The Sarasota Police Department has released video footage (see below) of today's (Friday, May 9) press conference announcing 23 more arrests — including that of CRIMSON GLORY guitarist Jon Drenning (a.k.a. John Drenning) — as part of "Operation Sarasota Cartel II", targeting the hierarchy of drug dealers in the Sarasota, Florida area.
"This investigation had a ripple effect," said Jim Segada, group supervisor with the Drug Enforcement Agency, according to HeraldTribune.com. "It targeted the suppliers and the street dealers. It's very significant in that respect because we were able to take out an entire organization."
A majority of the most recent suspects are accused of "conspiring to obtain drugs for resale," Lt. Pat Ledwith said.
According to the web site of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, Drenning was arrested on April 8 in Sarasota on charges of conspiracy to purchase cocaine (Schedule II substance) and use of a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony. The 48-year-old musician was released the following day after posting $10,000 bail on each charge.
In May 2012, the Sarasota Police Department Criminal Investigation Division began "Operation Sarasota Cartel II". This was a joint investigation between the Sarasota Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the State Attorney's Office for the 12th Judicial District.
In January 2014, the investigation culminated with a series of search warrants. This was able to be completed by the Sarasota Police Department with the help of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the State Attorney's Office for the 12th Judicial District, and the DEA Tampa District Office which included members from the Bradenton Police Department and the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
The Sarasota Police Department, with the assistance of the DEA and the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, completed Phase II of SRQ Cartel II ending in April 2014. Phase II resulted in the arrests of 24 individuals stemming from a long term investigation. The arrests were made as a result of surveillance, search warrants and future investigation of phone records as a result of a T-3 State wiretap.
SRQ Cartel II Investigation Facts:
* 33 individuals arrested
* 5 individuals arrested were federally indicted by the DEA
* 14 Kilos of cocaine recovered (street value more than $532,000 — based on average of $38,000 / kilo)
* 5 automobiles seized under Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act
* 9 Search warrants executed
* 7 firearms seized
Singer Todd La Torre quit CRIMSON GLORY in February 2013, explaining in a statement that "the main reason for my resignation from CRIMSON GLORY is primarily due to its inertia status."
La Torre, who joined QUEENSRŸCHE in June 2012 as the replacement for Geoff Tate, became an official member of CRIMSON GLORY in April 2010 and played a number of shows with the band during the subsequent two years.
A "raw" version of a new CRIMSON GLORY demo track entitled "Garden Of Shadows" was released in September 2012 and was supposed to appear on the band's new concept record.
La Torre made his first public appearance with CRIMSON GLORY at ProgPower USA X as one of seventeen guest performers paying tribute to John Patrick Jr. "Midnight" McDonald, the band's original singer.
Midnight passed away in 2009 due to long-term health complications.
Jon Drenning police booking photo courtesy of the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office