Press Release: Drug Investigation closes taxi companies; results in multiple felony arrests

See photo and stories below (Please feel free to use the photos):

Photos of Big Pine Key Operation:

Frederick Ahrens

Ronald Sell

Alan Townsend

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Click on the photo to see a larger version

Photo #1: Detective Scott Robinson gives a "thumbs up" to Deputy Daryl Hull as he brings in one of the arrestees, Robert Reid Lutz of Big Pine Key.

Photo #2: Deputy Charlie Cobb brings in arrestee James William "Jimbo" Phelps, of Summerland Key, wanted for two counts Sale of Cocaine.

Photo #3: Two of the arrestees, William May (left) and Robert Clendenen, sit at a table being processed by Transportation Deputy Peco Broussard and a detective before transport to the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island.

Photo #4: An Uzi  pistol seized during one of the search warrants.

Photo #5: A Ruger semi-automatic handgun with a laser sight seized during one of the search warrants.

Photos #6-9: The Monroe County Special Weapons and Tacitics Team served three search warrants on Big PIne Key this morning (Friday).

Press Release
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office

 April 20, 2001

Drug Investigation closes three taxicab companies; results in multiple felony arrests

Monroe County – More than 60 local, state and federal law enforcement officers came together on Big Pine Key today to wrap up a six month long, multi-agency investigation into drug and gun sales. A total of ten search warrants were executed and 17 people were arrested. Three taxicab companies and an tire and auto shop have been shut down and their assets seized as a part of the investigation. More arrests are expected.

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the extensive investigation, during which undercover operatives purchased multiple ounces of cocaine, along with heroin, Oxycodone and marijuana in the Big Pine Key and Lower Keys areas of the Florida Keys. A number of guns were also purchased by an undercover operative, including two fully automatic MAC-10 machine pistols, three sawed off shotguns and two handguns.

The investigation began in October of 2000. Information received by the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Unit, Investigators from the State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was bolstered by numerous tips to the Crime Stoppers Hot line about alleged drug sales.

The investigation revealed an organized drug trafficking ring operating in the Big Pine Key and Lower Keys areas. Federal authorities became involved in the investigation in December, when the extent of the organization became obvious, and when it was discovered that not only drugs were being sold, but firearms as well.

The organization involved three local taxicab companies, a tire and auto shop and a number of people, mostly employees of the cab companies, who were selling drugs and guns. The companies included All Keys Transport, Big Pine Taxi and Paradise Tire and Auto, all located on Big Pine Key, and Cheapo Taxi of Marathon.  The leader of the ring was identified as Fred Ahrens, who owns All Keys Transport, Big Pine Taxi and Paradise Tire and Auto. One of Ahrens’ former employees, Ron Sell, the current owner of Cheapo Taxi, was also found to be involved, identified as a “lieutenant” in the organization.

According to law enforcement sources, Ahrens acted as “kingpin”, directing his employees to sell cocaine from the taxicabs they drove. During the investigation, the undercover operative actually purchased multiple ounces of cocaine directly from Ahrens, as well as smaller amounts from his employees. Sell was observed selling firearms out of one of Ahren’s cabs. An undercover operative also purchased firearms from another cab company employee, Alan Townsend.

In all, undercover operatives purchased drugs and/or weapons from five of Ahren’s employees, almost all of those transactions occurring from taxicabs. The investigation also turned up 20 other people in the Big Pine Key and Lower Keys area who sold drugs to the operative, but who were not employed by Ahrens.

One of Ahren’s suppliers was identified as a Miami man who made regular deliveries of illegal pharmaceuticals to various areas of the Keys; his primary product is reportedly Oxycodone, a schedule II narcotic. According to investigators, Feliberto Lopez of Miami regularly made three trips a week to the Keys, selling illegal drugs to “clients” from Key Largo to Key West, including Ahren’s organization. Lopez reportedly brought more than 500 Oxycodone pills per trip, selling the 80 mg pills for $40 per pill. He made an estimated quarter of a million dollars a month selling the illegal pills in the Florida Keys. Lopez reportedly has a history of drug smuggling, and was arrested in the early 90s for his part in a cocaine smuggling operation. The undercover operative in this investigation reportedly purchased 70 Oxycodone pills directly from Lopez during the six month operation, for a total of $2,400.00. Lopez was arrested Thursday after a search warrant was executed at his Miami home.

Nine more search warrants executed in the Big Pine and Lower Keys area Friday morning, resulting in the arrest of 16 more people and the seizure of multiple weapons, including an Uzi pistol. Drugs were also seized during the searches, including 4 and a half pounds of marijuana, 2 and a half ounces of cocaine, and Oxycodone. Five vehicles were seized as well.

Agencies involved in the investigation included Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. More arrests are pending, and a number of the people listed below also face federal charges brought by ATF and the DEA.

 The wrap-up Operation Friday resulted in the following arrests: 

Note: (E) beside the name denotes an employee of Ahrens
        (SW) beside the name denotes a search warrant served at the person’s residence

Name Date of Birth Residence Charges
Fredrick Robert Ahrens (SW) 6/20/50 Little Torch Key Sale of Cocaine (4 cts)
 Principle of the first degree, Sale of Cocaine
Alan Townsend (E)(SW)                 12/21/50  Big Pine Key Sale of Cocaine (6 cts)
Sale of Oxycodone (1 ct)
Possession/Firearm while committing felony (4 cts)
Possession of a short barreled shotgun
Possession & sale of a short barreled shotgun (2cts)
Possession & sake if a machine gun (2 cts)
Ronald Kenneth Sell (E)(SW) 11/12/54 Little Torch Key Trafficking in Cocaine (3 cts)
Possession of a Firearm while committing a felony
Sale of Cocaine (2 cts)
Feliberto Lopez (SW)                                   1/30/54 Miami Trafficking in Oxycodone
Sale of Oxycodone (2 cts)
Robert Lynn Clendenen                       
6/6/60 Big Pine Key Sale of Morphine
William Rex May (E)                         
4/1/56 Big Pine Key Sale of Cocaine (2 cts)
Frances Louise Schreiber (SW)       
11/12/54 Big Pine Key Sale/Controlled Substance (Xanax)
Sale of Oxycodone
Susan Clayton, AKA Susan Wheeler (SW)     
11/13/55 Big Pine Key  Sale of Marijuana (4 cts)
James William “Jimbo” Phelps(SW)  
3/30/50 Summerland Key Sale of Cocaine (2cts)
Robert Reid Lutz                           5/19/54 Big Pine Key Sale of Heroin (1 ct)
Timothy Vincent Zdan                   
11/12/57 Big Pine Key Sale of Oxycodone (2 cts)
Joseph Douglas “Little Joe” Church            
10/27/76 Little Torch Key Sale of Marijuana (1 ct)
Richard Harold “Wolf” Nicholson  2/29/52 Big Pine Key Sale of Marijuana (2cts)Sale of Morphine (1 ct)
Richard J. “Jack” Munro          9/12/59 Big Pine Key Sale of Heroin (2 cts)
John Moore, Jr. (E)                    
 3/9/61 unk  Residence Possession of Cocaine
Susan Bleich              11/6/59 Big Pine Key Possession of Cocaine
Possession of Marijuana
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Bob Hansen                      unk DOB unk Residence Possession of Marijuana