Clay County Sheriff announces 52 recent drug dealer arrests, asks for community help locating 5 others

Zoey Fields

Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook announced the names of five people wanted within the county on drug-related charges during a Wednesday press conference about an upcoming “Hammer and Hope” initiative.

Cook said 52 drug dealers have been arrested in Clay County since the last Hammer and Hope initiative in March of 2022. The five outstanding warrants, when those individuals are located, will bring that total to 57 arrested individuals accredited to the Hammer and Hope initiative and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit.
The third Clay County Hammer and Hope event is scheduled for May 26 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Eleven22 Church in Orange Park.Photo byClay County Sheriff's Office

The five wanted individuals are listed below. Those with information regarding their whereabouts are asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 904-264-6512, or to submit a tip through the SaferWatch app.

  • Harley Pearson II, white male, born in 1970, wanted for the sale and delivery of methamphetamine.
  • Austen Downs, white male, born in 1995, wanted on pending charges for the sale and delivery of methamphetamine and fentanyl.
  • Michael Van Ness, white male, born in 1987, wanted for conspiracy to traffic fentanyl and trafficking of fentanyl.
  • Alfonso Flores Arrieta, Hispanic male, born in 1993, wanted for possession of methamphetamine.
  • Paul Simmons, white male, born in 1971, wanted for possession of fentanyl.

Additionally, Cook publicly announced the arrest of Cherie Nicole House during Wednesday’s press conference. House faces one manslaughter charge for selling and delivering drugs that resulted in death by fentanyl overdose. House was arrested Monday, May 22.

Click here for more information about Cherie House’s arrest.

An updated total of drug seizures directly attributed to Operation Lucky 777s, the largest drug bust in Clay County history, was reported:

  • 3,519 grams of cocaine
  • 5,400 grams of meth
  • 12,480 grams of fentanyl
  • $334,651 of drug dealer money seized
  • 31 illegally owned firearms

Operation Lucky 777s has been investigated by Clay County Sheriff’s Office since September 2022 when deputies arrested Alvin “AJ” Mercado and Jason Setzer for their alleged involvement in a drug enterprise shipping packages of narcotics through the U.S. Postal Service from California to Northeast Florida. A third arrest, of Raymond Brewer, was made in October 2022.

Click here for NewsBreak’s coverage of the Lucky 777s arrests and subsequent press conferences.

The Hammer and Hope initiative is an all-encompassing approach to fighting drugs in the community, Cook said. It is considered a “wrap-around” event, meaning that it does not only focus on getting someone off drugs but rather, provides them with the resources they need to get back on the right track.

Representatives from the Clay County Fire and Rescue Paramedicine Program, as well as community and social services members will be available at Clay County’s third Hammer and Hope event on Friday May 26.

The event will be at Eleven22 Church (317 Blanding Blvd.) in Orange Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Those suffering from addiction, as well as family members seeking support are encouraged to attend. The event is free to the public and will also accept expired and unneeded medications as part of a drug takeback program.

Attendees can also receive free Narcan (a medicine used to help someone continue breathing during a drug overdose) as well as the opportunity to sign up for programs to help pave the path to addiction recovery.

Click here for more information about the Clay County Hammer and Hope initiative.

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Accredited journalist with experience covering a wide range of stories consisting of breaking news, city and county government, crime and courts, feature stories and local interest. Twitter: @zoeyfields0

Jacksonville, FL

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