MELBOURNE, Fla. – Law enforcement officials credited the community for its vigilance during a 3-month-long investigation by local, state and federal officials into illegal drug transactions at convenience stores on University Boulevard and the surrounding area.
“There are a lot more eyes and ears out there than we could ever have,” said Jeff Walsh, assistant special agent in charge of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. “A lot more boots on the ground.”
The investigation spawned from complaints by residents about drug dealing and sales, Melbourne police said.
Twenty-two of the 38 suspects, for whom arrest warrants were issued earlier this week, had been arrested as of Thursday morning. The majority face charges of crack-cocaine possession, police said.
This was a multi-agency investigation, according to Melbourne police, who collaborated with local law enforcement as well as the Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Border Patrol and the DEA.
The investigation comes after four February arrests, two of which were convenience store managers, both charged with illegal drug possession. Mamoun Hamad, 54, who managed a BP store at 601 S. Babcock Street at the time, was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of a synthetic narcotic with intent to sell and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.
Hamad was arrested again Wednesday and charged with two counts of a controlled substance with intent to deliver or sell and one count of possession of a controlled substance without prescription.
Law enforcement made over 25 buys of illegal drugs during the investigation.
The majority of arrests were made at the U-Mart gas station at 653 University Blvd., police said. It is the site of a shooting in early August that resulted in two Melbourne men wounded.
“The systemic violence that comes along with the sale of illicit drugs was happening,” said Lt. Scott Mostert of the Melbourne Police Department. “So, I’d say it had gotten pretty bad.”
Sixteen men and women with arrest warrants remain at large. The investigation is ongoing.