Robert Earl Wyche
Search warrants served at two Largo bars Wednesday, Nov. 5
By TBN WEB STAFF
Article published on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014
Pinellas County Sheriff’s detectives arrested four suspects Nov. 5 as the result of a joint investigation into drugs and prostitution called Operation Black Pearl.
According to a report from the sheriff’s office, the operation involved detectives assigned to the Sheriff’s Special Victims Unit along with investigators from the Clearwater Police Department, Largo Police Department, the Office of the Attorney General and the Statewide Prosecutor, all which form the Clearwater/Tampa Human Trafficking Task Force.
Detectives said the arrests were made at several locations in Pinellas after a 16-month investigation into a prostitution, drug and human trafficking criminal organization.
The investigation began in July of 2013 when investigators began receiving tips alleging that Robert Earl Wyche, 60, of Largo was recruiting women for the purposes of prostituting them. Investigators determined that Wyche recruited the women and offered them shelter and drugs in exchange for them engaging in prostitution.
Detectives said 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.”
Investigators also determined that Alexandra Kovarick, 28, of Largo assisted Wyche in recruiting the women. According to the report, Teresa Conahan, 48, of Clearwater and Penny Leo, 48, of Largo were willing participants in Wyche’s prostitution and drug enterprise.
Investigators said that drug deals took place through Jimmy’s Sports Lounge, 1200 Clearwater Largo Road in Largo, and the Wild Indian Saloon, 1158 Seventh Street NW, Largo.
Search warrants were served at Jimmy’s and Wild Indian on Wednesday, as well as at Wyche and Kovarick’s residences. Detectives are currently analyzing the evidence, including the seizure of electronic devices.
Detectives said the suspects recruited women through ads on Backpage as well as through local motels and the Pinellas County Jail. Seven victims were identified during the investigation thus far. Due to the nature of this crime, detectives said there might 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 racketeering, derived support from proceeds of prostitution, conspiracy to engage in racketeering and trafficking in cocaine. Bond was set at $600,000. Kovarick, Conahan and Leo were arrested for conspiracy to engage in racketeering. At the time of this report, booking reports were not yet available for Kovarick or Conahan. Leo’s report showed that her bond was set at $250,000.
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.
Copyright © Tampa Bay Newspapers: All rights reserved.