Accused Florida drug dealers received SBA loans


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Detectives with the St. Petersburg Police Department are in the midst of a major drug-trafficking investigation and have made 30 arrests so far.

Most of the arrests are drug-related, but according to police a handful of the dealers were using tax dollars to fund their operation.

Police arrested 21-year old Dante Payne on Monday. He’s facing numerous drug charges and one count of defrauding a financial institution.

According to the arrest report, he filed paperwork with the government claiming he owned “Brother’s Landscaping Co.” He stated the company grossed $128,800 in 2020 and he received $20,832 to cover payroll and business overhead costs.

“One of the reasons they were able to fund their operation was because they were using these loans from the government that they had received fraudulently,” said Yolanda Fernandez with the St. Petersburg Police Department. “And they were getting substantial amounts of money, supposedly to help these employees that they didn’t have for these businesses that they didn’t operate. “

Russell Jones is also accused of receiving SBA loans. Police arrested him Nov. 8. According to the arrest report, he claimed he owned a barbershop that grossed $45,681 in 2020. The paperwork indicates he received $9,516 from the government to cover payroll and business overhead costs.

Police arrested Kenneth Davis on Nov. 9. The arrest report does not indicate the type of business he claimed to own, but it did say in 2020 the unnamed business grossed $105,900 in 2020 and he received $20,832 from the government.

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Marlon Santiago calls it disgusting. He owns and operates a legal hemp nursery in Pasco County. He has had a difficult time getting SBA loans.

“They’ve just been jerking me around,” Santiago said. “I actually got an email from them yesterday acknowledging that the problem is on their end.”

Santiago was dumbfounded when he learned accused criminals were receiving government help.

“People like myself are still struggling to get the money that we should be getting,” Santiago said. “And you’ve got guys who are doing (it) the wrong way getting money hand over fist.”

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