, Dom Calicchio
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A little more than a year ago, Karlee Harbst was the smiling winner of a $1 million prize in the Florida Lottery. She had even won a $100 prize a week earlier.
The money was coming at a great time too, because Harbst was reportedly pregnant.
But last week, the 27-year-old Port Orange woman was among more than 20 suspects apprehended by police in a major drug bust, according to reports. She was reportedly charged with solicitation to deliver heroin and unlawful use of a two-way communication device, and made her first court appearance Friday in connection with the case.
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Her lottery winnings had marked an opportunity for Harbst to turn her life around after a criminal history that included previous arrests for drug possession, theft, contempt of court and driving with a suspended license, according to the Miami Herald.
Last May, Karlee Harbst won $1 million in the Florida Lottery’s Gold Rush game, according to reports. (Florida Lottery)
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But instead, she allegedly got involved with the operators of an extensive drug operation that peddled in heroin, fentanyl and cocaine, according to Florida law enforcement authorities.
“These are not nice people,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood told the Daytona Beach News-Journal last week, referring to the alleged ringleaders and others who were arrested.
Authorities hope that the bust, dubbed “Operation: Smooth Criminal,” will help reduce drug traffic in an area that saw some 300 drug-related deaths between 2017 and 2018, the News-Journal reported.
Florida Lottery winner Karlee Harbst, 27, was among suspects rounded up in “Operation: Smooth Criminal,” authorities say. (Volusia County Corrections Department)
Nine of the suspects were linked to the organization while others were nabbed in a series of raids in Volusia County, according to the paper.
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Volusia County, which includes Daytona Beach, lies on the Atlantic coast of Florida, northeast of Orlando.
Back when Harbst won the lottery, she appeared on local TV and said she bought the ticket because of its number, the Herald reported.
“When I saw the ticket was number 24, I had to get it. Twenty-four is my favorite number,” she reportedly told Orlando’s WESH-TV.
After last week’s drug bust, according to authorities, it looks like Harbst’s number may be up again.
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