methods, he was able to confirm that Downing did possess multiple images and videos of child pornography.

Based on these results, Detective Martin, along with other members of the CCSO Criminal Investigations Division (CID), served a search warrant on Downing’s residence. Investigators will still have to review multiple other digital storage devices that were seized during the search warrant to determine if more charges will be filed.

“Downing’s possession of this repulsive material has effects that reach far beyond the borders of Citrus County,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast. “By possessing and hoarding these images and videos, Downing is not only creating a market for child pornography, but he is re-victimizing the children who were already exploited by these monsters. CCSO’s High Tech Crimes Unit will continue to work with our state and federal partners to track criminals like Downing down and protect our communities’ most vulnerable victims”.

Downing was arrested for 12 counts of possessing Child Pornography. He is currently being held at the Citrus County Detention Facility with a bond set at $180,000.00 per the bond schedule.