By Tamas Mondovics

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, announced the outcome of a four-month long investigation targeting prolific offenders, illegal guns and narcotics traffickers.

The effort dubbed “Operation Gun Box” involved dozens of agents and deputies, who have worked undercover to identify, investigate and prosecute individuals involved in gun crimes within the county’s District 1 area commonly referred to as the “Box.”

“We have seen an uptick of gun violence and gun crimes in that area over the past year, hence the four-month long investigation,” said HCSO David Gee during the press conference.

According to HCSO Colonel Donna Lusczynski, noticing an increase of the numbers of homicides (22 in 2014 and 33 in 2015), 73 percent of which involved a firearm, prompted the agencies involved to join forces and get to work on behalf of the community.

“This is something we cannot afford to ignore,” Lusczynski said, adding, “Lives are being lost here in Hillsborough County. To combat this problem, Operation Gun Box focused on offenders who are selling and using firearms in the course of their crimes.”

The operation began in late October 2015, resulting in detectives conducting 116 investigations, which led to 64 individuals either arrested, indicted or arrest warrants issued with a total of 182 charges.

Tampa ATF Assistant Special Agent Dave Brown emphasized the agency’s commitment to the cause when he said, “Speaking directly to the bad guys, we are very active in our communities and there are parts of this area that we will use everything in our jurisdiction to seek those folks out and recommend them to the state attorney’s office for prosecution.”

U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley, who oversees federal prosecutions for Central Florida agreed, stating that every single one of those charged in Operation Gun Box has a significant criminal history.

“These are individuals who need to be behind bars,” he said, while making reference to one of the investigation’s top suspects, Major Brady, a 34-year-old sex offender who has been arrested 38 times. Visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.