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Four Arrested In Joint Operation “Black Pearl”

traffickingFour Arrested In Joint Operation “Black Pearl”

November 5, 2014

Multiple agencies today were involved in today’s arrest of four suspects in joint operation “Black Pearl.”  These agencies included the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Clearwater Police Department, Largo Police Department, Office of the Attorney General, Statewide Prosecutor and the Clearwater/Tampa Human Trafficking Task Force

Click for information on booking photos
Click above for information on booking photos

Arrested individual include 60 year-old Robert Earl Wyche of Largo, 28 year-old Alexandra Kovarick of Largo, 48 year-old Teresa Conahan of Clearwater, and 48 year-old Penny Leo of Largo.

The above named agencies form the Clearwater/Tampa Human Trafficking Task Force which arrested four suspects and served multiple search warrants in connection with a 16-month-long investigation into a prostitution, drug and human trafficking criminal organization.

The investigation began in July of 2013 when investigators began receiving tips alleging Wyche was recruiting women for the purposes of prostituting them.

Through their investigative work, the various agencies were able to determine that Wyche recruited the women and offered them shelter and drugs in exchange for them engaging in prostitution. Detectives say Wyche threatened the women if they wanted to leave; he took the proceeds they made in prostitution, and used physical force against them if they did not comply with his “rules.”

Detectives say that through their investigation they also determined that Kovarick, assisted Wyche in recruiting the women; while Conahan and Leo were also willing participants in Wyche’s prostitution and drug enterprise.

Investigators learned that drug deals were conducted through Jimmy’s Sports Lounge located at 1200 Clearwater Largo Road in Largo; and the Wild Indian Saloon located at 1158 7th Street NW, Largo.

Search warrants were served at these locations on November 5, 2014 as well as at Wyche and Kovarick’s residences. Detectives are currently analyzing the evidence obtained to include the seizure of electronic devices.

Detectives say the women were recruited through ads on Backpage as well as through local motels and the Pinellas County Jail.

A total of seven victims have been identified during the course of this investigation thus far. Due to the nature of this crime, detectives say there may be other victims.

“The combined effort of these agencies was successful in getting to the heart of this criminal organization and putting these people behind bars where they belong” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “We will remain proactive in our efforts to investigate these types of racketeering enterprises that victimize women and deal in drugs.”

“This case represents an exhaustive effort by detectives from multiple agencies that has resulted in the dismantling of a criminal drug and prostitution enterprise,” said Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter. “The activities associated with this racketeering operation are violent and vile, and the Clearwater Police Department is happy to have played a part in taking these subjects off the streets.”

“Human trafficking is an abhorrent crime, and we must continue to do everything we can to make sure these atrocities are stopped and the perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “I commend my Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the Clearwater Police Department and the Largo Police Department for the investigation and arrest of these defendants.”

Wyche was arrested for RICO and Conspiracy to Commit RICO. Kovarick, Conahan and Leo were arrested for Conspiracy to Commit RICO. The four were arrested at various Pinellas County locations and transported to the Pinellas County Jail without further incident.

Anyone with information on this criminal enterprise or who may have been victimized by these individuals is asked to contact Sergeant Todd Greene of the Special Victims Unit at (727) 582-6200.

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