Monday, June 17, 2024

8 arrested in Hastings drug and gambling bust – Jacksonville Today

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Eight people have been arrested on drug charges stemming from an undercover investigation at a convenience store in Hastings, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives confiscated gambling machines, drug paraphernalia and $400,000 cash in Operation Express Jackpot, investigators said.

The Sheriff’s Office had received multiple tips from people about the 207 Express store on West Church Street, just blocks from the Hastings library along what is also known as Florida 207, the Sheriff’s Office said.

“Our citizens reached out to us with concerns, and our detectives responded immediately. … Please remember, if you see something, say something,” Sheriff Rob Hardwick said in a Facebook video.

Investigators taped off the Hastings store during the raid May 31, 2024. | St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office

An initial investigation revealed evidence of narcotics and illegal gambling inside and outside the store, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Undercover detectives then bought drug paraphernalia there and played some of the electronic gambling machines, the Sheriff’s Office said. They also made several narcotics purchases in the parking lot, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Based on those investigations, the Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant May 31. Investigators found four gambling machines, a large amount of drug paraphernalia and equipment to pay gambling winners. They also confiscated about $400,000 cash.

The eight people charged were Hui Fang Iris Liu, Reginald Smith, James Patterson, Yvonne Hall, Silas Green, William Peeples, Phillip Myers and Sherry Williams, jail and court records show.

Four electronic gambling machines were confiscated in the raid May 31, 2024, the Sheriff’s Office said. | St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office

Further investigation found a number of electrical and food storage issues at the store, and numerous citations were issued, the Sheriff’s Office said.  

The investigation is still active. The Sheriff’s Office asks that anyone with information call (904) 824-8304 or leave an anonymous tip with First Coast Crime Stoppers at (888) 277-8477 (TIPS).

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