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News and Investigations

News & Investigations

News Releases and Public Information

Welcome to the Polk County Sheriff's Office News Room, where the Public Information Officers (PIO's) post all of the information that they release to the news media. PIO's act as liaisons between news media organizations and the Sheriff's Office. The PIO's routinely release timely and accurate information and Crime Stoppers bulletins, and respond to routine and "breaking news" media inquiries. News releases and Crime Stoppers information can be found on this page.

PCSO's full-time Public Information Officers are Brian Bruchey, Carrie Horstman, and Alicia Manautou. The Public Information Officers can be reached by sending an e-mail collectively at

The recent news releases sent out by the PIOs can be found here, and archived releases (older than 2017) can be found here.

May 4, 2022

Mulberry woman arrested for selling alcohol to a minor

Media Contact: Alicia Manautou, PIO

The Polk County Sheriff's Office conducted an "Operation Pop-Top" on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at ten different convenience stores in the Bartow and South Lakeland areas. The ongoing operation is designed to ensure that stores within the county are compliant with state laws by not selling alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age.

Deputies are assisted in the operation by a PCSO Explorer who makes the attempt to purchase alcohol. The Explorer program is for high school students who are interested in a career in law enforcement. In this particular operation, the Explorer was 19-years-old. 

Out of the ten stores visited by Deputies and the Explorer on Tuesday, nine of the stores were compliant.

38-year old Sumitraben Patel of Winter Haven, who is employed by the Citgo store at 5383 S. Florida Ave. in Lakeland, was charged with the misdemeanor crime after she allowed a 19-year old to purchase an alcoholic beverage.

The nine stores which refused to sell the alcoholic beverage to the Explorer were:
• Citgo, 795 W. Main St., Bartow
• Circle K, 310 W. Main St., Bartow
• 7-Eleven, 1020 N. Broadway Ave., Bartow
• RaceTrac, 1690 N. Broadway Ave., Bartow
• 7-Eleven, 6175 US Hwy 98 S., Lakeland
• Circle K, 2175 E. CR 540A, Lakeland
• 7-Eleven, 1011 E. CR 540A, Lakeland
• Wawa, 5410 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland
• Marathon, 1201 S. Florida Ave., Lakeland

“The stores and employees who were found to be in compliance with the law are to be congratulated. Each store and the employees must ensure that they do not sell alcoholic beverages to anyone under 21 years of age. We do these operations often, and we will hold stores and employees accountable.” - Grady Judd, Sheriff.