ST. PETERSBURG — Three drug dealers defrauded the Small Business Administration of about $50,000 by getting loans for businesses that don’t exist, St. Petersburg police say.
Russell Jones, 26, was arrested Nov. 8 on charges he received a $9,516 loan in May to cover payroll and business overhead costs for a barbershop, an arrest affidavit said.
Kenneth Davis Jr., 24, was arrested Nov. 9 for claiming he owned a business in St. Petersburg and receiving a loan of $20,832 in April, an arrest affidavit said. The business is not described.
Dante Payne, 21, was arrested Tuesday for claiming he owned a landscaping business and receiving a $20,832 loan in June, an arrest affidavit said.
Surveillance by police revealed that none of the three men were operating a legitimate business. Their bank statements were inconsistent with what would be expected of business owners and none of them were listed with the St. Petersburg Business Tax Office or the Florida Division of Corporations.
In Payne’s case, police determined he had no landscaping equipment.
The trio was “heavily involved” in the drug trade and are members of the Childs Park gang, police said. All three men remained in the Pinellas County Jail on Thursday.
Their arrests were a part of a larger drug trafficking investigation by St. Petersburg police, spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez said. The investigation still is underway and a total of 30 arrests have been made so far.
“We still have several more on our list, so the number changes daily as they’re picked up on warrants,” Fernandez said in an email.
Chief Anthony Holloway held a press conference Nov. 5 to announce the first 21 arrests in the operation. He said then that police had seized 100 pounds of marijuana, eight pounds of cocaine, a half-pound of fentanyl, seven guns, $73,000 in cash and $150,000 in jewelry.
The investigation has been active for nine months, Holloway said, and all involved have operated out of the Childs Park neighborhood.