Broward County

They ran a garage sale. Who was sold didn't send them to prison. What they sold did

Lenden Pendergrass and Heather Loiola
Lenden Pendergrass and Heather Loiola

Cars were about the only thing Lenden Pendergrass wasn't running out of the garage of his Fort Lauderdale home from late July 2017 through this February.

Women? Yup. Fentanyl? Check. Cocaine? Two ways, crack and as part of a compound. Heroin? Well, Pendergrass told folks it was heroin, but it was actually a fentanyl and cocaine mixture.

That's why Pendergrass, 54, now has a 24-year lease on a federal prison cell after pleading guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl; possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and crack cocaine; and being a felon unlawfully in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He was sentenced Friday.

Pendergrass' No. 2 in his garage sales operation, 30-year-old Heather Loiola, got four years and nine months after pleading guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and crack cocaine. The prison experience will be a new one for Loiola, who has several arrests and a pending case for possession of cocaine, but only a previous conviction for petit theft.

Pendergrass knows Florida prisons as well as he knows his home in the 1300 block of Northwest 16th Street. He did five prison stints between 1981 and 2008 for burglary; cocaine possession; cocaine possession for manufacture, sale or delivery (twice); and manslaughter via culpable negligence, showing a disregard for human life via reckless actions.

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No homicide charges accompanied the charges in this case, although two deaths got connected to Pendergrass in his admission of facts.

A woman identified as "M.S." bought what she thought was heroin from Pendergrass via Loiola on Dec. 23. She overdosed and died three days later. "M.S.'s death was ruled a possible opioid overdose by a medical examiner, after conducting an external examination of her body and reviewing medical records."

As for the second death, on Jan. 31, Fort Lauderdale police stopped a car driven by one of the prostitutes Pendergrass kept in his garage, according to the criminal complaint.

"During the stop, law enforcement realized that a dead body was in the backseat," Pendergrass' admission of facts said. "Law enforcement learned that the deceased individual was an adult male who had purchased purported heroin that came from Pendergrass' residence."

After his Feb. 23 arrest, Pendergrass tried to deny he sold fentanyl, though the DEA found four ounces of fentanyl that day in his home. Pendergrass told law enforcement he'd just gotten four ounces of heroin the night before and he planned to sell it within the week. Whether heroin or fentanyl, he only had to go as far as his garage to start moving it — he told cops he sold heroin to the women he kept in his house.