KnightNews.com has confirmed the University of Central Florida has partnered with Orange County officials to establish “underage drinking enforcement details” targeting UCF area bars through the use of undercover officers.
At least four bartenders or shot girls were arrested over the weekend “as part of an ongoing effort to reduce (the) underage drinking problem at the local bars, restaurants and convenience stores within Orange County,” according to an arrest affidavit obtained by KnightNews.com.
The detail makes use of a “confidential informant,” who must be under the age of 21, have no facial hair if male, and not be “dressed up” or “wearing revealing attire” for females, to enter a bar and try and buy alcohol underage.
At TD’s Sports Bar, Orange County Sheriff’s deputies used an 18-year-old male confidential informant to enter the bar at 12:35 a.m. Saturday, according to the affidavit.
“Confidential Informant was greeted by the doorman who checked his identification and allowed him entry to the bar but did not issue him a wrist band to drinking (sic) in the bar,” Deputy Marc Petruccelli wrote in his arrest affidavit.
“While inside the establishment,” Deputy Petruccelli wrote, “I directed Confidential Informant to purchase one shot of vodka known as a,(sic) ‘Jolly Rancher’ from the shot girl and provided the informant with ten dollars in U.S. currency of investigative funds. While standing directly next to the informant I witnessed the informant purchase a,(sic) ‘Jolly Rancher’ shot from the shot girl later known to me as Kaitlyn Watts.”
“Moments later, the same shot girl served Confidential Informant one shot after he gave her a five dollar bill from the investigative funds,” Deputy Petruccelli wrote. “She gave him one dollar in change. The shot girl did not ask for identification or check to see if the informant wore a wrist band authorizing him to drink in the bar.”
Petruccelli wrote that after the hand-to-hand transaction, he took possession of the shot from the informant, and asked the shot girl what was in it. She admitted it contained vodka, according to the affidavit.
Then, Petruccelli wrote, he took a sample of the shot to bring back to the lab for analysis and threw away the rest. Watts,18, was charged with the misdemeanor of selling alcohol to someone under 21, arrested and transported to the Orange County Jail. She was released on $250.00 bond at 10:15 a.m. later Saturday morning.
Just five minutes earlier at TD’s that night, a 19-year-old male confidential informant entered TD’s Sports Bar with Deputy Andrew Merks, and a very similar scene played out involving another shot girl, named Nicole Maduros, 22, according to her arrest affidavit. Maduros was arrested on the same charges, booked into jail, and released at 12:44 p.m., also on a $250 bond.
Before the arrests at TD’s, KnightNews.com was already reporting breaking news on our Web site and Facebook Fan page, announcing we got several tips of bartender arrests at Scoop for allegedly serving underage.
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According to arrest affidavits, the same deputies separately entered Scoop undercover with two male confidential informants, one 18 and one 19, between 10:35 and 10:45 p.m. and instructed them to buy alcohol.
The 19-year-old informant bought a $3.00 bottle of Bud Light from Michael Marsh, with Deputy Merks standing four feet away, and the 18-year-old informant bought the same from Derek Gibbons, while Deputy Petruccelli stood seven feet away, according to the affidavits.
The affidavits say Gibbons did not ask the informant for his ID or check for a wrist band, but do not mention whether Marsh checked the informant’s ID or for a wrist band. Samples of the beer were collected, the two bartenders were booked into jail and released the next morning on $250.00 bond each.
KnightNews.com is still waiting for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to release a full list of the bars targeted that night, and the number of arrests made. We received reports of arrests at Devaney’s as well, but so far have been unable to confirm. We are also trying to find out if the bartenders had to be arrested and brought to jail, or if they could have been given a “notice to appear” and not arrested.
We also have been unable to contact the bartenders arrested so they can give their side of the story about what happened, and share their thoughts about this aggressive new enforcement. (If you can help us get in contact with them, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or have them e-mail us directly).
KnightNews.com readers have commented on our original breaking news story expressing their opinion that these undercover drinking stings are “setting up” hard working college students, who make honest mistakes while in a rush to do their stressful jobs, so they can continue working their way through school.
We e-mailed a UCF spokesman to ask if the university believes the problem lies with the bartender or underage drinker, but we were referred to speak with the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco instead, since it helps lead the enforcement angle of the Underage Drinking Task Force.
The task force responsible for these undercover enforcement details was established by UCF President John Hitt and Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty on February, 7, 2008 following the deaths of two 18-year-old UCF freshmen, Michael Forehand and Austin Gilpin, which were related to underage drinking, according to the Orange County Underage Drinking Task Force Report.
A major goal highlighted in the report is to “reduce underage alcohol access by increasing enforcement of drinking laws … with vendors through coordinated enforcement details.” The task force requested $25,000 in funding to execute that portion of the plan alone.
Overall, the task force is requesting an additional $196,600 to an already $1.5 million budget spent on curbing underage drinking at all levels throughout the county, according to the report.
KnightNews.com reporters are still working to gather more information on this major story, including finding the total number of weekend arrests, and to find out more about how it will affect your nightlife, employment and safety at the University of Central Florida this year.
What do you think about the Underage Drinking Tast Force UCF helped create? Is it needed? Will it help?
Please share your comments and questions below, so we can research and try to provide answers as we continue our coverage.