By Rebecca Blue
The Bradenton Herald
BRADENTON, Fla. — Fueled by drug addiction and the need for money, three men announced themselves as Manatee County Sheriff's deputies, handcuffed a 19-year-old they say is a drug dealer and robbed him, Bradenton Police said.
Evan Zappola, of the 200 block of 67th Street in Holmes Beach, was arrested Friday and faces one count of robbery with a firearm and one count of falsely impersonating a law enforcement officer, according to Det. James Curulla.
Zappola, who admitted to having a $200-a-day heroin habit, initially told Curulla he was given the uniform by a deputy acquaintance. He later recanted the statement about the uniform.
His counterparts, 19-year-old Bradenton Beach resident Samuel Lott and another unidentified suspect, remain at large.
In their effort to pose as deputies, Zappola, 24, and Lott wore green cargo pants, green T-shirts, black utility belts complete with Smith and Wesson handcuffs, a badge, gun, pepper spray and a walkie-talkie, according to Curulla.
The third suspect was not dressed as a deputy.
On Aug. 3, the victim returned with food to the Fisherman's Landing apartment complex in west Bradenton, where a friend lives, and was tackled in the parking lot by the robbers. They told him he was under arrest.
They handcuffed him and held him face down while they stole his wallet, containing $100, a cell phone and a black hat.
During the robbery, the unidentified suspect pretended to use the walkie-talkie. However, there was no one responding to him, the victim told authorities.
The trio fled the scene in a silver, 2002 Toyota Four Runner.
Zappola told Curulla the plan was to rob the victim, who was expected to be carrying a large amount of cash because he sells drugs. The victim said he used to sell, but does not any longer, Curulla said.
"This is definitely a drug-related incident," he said.
The victim, still handcuffed, returned to his friend's apartment to call 911.
Most of the clothes items the robbers wore can be bought at military surplus stores, Curulla said.
Zappola remained at the Manatee County jail Tuesday evening with a $20,000 bond, a jail official said.
Copyright 2007 The Bradenton Herald
3 Fla. men dress as deputies, rob drug dealer