KISSIMMEE – A tip led detectives to crack a drug ring that was operating out of a local motel on U.S. 192 in Kissimmee, and enabled detectives to recover cocaine and more than $1,000 in cash.
The arrests may also have made the community safer, since one of the men arrested today was a convicted felon and was in possession of a handgun, a felony charge.
The investigation started on Wednesday when deputies conducted an undercover investigation to purchase crack cocaine from a suspect, later identified as Malcolm Robins. The sale was supposed to happen at the Travelodge on 5399 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee.
According to the sheriff’s report, he and another suspect, Melissa Castillo, were selling the drugs from a motel room at the Travelodge. Detectives arrested both suspects as well as a third one, Andrew McKie, at the motel.
A search of the motel room revealed drugs and a large safe that contained three guns, ammunition and $1,250 in cash.
Twis Lizasuain, public information officer for the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, said the investigation started when her office got a tip about the dealers.
“They had just received some information about these suspects,” she said. “It was good information they received. It led to both the drug charges as well as the recovery of the drugs and the guns in the motel room.”
The suspects were taken to the Sheriff’s Office for questioning, and Lizasuain said they cooperated with deputies. Based on the information provided by the suspects and the evidence collected in the motel room, they were booked into the Osceola County Jail.
Robins, 19, Castillo, 20, and McKie, 29, were all living at the Travelodge at the time of their arrest. All three were charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell and possession of cannabis (marijuana) with intent to sell.
In addition, Castillo was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, and Robins was charged with delivery of cocaine, altering or removing a firearm serial number, and resisting with violence.
McKie was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, altering and removing a firearm serial number, and resisting with violence.
Convicted felons are denied several civil rights after they get released from prison, including the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury or in the military, the right to obtain certain occupational licenses – and the right to own guns.
The Gun Control Act of 1968, a U.S. Federal statute, prohibits convicted felons from possessing firearms for life. Several lawsuits have been filed by convicted felons, seeking to overturn that law, unsuccessfully. The law does not make a distinction between those convicted of violent or non-violent offenses.
Lizasuain said despite the law, convicted felons continue to use guns while committing crimes in Osceola County.
“We have made arrests in the past in reference to that,” she said. “That’s why there’s a charge agains one of the suspects, McKie. Registered felons shouldn’t be carrying firearms. It’s a felony.”
Even after they’re released from jail, the felon is banned from owning a firearm either inside or outside of their home, and the federal punishment can run as high as 10 years in prison.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has tried to crack down on felons who own or use guns by working with Heartland Crimestoppers, Inc., on a program that rewards anonymous callers who alert law enforcement to anyone with an illegally possessed firearm. Citizens are encouraged to turn in felons with guns, and anyone with a tip to provide can call Heartland Crimestoppers at 800-226-TIPS (8477) and report a person known to be illegally possessing a gun.
If an arrest is made and a gun gets recovered from the information that was provided, the tipster will be eligible for a $500 reward. Callers are not required to testify in court on these cases.
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