Florida Keys

He used to be the county budget director. Now he sells crack, police say

A former Monroe County budget director was jailed Tuesday after police said he sold crack cocaine in March to an undercover informant in a Key West shopping center parking lot.

Salvatore Richard Zappulla, 56, who gave a Stock Island address to the sheriff’s office and said he is a “financial professional,” is accused of twice selling pieces of a crack rock — 0.8 grams total — to the informant. Zappulla was arrested on two charges of selling cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and two charges of using a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony. He remained at the Stock Island Detention Center on Wednesday on $150,000 bond.

The first set-up took place the night of March 13 at Habana Plaza, 3124 Flagler Ave., when the informant planned to meet with a man he knows as “Tony,” who sells cocaine at or near the shopping center, according to the police report.

“Tony” was Zappulla, who agreed to sell $50 worth of crack to the informant, according to police.

Zappulla arrived at the shopping center in a Honda Odyssey van driven by an unidentified man. A woman was in the back with Zappulla. The informant said the woman was the supplier of the cocaine who originally sold the rocks to Zappulla the informant fronted him the money.

Video shows Zappulla giving the unidentified woman the cash from the informant.

“I kept one like you told me,” Zappulla told the informant, according to the arrest warrant.

In a second buy controlled by Key West police, Zappulla met the informant at Wickers Field Sports Complex, 1401 Kennedy Dr., to sell two pieces of crack — “rock-like chips” — police said, for $100, reports state.

Zappulla, who is originally from New York, in 2011 was the chief financial officer of the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District.

In 2012, he was jailed for allegedly hacking into the district’s computer system. A year later, he received 12 months of probation for pleading no contest to one count of felony access to a computer without authority. A few years earlier, Zappulla, then the county budget director, was fired by then-County Administrator Tom Willi.

The firing centered on harshly worded e-mail Zappulla sent on his work computer regarding colleagues. After being fired in October 2007, Zappulla appealed and later received a $147,000 settlement from the county in April 2008.

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.