Local News

In Lee County, Tax Man Close on Heels of Drug Busts

Posted January 29, 2007 7:55 p.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2007 11:32 p.m. EST

Lee County is cracking down on hundreds of people who haven't paid their taxes—for allegedly dealing drugs.

At the Sanford Motel, room service included crack cocaine, according to Lee County sheriff’s deputies.

“Mostly they called the front desk, implied what they wanted, and it was delivered to them,” Capt. John Holly said.

On Friday, after a six-week undercover operation, deputies arrested the motel’s owner and two employees for selling and delivering cocaine. Kenneth Lee Haggerty, 39, the owner; Cathy Bryant Tyner, 44, the live-in motel operator; and Dennis Martin Farmer,24, Haggerty's son who also lived at the motel, were all arrested.

Haggerty and Tyner were charged with multiple counts of sale and delivery of cocaine, possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine, and conspiracy to sell and deliver cocaine.

Farmer was charged with possession with intent to sell and distribute cocaine.

“Individuals that are caught with illegal drugs, whether they’re convicted or not, are required to pay taxes,” Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said Monday.

Carter has 340 state-issued tax warrants for drug suspects, amounting to more than $10 million.

“We need to hit drug dealers in the pocketbook, and we’re going to do that,” Carter said.

It’s called the Unauthorized Substance Tax. A quarter of it goes to the state. The rest goes to the local agency that handled the original drug case.

“There’s restrictions on what we can use the money for, but basically it’s to buy equipment to fight the war on drugs,” Carter said.

In the past month, Lee County deputies have collected about $40,000 in cash and property during drug arrests. Friday, Holly said, deputies recovered about 10 grams of crack cocaine and several hundred dollars.

“If they don’t have cash, we start looking for vehicles. If they don’t have vehicles, we start looking for personal property,” Holly said.

Some who owe money are in prison and cannot pay, but the tax bill waits for them.

“You can’t get their money if they don’t have any money, but the tax debt will be there when they get out,” Holly said.

The tax rates the state set for illegal drugs include $3.50 per gram for marijuana, $50 per gram for cocaine and $200 per gram for heroin.

When the state seizes vehicles or other property to pay the taxes, the state sells them at auction to convert them to cash.