Former Marion County Deputy Sheriff Convicted on Drug and Gun Charges
Ocala, Florida - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that on Friday a federal jury found former Deputy Sheriff Nicholas Ragosta (40, Ocala) guilty of conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and using of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. Ragosta faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. His sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled. Ragosta was indicted on April 20, 2011, while employed as a Deputy Sheriff with the Marion County Sheriff's Office.
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, in May 2009, Nicholas Ragosta, Andrew Ragosta, and Robert Abbott came up with a plan to steal 400 pounds of marijuana from Nelson Daniel Schena, who lived in Hialeah, Florida. This plan was finalized at a meeting that took place at Nicholas Ragosta's house. Abbott and Andrew Ragosta represented to Schena that there was a buyer in Marion County who wanted to purchase the marijuana.
On May 15, 2009, Schena and two of his associates brought 400 pounds of marijuana, valued at approximately $240,000, from the Miami area up to Marion County for the expected sale. On that day, Schena and his associates met with Abbott and Andrew Ragosta at Abbott’s house. While at Abbott’s house, 400 pounds of marijuana was placed into Andrew Ragosta’s van. Schena was told by Abbott and Andrew Ragosta to follow Andrew Ragosta to the house of a buyer, who would then pay for the marijuana. Unknown to Schena, he and his associates were being lured to a location where the marijuana could be stolen. The travel route was preplanned and a location had been scouted out for Deputy Nicholas Ragosta to make a traffic stop, while in uniform, in his Sheriff’s Office marked patrol car.
As had been planned, Andrew Ragosta made a rolling stop through a predetermined stop sign, and Deputy Nicholas Ragosta, who was parked nearby, turned on his blue lights and conducted a traffic stop. Abbott, Andrew Ragosta, and Nicholas Ragosta had anticipated that, upon seeing the blue police lights and the Sheriff's Office vehicle, Schena and his associates would drive away from the scene. However, rather than immediately drive away as had been expected, Schena interjected himself into the traffic stop.
A confrontation ensued at the scene of the traffic stop. Schena exited his vehicle and approached Deputy Nicholas Ragosta. He told Deputy Ragosta that he recognized him, and that he knew that they were trying to rip-off the marijuana. Deputy Nicholas Ragosta drew his firearm and directed Schena to back away. Andrew Ragosta then drove away with the marijuana, and was followed by Deputy Nicholas Ragosta, who tried to make it appear that he was giving chase. The marijuana was later sold and the profits were divided among Andrew Ragosta, Abbott, and Nicholas Ragosta.
Robert Abbott, Andrew Ragosta, and Nelson Daniel Schena were all charged and previously pled guilty for their involvement in this case. They are currently awaiting sentencing.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Marion County Sheriff's Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Samuel D. Armstrong.