After the arrest of alleged cocaine distributor Alex Gomez earlier this year, it appeared 33-year-old Toborus Dontay Cunningham was poised to step into his place as a major drug trafficker in north Sarasota and Manatee counties. He won't get that chance.
Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino announced the arrest of Cunningham and 23 others Friday, in the second phase of "Operation SRQ Cartel II," which ended last month. The Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office partnered with SPD in the two-year operation aimed at disrupting the hierarchy of drug dealers in the Sarasota area.
In total, authorities arrested 33 suspects, five of who who were federally indicted by the DEA, and seized 14 kilos of cocaine, which is worth more than $1 million at the street level, according to Sarasota Police Lt. Pat Ledwith. Officers also confiscated five vehicles, seven firearms and more than $100,000 in cash — mostly in large bills.
Police used surveillance, undercover drug buys, wire-tapping and nine search warrants during the investigation.
"It's important to recognize it's supply and demand," DiPino said. "If we go after supply, the demand is going to get thinner and thinner."
And a majority of other area crimes, such as robberies, are connected to drug sales, DiPino said.
Gillespie Park Neighborhood Association President Linda Holland said the partnership between neighborhoods and SPD is important in keeping drug dealing out of North Sarasota neighborhoods, and DiPino encouraged residents to continue to report suspicious activity.
Representatives from the DEA said they were still tracing the source of the drugs.
"I'm not naive enough to think that we eliminated drug sales in the two-county area of this operation," Ledwith said. "I think we put a dent in it — I think we disrupted it pretty significantly."