Operation Pay Dirt seizes $7 million in drugs, guns

Nearly $7 million worth of “poison” is off the street thanks to Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office’s bust of the largest heroin/fentanyl distribution organization in county history.

The sheriff’s office also arrested 15 individuals, including convicted felons, in relation to the investigation referred to as Operation Pay Dirt the sheriff’s office announced May 30 during a press conference.

Sheriff Larry Ashley said they wanted to crack down hard on this drug distribution ring.

“Okaloosa County is tied with West Palm Beach County for the most heroin overdoses in the state,” he said.


“Dirt” was the street name of one of the individuals arrested, Aaron Johnson, prompting the name for the operation. The investigation began in August 2017 and is currently ongoing.

Partnering with the sheriff’s office on the case was the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Fort Walton Beach Police Department, Crestview Police Department and U.S. Marshals Organized Crime Task Force. Ashley said the coordination of these agencies was crucial to the success of the operation.

Law enforcement served warrants at two Crestview addresses in connection with the case, 118 Lake Street (alleged stash house) and 698 McDonald Street (alleged distribution and meeting house).

Uncovered during the investigation was 770 grams of fentanyl, an opioid, with an estimated street value of $6 million. Ashley said this was enough fentanyl to cause 150,000 overdose deaths. It takes just two milligrams to overdose.

“That’s almost the entire population of Okaloosa County,” Ashley said.

Also found were more than 35,000 doses (3,582 grams) of heroin worth just under $900,000 on the street.

Arrested in the case were Kevin Powell Jr., Keithen Brown, Gill McGee, Aaron Johnson, Anthony Porter, Jamaal Shaheed, Benjamin Bonds, Patrick Dougherty, Jacqueline Ennis, Charles Freeman, Crystal Haire, Donald Phelps, William Pike, Phillip Pulley and Tara Pulley. All reside in Okaloosa County.

Also recovered were:

  • Cocaine, 1,119 grams worth $100,000
  • MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) or “Molly,” 45 grams worth $1,575
  • Crack, 7 grams worth $500
  • Stolen 9 mm Taurus semi-automatic pistol
  • .22 caliber semi-automatic Ruger MKIII Hunter pistol with two magazines
  • Intratec Arms AB-10 firearm
  • Sig Sauer .40 handgun
  • A pill press and several diet pills, allegedly for pressing into the fentanyl

Of the 15 individuals arrested in Okaloosa County multiple are facing drug trafficking charges with maximum sentences of 30 years. Mandatory minimum sentences for these individuals range from 15 to 25 years depending on the severity of the charge.

Ashley said removing these drugs, or poison as he called them, from the streets likely saved lives.

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