On Thursday, June 28, 2012, Polk County Sheriff’s detectives, Bartow Police Officers, and members of the HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) task force, served four search warrants and arrested 30 suspects in the Bartow area, during Operation City Sweep. Detectives are still actively searching for nine more suspects who have warrants for drug-related charges.
“There are those who are trying to release drug dealers early from prison, claiming that they are ‘non-violent’ felons. I am a strong believer in going after drug dealers because of the strong relationship that exists between drugs, violence, and other crimes. We have a duty to interrupt the cycle of crime that occurs with habitual drug users, drug sellers and traffickers, criminal gangs, and victims of violence and property crime. In this operation alone, all of the 30 suspects have a violent criminal history. As a group, they have been arrested 420 times—an average of 14 arrests per drug dealer. We need to send these people to prison where they belong.” —Sheriff Grady Judd
“Working together with the Sheriff’s Office and the HIDTA Task Force, we were able to put dangerous felons in jail, get drugs and guns off the street, and improve the quality of life in this city that we love. We will continue to make arrests like these until those who prey upon the good citizens of Bartow with their illicit lifestyles are all behind bars.” Chief Joe Hall
The 10-month-long investigation began in August 2011 when detectives received information that 24-year-old Jermaine Lamar Cunningham, DOB 8/18/1987, of 2210 East Gibbons Street, was selling crack cocaine from 1335 Bay Street in Bartow. Detectives further identified 29-year-old Alexander Gil Rios, DOB 1/14/1983, of 1785 Hamilton Street, as working with Cunningham.
Detectives also learned that the Cunningham family — mom Ruby Ellen (DOB 3/5/1952), uncle (Ruby’s brother) Roland Lemar (DOB 5/19/1960), and son Jermaine — are drug dealers in Bartow. Ruby has been selling crack cocaine and marijuana, which is provided to her by her son Jermaine. She lives at the Gibbons Street address with him. Roland has been selling cocaine out of his home also.
Detectives purchased a trafficking amount of ecstasy from Michael Anthony Lewis, DOB 4/14/1983. Lewis is still a suspect in the disappearance of his 11-month-old daughter Ta’niyah Leonard, who went missing in October 2002. He now lives and works with Alex Rios, selling drugs in Bartow. Detectives purchased a trafficking amount of cocaine from Alex Rios, and during at least one exchange of illegal narcotics with an undercover detective, Rios had a child in the car with him.
At another location, detectives made eight separate undercover buys — at 1070 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, nicknamed “Sugar Hill.” Detectives purchased crack cocaine, powdered cocaine, and marijuana, from dealers working out of that house and the vacant lot nearby.
Detectives purchased a stolen gun from Melbra Brewer, DOB 6/19/1972, of 1185 Britts Lane, Apt. C in Bartow. Brewer has an extensive violent criminal history. She lives with Quentin Smith, DOB 12/28/1985, who is illegally in possession of a short barreled shotgun. Brewer sold the detectives that illegal weapon as well.
Search warrants were served at the following residences:
2210 East Gibbons Street in Bartow—Jermaine Cunningham’s residence, where mom Ruby also lives; detectives seized at this house: 81 grams of powder cocaine, 40 grams of crack cocaine, and $5,586 cash.
1785 Hamilton Street in Bartow– Alex Rios’ residence, where Michael Lewis & Thaterick Johnson also live; detectives seized at this house: 120 ecstasy pills, 3/4 pound of marijuana, cocaine and paraphernalia; four EBT cards and one Visa Turbo Tax card.
1097 East Parker Street in Bartow– Sharita White’s residence, she has ties to Alex Rios; detectives seized at this house: glass pipes containing cocaine residue and marijuana.
During the execution of the search warrants and while looking for Alex Rios, detectives secured an additional search warrant for 980 East Church Street, Apt B204 in Bartow; detectives seized at this house: 230 grams of marijuana, 36 grams of Ecstasy, digital scale with cocaine residue and baggies for packaging the narcotics; $16,361cash; and a 12-gauge shotgun and .45 caliber handgun, both of which were reported stolen during different incidents to the Bartow Police Department. Laquacia White’s newborn baby was also in this house.
28 of the 30 suspects who had warrants for their arrests during this operation are receiving some form of government financial assistance, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement. For example, Alex Rios, who had over $16,000 cash in his house when detectives arrested him, receives money from the government every month.
COLLATERAL ARRESTS: During the execution of the search warrants, and the round-up of the known 30 suspects who had arrest warrants, detectives arrested 21 suspects who had warrants, and an additional nine suspects during the round-up. Of those nine, five are receiving government assistance.
There are still nine suspects who have warrants who are still at large, and they are:
Jermaine Cunningham, D)B 8/18/1987
Melbra Brewer, DOB 6/19/1972
Jesse Gant, Jr., DOB 9/21/1976
Ola Mae Harris, DOB 3/31/1958
Anthony Hazelton, Jr., DOB 1/24/1986
Derrian Leon, DOB 8/29/1976
Kenthanie Little, DOB 3/22/1975
Cornelius Lott, DOB 3/22/1975
Tyrone White, DOB 1/2/1990
All of suspects in this investigation have criminal histories. Among them, there have been a total of 487 arrests, with nine of them having been arrested 20 or more times. Of those 487 arrests, 371 involved felony charges and 453 were misdemeanors, totalling 824 total charges.
The felonies charges include:
1 - Attempted 2nd Degree Murder
1 - Attempted Felony Murder
3 - Sexual Batteries
6 - Kidnapping/False Imprisonments
6 - Robberies
5 - Burglaries with Assault
2 - Cruelty toward a Child
39 - Battery or Assault charges (including on a law enforcement officer)
98 - Drug related charges
One suspect, 51-year-old Kevin Dupree, has been arrest 40 times, with 24 of his charges being felonies and was sent to state prison 8 times. He receives money from the government each month.
Cornelius Lott and Benjamin Luckett have both been arrested more than 30 times each. Lott has 38 prior felony charges, and Luckett has 32 prior felony charges. They both receive government assistance.
Ruby Cunningham, and her brother Roland, have both been arrested more than 20 times each. Kenthanie Little, Travis Hampton, and George Ashe have all also been arrested more than 20 times in the past. Ruby has had 29 felony charges filed against her in the past, and Roland has had 26 felony charges against him in the past. Little has 37 prior felony charges. Hampton has 31 prior felony charges. All of these suspects are receiving money from the government every month. Ruby was found with over $5,000 cash in her home when she was arrested.