Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Band of teenage Tampa wrestlers was 3-man pill mill

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Doug Dodd and his friend “the Little General” aka Lance Barabas began like a lot of high school kids in Tampa and outlying Pasco County these days: At get-togethers after wrestling practice they would drink beer, smoke a little pot and maybe dabble in something harder.

Hardly wholesome to be sure, but as Guy Lawson in Rolling Stone writes, the boys didn’t stop at procuring substances for personal use. Not by a long shot.

The Little General’s behavior was increasingly erratic, like the day he walked into a car dealership in Tampa and bought a tricked-out red pickup — entirely in cash. The salesman looked on in disbelief as the kid peeled off $25,000 in fifties and hundreds, forming tidy stacks on the desk.

“So you’re in a cash business?” the salesman asked. “Y’all male strippers?”

The Little General grinned. “Something like that,” he said.

On the way home, he told Dodd he wanted to get personalized plates for the truck saying Oxy 80s — the name of their favorite and most popular pill. Even though the friends had no visible means of supporting such an extravagant lifestyle, the Little General rented an upscale loft in a fashionable district by the water. His neighbor was the head coach of the NFL’s Buccaneers.

Over the course of a few years, the Barabas clan — arrested in Pinellas County in 2009 and charged with selling more than $1.25 million in painkillers, Ecstasy and pot — built a national ring of co-conspirators that saw the Bay Area mini-crime syndicate doing their best impression of Tony Montana in Scarface. The boys were selling to connections in Tennessee, South Carolina, Alaska and upstate New York besides their constantly flowing Tampa retail business.

But as their casual use of hard drugs — particularly OxyContin — became a serious habit so did their disciplined, secretive operation become a sloppy attention magnet destined to get busted. As the Little General became equally addicted to a lavish lifestyle of conspicuous consumption and rowdy partying, the Feds began to move in.

These young dukes of oxy didn’t know it, but the world had changed in an important and dangerous way: After years of neglect, in 2008 the DEA started a series of high-level investigations focused on pill pushers. One day Pretty Boy went to collect another shipment at his student P.O. box in Tennessee, only to be surrounded by police cars in the parking lot and arrested.

Shipments continued apace, only now, according to the crew, the pills were couriered directly to Pretty Boy’s friend Justin Knox. The Little General’s partying got even further out of hand, as he strutted around Tampa with a concealed Glock. A major bust of another opiate ring in February 2009 did nothing to dampen his spirits. But Dodd watched the TV news report in terror.

“They were guys that lived in the area,” he recalls. “I’d seen them at the same pill mills and pharmacies I went to. The organization was run by career criminals with a lot of experience. We were a bunch of kids. If they got caught, I figured we could too.”

Dodd’s fears proved prescient. In June 2009, Knox was nabbed in Knoxville — not for [poweful painkillers] oxy or roxie, but for smoking pot at his home. They uncovered an arsenal of guns at Knox’s apartment, much like the weapons the Little General kept at his place, along with syringes, a blank prescription pad and mountains of paraphernalia.

After staving off lower-level criminal charges the final reckoning came down. At USF, of all places:

On the evening of October 25th, 2009, Dodd gave the Little General 400 blueberries and 180 big greens. By then, the Little General had transferred to the University of South Florida, and he was pledging a fraternity. The next morning before dawn, he was in front of the frat house doing jumping jacks in his underwear and being verbally abused by seniors when a dozen DEA agents swarmed onto the lawn demanding to know which one was Lance Barabas.

Dodd remembers he was asleep in his grandmother’s house when he was jolted awake by the sound of DEA agents pounding on the door. According to the agency’s report, they found nearly 1,000 oxy-codone tablets hidden in his room and around his grandmother’s property, as well as his Sig Sauer and Smith & Wesson guns and $23,000 cash. When his grandmother woke up, he says, she was shocked to be told that Dodd was under arrest.

“Oh, dear, not Dougie,” she said.

But Dougie it was. Check the rest of this compelling Florida long read here.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

Latest from The Bay and the 'Burg

Go to Top