Bradenton addictions recovery program CEO arrested on drug charges

Heroin epidemic nearly doubles need for services at Learn to Fish

Sabrina Crain-Sweeney, Learn to Fish executive director/CEO, talks about the faith-based nonprofit.
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Sabrina Crain-Sweeney, Learn to Fish executive director/CEO, talks about the faith-based nonprofit.

The CEO of a local faith-based addictions recovery program recently was arrested on drug charges.

Sabrina Crain Sweeney was arrested May 9 by Bradenton police officers on drug possession charges after she admitted to having marijuana, court records show.

Sweeney is the CEO of the Learn to Fish Recovery program in Bradenton. According to the program’s Facebook page, it is an 18-bed, faith-based nonprofit residential recovery center that allows mothers to live on campus with their children.

In a statement emailed to the Bradenton Herald on Wednesday, Sweeney said that while she is not able to discuss details of the case, she is innocent and more will be revealed.

“While I’m not at liberty to discuss the details of the case, I will say that I am 100% innocent of the charges against me and know in my heart and soul this situation will somehow, ultimately work for the greater good of the sick and suffering in Manatee and Sarasota counties. More will be revealed!” she said.

“This continues to be a very difficult and humbling experience. I’m deeply saddened and sorrowful for any shock, shame or embarrassment this has caused my family, friends, coworkers and LTF affiliates. I am truly grateful for and remain in awe of the overwhelming outpouring of love, support and prayer I’ve received from family, friends, coworkers & members of the community.”

A Learn to Fish representative told the Bradenton Herald that Sweeney is innocent until proven guilty, and had nothing more to add, saying Manatee County Commissioner Misty Servia spoke for Sweeney.

Servia is a board member for Learning to Fish Recovery. The Manatee County Commission is also listed as a supporter on the Learn to Fish website.

“I have known Sabrina nearly my whole life and I know her passion for helping those who struggle with addiction,” Servia said in a text message to the Bradenton Herald. “I have seen first hand the way that her organization has transformed and saved lives. I don’t know the details or context of this charge and encourage everyone to wait for the facts before judging.”

A probable cause affidavit said Sweeney was in the passenger seat of a black Mercedes-Benz sedan that an officer saw back up under a tree around 1:20 a.m. on May 9 in the 800 block of 10th Avenue West. Two men walked up to the vehicle after its lights turned off, behavior that is “conducive to the sale of elicit narcotics,” police wrote in the affidavit.

The officer also noted the area is known to be a “high drug area.”

When an officer asked the driver and Sweeney, who was listed as the vehicle’s registered owner, if they had any contraband, Sweeney answered there was “just this marijuana” and handed the officer a small bag from her pocket, the affidavit stated.

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Sweeney told the officer it was legal and she had a medical marijuana card, but she could not find it at the time, according to the affidavit.

The officer searched the vehicle and found three small baggies with prescription medications inside on a blanket in the backseat, the affidavit said. Some of the pills we found in halves. A vape pen that Sweeney said was hers tested positive for THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, and was found in the front passenger seat, police said.

A blue pipe was also found in the vehicle but was new and did not have residue on it to test, according to the affidavit.

Neither Sweeney nor the driver had medication bottles with them and denied possession of the pills or knowing they were in the car, according to the affidavit.

Sabrina Crain-Sweeney is the executive director and CEO of Learn to Fish, a faith-based nonprofit focused on residential recovery center for women and children in Bradenton. Bradenton Herald file photo

Sweeney faces charges of possession of marijuana not more than 20 grams, possession with intent to sell a legal drug without a valid prescription, possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to sell a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

She was released from the Manatee County jail on May 10, records show. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for June 7.

“I have dedicated the past 13 years of my life to loving and working in the trenches, directly on the front lines, with members of our community who suffer from the disease of addiction and emotional illness. With the exception of my children, the work we’ve done through LTF has been the greatest joy of my life. The LTF program has assisted literally hundreds of women and children in Manatee and Sarasota County to fully recover from horrible abuse & dysfunction. God willing, this coming (June 10), I will celebrate 15 years of continuous recovery. Teaching others about the gift of Recovery and freedom from the hell of active addiction has been the driving force behind the work I do. It is my passion,” Sweeney said.

The driver of the vehicle, identified by police as 39-year-old Adam Gomez, of Sarasota, was also arrested on similar charges as well as driving with a suspended or revoked license. Gomez pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday, court records show.

Manatee County conveyed the house and property that is currently used as the recovery center to the nonprofit in 2012, according to Bradenton Herald archives.

Bradenton Herald reporter Ryan Callihan contributed to this report.