Tuesday, November 2, 2010

CCSO: No Evidence Of Drink Tampering At Blue Martini

An 11-month Collier County Sheriff’s Office investigation did not turn up any evidence of drink tampering at Blue Martini.

Since late 2009 the Sheriff’s Office has investigated more than 50 reports by individuals who said they became ill or passed out after consuming alcoholic beverages at Blue Martini, a bar and restaurant located at 9114 Strada Place in the Mercato shopping center in North Naples. Many of the people said they believed their drinks had been tampered with.

Through its investigation, the Sheriff’s Office was unable to determine any defined conclusion for the reported incidents, according to Sgt. Brian Sawyer, who led the investigation.

“No forensic evidence exists to show that any foreign substances existed in any of the reporters or beverage,” Sawyer said. “No confirmed testimony exists to show that any substances were surreptitiously placed in any patrons’ drinks.”

Sawyer emphasized the Sheriff’s Office is not closing the door on the investigation, and will continue to probe any claims of possible drink tampering that may be brought forth to the agency.

Officials with the Blue Martini and Mercato worked closely with the Sheriff’s Office during the investigation. In addition, the Mercato started a safety task force to deal with concerns. Task force participants included the Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT).

CCSO started an undercover investigation in late 2009 after receiving reports from customers who believed they might have been drugged while drinking alcohol at area restaurants. Most of these incidents were alleged to have taken place at Blue Martini.

The undercover investigation, conducted in conjunction with ABT, included physical surveillance of patrons and staff at Blue Martini. It also involved obtaining drink samples.

Undercover deputies did not observe any illegal or illicit activities related to this investigation. The drink samples were forwarded to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) crime laboratory for examination. Test results found no illicit substances in the drinks.

CCSO began a major investigation in early March following a media report about citizens who claimed they experienced unusual symptoms after drinking alcoholic beverages at Blue Martini. Many suspected their drinks had been drugged. Subsequently, approximately 50 more people filed similar complaints with the Sheriff’s Office. Most of these reports were from incidents that occurred months earlier, including many from 2009.

During the course of the investigation detectives interviewed approximately 150 people. Additional undercover operations were conducted and found no suspicious activity or events took place relevant to the investigation.

Physical evidence also was obtained. This evidence included:

Drink samples taken during undercover operations. All drink samples obtained through covert operations were sent to the FDLE lab for examination. Test results did not find any unusual substances in any of the drink samples.

Video surveillance from within the Blue Martini. Detectives reviewed the video and did not observe any unusual activity. The video, which detectives obtained by subpoena, was over a limited time period and did not cover most of the reported incidents that occurred in 2009 and early 2010.

Hair samples from cooperative reporters. Multiple hair samples were sent to a private laboratory for examination. Presumptive tests found no illicit substances in any of the hair samples.

Emergency room examinations. Several of the reporters sought medical attention within a close time frame of their incident at Blue Martini. No illicit substances were found by the medical facility that treated them. Blood-alcohol contents of these individuals ranged from .117 to .228.

Blood and urine samples. Additional testing was conducted at the FDLE lab on some of the blood and urine samples of individuals who sought medical attention. No illicit substances were found.