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KEY WEST, August 16, 2019 – A Florida City man is off to Florida State Prison after pleading guilty to nine felony drug offenses, plus a misdemeanor, in five separate cases.
Benjamin Lawrence, 33, entered the plea August 8 before Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Mark Jones, who handed down a 42-month sentence followed by three years of probation. Lawrence pleaded to four counts of sale of cocaine, three counts of unlawful use of a two-way communications device and one count each of possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of a controlled substance and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana.
Assistant State Attorney Patrick Flanigan represented the state.
Four of the five cases stemmed from Key West police making controlled drug purchases using a confidential informant. Telephone calls between Lawrence and the informants setting up those transactions were recorded.
On July 20, 2016, Lawrence sold an informant 1.1 grams of cocaine for $100. The transaction occurred at Patterson Avenue and 2nd Street. Agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations assisted in this case.
On July 25, 2016, Lawrence sold an informant $100 worth of crack cocaine at a convenience store on Flagler Avenue. The cocaine weighed one gram.
On August 25, 2016, an informant purchased 0.8 grams of cocaine for $100 near the bocce courts near the Edward B. Knight Pier, formerly known as the White Street Pier.
On January 24, 2017. Lawrence sold an informant $50 worth of cocaine; the deal was consummated in the informant’s car on Simonton Street. The cocaine weighed 0.6 grams.
On April 11, 2017, police saw Lawrence on Emma Street and knew there was an arrest warrant outstanding for him from previous cases and took him into custody. He had $322 “in denominations consistent with street-level narcotics sales."
On the way to jail, police told him he would be strip-searched and that if he had any drugs on him, he should give them up so he wouldn’t be charged with introducing contraband into a detention center. In an interview room at the jail before being booked, he produced 12.6 grams of crack cocaine, 0.8 grams of powdered cocaine, two oxycodone pills for which he did not have a prescription and one gram of marijuana.
Lawrence previously served two stints in prison for cocaine-related offenses.