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Drug ring hit; 19 arrested

By Associated Press
Published March 7, 2004

ORLANDO - An investigation into a drug ring that distributed GHB in Central Florida ended with the arrests of 19 people and the suspension of two Orange County sheriff's deputies.

Investigators said Friday they think the chemicals seized from five GHB labs could have been mixed to create 190,000 doses of GHB with a potential street value of more than $2-million.

"This is a wonderful victory," Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar said. "Not only are the drugs off the street, the dealers are off the street."

Robert Cooke Jr., 32, of Fort Lauderdale was a major supplier to the Orlando area, and his supplier was Angelo Demeo, 29, of Largo, investigators said. Both were arrested Feb. 27.

Investigators said Cooke traveled to Orlando to collect money from dealers and met Demeo to buy large amounts of GBL, which is mixed with lye and water to create GHB.

GHB is commonly referred to as the "date rape drug." The clear, odorless liquid causes drowsiness, dizziness and loss of inhibition and is commonly associated with sex crimes on college campuses and the nightclub scene.

The arrests of Cooke and DeMeo led investigators to Orlando area distributors, and arrests were made at suspected labs.

Suspects were arrested on conspiracy or trafficking charges or both. They could face 15 years in prison if convicted on the charges.

Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary said Deputies Armando Perez, 29, and Kevin Gomez, 27, both members of the narcotics squad, were suspended with pay during the investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the sheriff's Professional Standards Division.

[Last modified March 7, 2004, 01:35:55]

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