In the summer of 2021, Tampa Police officers began a narcotics investigation in the 5000 block of W. Ingraham St after community members alerted the department that James McAvoy, who was on parole for 2nd-degree murder, was reportedly selling large amounts of heroin and fentanyl in the South Tampa area.
Officers used this information, drafted a plan, and began working surveillance in the area. On August 26, 2021, officers spotted a white Ford F150, registered to McAvoy, in the same area. McAvoy, whose license was suspended, was seen getting into the truck with a female passenger. Officers conducted a traffic stop, arresting McAvoy for violating his parole by driving on a suspended license. After the arrest, officers searched the truck and found heroin and Dilaudid, an opioid, in the front seat. An additional 35.5 grams of heroin was found on the passenger, Elizabeth Shirley, who was also arrested and charged.
After nearly 18 months of criminal litigation, both defendants pleaded guilty. On January 17, 2023, McAvoy pleaded guilty to trafficking Fentanyl and was sentenced to 11 years in Florida State Prison followed by 10 years of probation. On January 25, 2023, Shirley pleaded guilty to trafficking in illegal drugs and was sentenced to 4 years’ probation.
"This is another example that shows in Tampa, we are safer, together. As a result of this successful investigation and prosecution, many lives have undoubtedly been saved from becoming another statistic of opioid abuse and overdose," said Interim Chief Lee Bercaw. “We appreciate that tips from our community launched this investigation, skill and dedicated investigation by our officers led to the apprehension and arrest of the suspects, and the devoted work of our partners in the State Attorney’s Office resulted in a successful prosecution in this case.”
State Attorney Susan S. Lopez noted “Our attorneys analyzed every detail of in this investigation and developed additional witness testimony for trial that ultimately resulted in these guilty pleas. We are proud to work with the brave men and women of TPD, who put themselves in harm’s way every day, to ensure that drug traffickers are held accountable.”