It wasn’t a mission to catch sea-turtle lighting violations or dogs on the beach.
On Jan. 20, 1989, police arrested Donald and Patricia Dean, who rented a home on Old Compass Road in Emerald Harbor, which had been used as a drop-off point in a smuggling operation.
Three weeks later, Feb. 10, Longboat Key police announced the arrests of 11 men and women as the result of the investigation known as Operation Longboat — a nearly one-year investigation that resulted in the seizure of more than a ton of cocaine and $2 million cash.
Longboat Key Police Chief Wayne McCammon said during a press conference that the investigation began the previous May, when a group of Colombians stayed at a Longboat Key motel and accidentally left behind a woman’s purse containing a gun and $3,500 cash.
Within days, a citizen reported suspicious activity from the home on Old Compass Road.
At first, police believed the Emerald Harbor activity to be a separate operation but then determined that the previous incident appeared to be related to the suspicious activity. Police contacted customs officials, and the FDLE got involved.
Law-enforcement officials determined that at least two boat trips to Longboat Key involving contraband had taken place. They seized two other vessels bound for the Key with narcotics.
Police recovered 1,669 pounds of cocaine in the two seizures — the cocaine had a street value of $15 million.
As part of Operation Longboat, agents also seized two houses in Marathon, two boats, a Cessna aircraft, 35 firearms and more than $2 million in cash.
The operation was the fifth drug seizure on Longboat Key and the largest in terms of the amount of money seized.
It wasn’t, however, the largest in terms of the volume of drugs confiscated. That distinction went to the seizure of three tons of marijuana that had taken place several years earlier.
When asked why the smugglers had chosen an affluent community such as Longboat Key for their operation, McCammon said:
“Why not? Everybody thinks it’s not going to happen in his or her backyard. But it’s here.”
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Hat's off to Dee Pelton, volunteers
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