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Panhandlers' drug dealing/deaths led to 29 dealer arrests in West Palm Beach

Posted at 9:33 AM, Dec 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-16 08:32:34-05

It's called Operation Pocket Change: A catchy name, with big consequences for those dealing opioids in the City of West Palm. 

Twenty-nine alleged opioid dealers, including several panhandlers, are now in the Palm Beach County jail, after a massive West Palm Beach police operation locked them away.

The operation started, with the death of some panhandlers. 
"We focused on trying to connect the dots between the people who were panhandling, where they were going once they obtained money to go purchase drugs, some of them were actually dealing drugs also. So it kind of spread from that point," said West Palm Beach Police Chief Sarah Mooney. "Some of those panhandlers were actually dealing in addition to just using, so dealers connect to dealers connect to dealers. We tried to get to some of the sources rather than just the end users."
Mooney says it's part of pursuing justice for all those who passed away from overdoses. In 2016, West Palm Police responded to 447 overdoses. In 2017, there's already 705 overdoses. 
Operation Pocket Change put 29 dealers in custody, eight more warrants are outstanding. These dealers are mostly coming from the northwest part of the city. 
"We send a very strong message to anyone who engages in illegal activity, that they do so at their peril," said Mayor Jeri Muoio. "The people who live there have been telling us for a while that there is a lot of drug dealing in the northwest have been pointing us in the right direction."
Many of those arrested, are connected to violent crimes in the city, and will soon face charges for those as well. Police recovered 17 firearms in the investigation.
"We'll start at the top: homicides, robberies, aggravated assaults. Investigating, hope to make some connections," said Captain Brian Kapper, of West Palm Beach Police Department. 
One man, Iramond Rolle, has been arrested and convicted 27 times for felonies.
Lekeathia Harris, dealt 2 ounces of carfentanil to an undercover officer. 
"This drug is so dangerous, that just touching it can kill you. He touched without actually knowing it so luckily the bags were clean there," said Captain Kapper.
"We know there’s an issue, we’re working on it, there’s only a little you can do at a time though," said Mooney. 
Four of the arrests were linked to overdose deaths.