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April 4, 2004 - The Tampa Tribune (FL)

Teens See Consequences Of Drug Dealing

Fed Facts CD Is Used As A Deterrent Tool

By Elaine Silvestrini

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

TAMPA - The scenarios are deceptively simple.

But all is not as it appears.

Hoping to educate teenagers about the perils of illegal drug activity, federal probation officers have helped create a CD-ROM called "Fed Facts: The Real Deal,'' for use in classrooms to teach the legal consequences of drug trafficking.

The attention-getting stories are presented by area high school and college students, depicting situations actually encountered by federal probation officers.

One scenario has two girlfriends sitting on a couch chatting. One of them paints her toenails.

A male friend, Rocky, arrives. One of the young women, Tanya, lets him inside the apartment. "Is Jason home?'' he asks.

No, Tanya says. "But I can call him for you if you want.''

Good, Rocky responds. "Find out if he can get me some cookies.''

Tanya phones Jason and then tells Rocky to wait for Jason to arrive.

"What are you doing?'' the other girl, Heather, demands of her friend. "Are you dealing drugs? Jason's been dealing forever. And now you're suddenly dealing, too.''

"I'm not dealing for him,'' Tanya says indignantly. "I just made a phone call.''

The two argue, and Heather leaves. "I don't want to be around when a drug deal goes down,'' she says. "I don't want to be a part of this.''

As she storms out, Jason arrives, cursing Heather as a "stupid freak.''

Tanya and Jason argue about his drug dealing, as Jason retrieves a bag of crack for Rocky, who pays and leaves.

The police burst in, throwing Jason to the floor and putting Tanya in handcuffs.

The simple part of this scenario is that Jason is in big trouble. According to the presentation, he was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Rocky, it turns out, was an undercover police officer. Consequently, he was not prosecuted in this scenario.

Things get more controversial when it comes to Tanya. She is convicted of using "a communication facility [a telephone] during the commission of a drug-trafficking offense.''

The real surprise in the tale is that Heather, who tried to remove herself from the situation, is also in big trouble.

She was guilty of an obscure offense, "misprision of a felony,'' which can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison. A person is guilty of that offense if he or she is aware that a felony has taken place and fails to notify authorities as soon as possible.

The scenario is one of five contained on the compact disc, demonstrating how seemingly innocent people can find themselves caught up in situations with serious consequences.

The aim of the program, according to Chief Probation Officer Elaine Terenzi, is deterrence.

"The criminal penalties for involvement with drugs or drug trafficking are quite severe,'' she said. "And the purpose of these very strict federal drug statutes and guidelines is deterrence. But you can only have deterrence if people, prior to engaging in drug activity, are aware of the consequences.''

In another scenario, a girl accompanies her friend as she buys Ecstasy for her birthday. The girl gives the friend $2 when she doesn't have enough money. Though the first girl never touches the drug, both wind up convicted of drug possession. The drug dealers face tougher sentences because the transaction happens near a school.

Then there's the young woman who accompanies her drug-dealing boyfriend when he goes to sell counterfeit cocaine to someone who turns out to be a police informant. The transaction turns violent when the boyfriend shoots the informant. The young woman is convicted of conspiracy to distribute drugs with an enhanced sentence because a firearm was used. She is convicted of a felony.

The CD-ROM was produced and funded by the Florida Regional Community Policing Institute at St. Petersburg College, using a grant from the Justice Department.

The cost was about $60,000, said institute Director Eileen LaHaie. The CD is distributed free in Florida to schools, churches and other organizations. Outside the state, it's sold for $49.95, according to LaHaie, who said that as of December, more than 3,000 copies had been distributed to parents, probation officers, police and educators since the CD-ROM was produced two years ago.

Locally, probation officers use the CD-ROM in a presentation for students. Thousands of students, mostly in middle and high school, have seen the program, according to probation officer Jonathan Lopez, who recently addressed students at the Pinellas Technical Education Center, along with fellow probation officer Daniel Mangru.

Lopez told the teens that more than 47 percent of the cases heard in the Middle District of Florida are drug related, and that nearly 98 percent of those defendants wind up in federal prison. The typical sentence, he said, is almost eight years.

He distributed Hershey's Kisses, telling the students that each piece of candy weighs about 5 grams, the same weight of crack cocaine that brings a minimum mandatory federal prison sentence of five years.

Some students who have heard the presentation have written letters of thanks, including some from a group at the Pinellas Juvenile Detention Center. One letter writer said the presentation "made me think. Do I want to mess my life up at a young age? The way you told us that, we have a chance to make a choice in our life.''

"We're not trying to scare you,'' Lopez told the technical school students. "Too many people get this education in a federal courtroom. And it's not a good place to start learning.''

For information about the CD-ROM, including how to obtain a copy, visit

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