Devona Ruiz, 43, and Eric Pazian, 29, have been sentenced to 35 years in prison for trafficking heroin and fentanyl, and other drug-related charges. The defendants were tried separately and found guilty by two Citrus County juries.
In March 2020 Citrus County Sheriff’s Office narcotics detectives were conducting surveillance at the Best Western in Crystal River when they observed a hand-to-hand transaction which they believed to be drug activity. Detectives obtained a warrant to search the room occupied by co-defendants Ruiz and Pazian. Along with finding drug paraphernalia and manufacturing equipment, detectives reported locating 80.65 grams of heroin in multiple plastic baggies, 16.01 grams of methamphetamine, 15.55 grams of powder and crack cocaine, 0.8 grams of MDMA, 13.89 grams of marijuana, and three different types of prescriptions pills. In a recorded, post-Miranda interview with law enforcement, Pazian admitted the drugs in the room were his. Ruiz refused ownership but admitted knowledge of the drugs.
Citrus County Senior Judge T. Michael Johnson sentenced both defendants to 35 years in prison as Habitual Felony Offenders, with 25-year minimum mandatories, which means they will serve the first 25 years day-for-day, without gain time.
Assistant State Attorneys Tara Hartman and Kevin Davis tried the cases.