Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hugo J. Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Office, William D. Snyder, Sheriff, Martin County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), John A. Bolduc, Chief, Port St. Lucie Police Department (PSLPD), announce the sentencing of Antione Elie Sparks, 41, and Jon Scott Merritt, 44, both of Port St. Lucie. Sparks and Merritt were each sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez to a total of ten years in prison, followed by four years of supervised release. Sparks and Merritt also forfeited cash and a cache of weapons.
Sparks and Merritt had previously pled guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute 100 or more plants of marijuana, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 846, 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B), and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c)(1)(A)(ii).
According to the criminal complaints, MCSO deputies conducted a traffic stop of Antione Elie Sparks for speeding. During the traffic stop, a MCSO narcotics K-9 alerted for the presence of drugs. As a result, deputies conducted a search of the vehicle, and located approximately 120 grams of packaged marijuana. An inventory of the vehicle yielded Florida Power and Light bills for a residence in Port St. Lucie, as well as receipts from a hydroponics store for soil, nursery pots, LED lights, cloning gel and light bulbs, as well as receipts for several warehouse unit rentals in St. Lucie West. Deputies also recovered $3,900 during their inventory of the vehicle. Sparks admitted that there was additional marijuana and small marijuana plants growing at the residence.
Upon execution of the search warrant at the residence, detectives found loose marijuana and several plants, drug paraphernalia, a number of firearms and ammunition, including three pistols, three shotguns, two rifles and multiple magazines containing multiple rounds of ammunition and over $7,000 in U.S. currency.
Upon further investigation and execution of the search warrant at the storage units, detectives found a pistol, an AK-47 style rifle, an assault rifle, and a fully assembled Sig Sauer pistol with an obliterated serial number. In addition, detectives found a number of unassembled firearms, including several AK-47 kits, a shotgun, and revolvers.
Detectives also found approximately 380 grams of marijuana and three rooms that had been converted into marijuana grow rooms. Each grow room contained high intensity lighting, water irrigation systems, fans and climate control systems, timers, air filters, plastic buckets and marijuana plants with root systems. Detectives counted a total of 150 marijuana plants with root systems. PSLPD recovered multiple latent prints and partials from the grow equipment. A match was made between a recovered latent print and Jon Scott Merritt. Merritt was subsequently arrested at his residence where ATF agents found additional AK-47 type rifles and parts.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ATF, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and the Port St. Lucie Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carmen Lineberger.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.