Not just the Martinis: Patrons at two more Mercato restaurants report they were drugged

Video from NBC-2

If you are drinking alcohol at a restaurant or bar, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office wants you to be sure to do it responsibly. In order to ensure public safety, the Sheriff’s Office strongly recommends the following tips:

■ Always keep an eye on your drink

■ Never leave your drink unattended

■ Watch the bartender prepare your drink

■ Never accept drinks from strangers

■ Avoid sharing other people’s drinks

■ Discard unattended drinks

■ Prefer unopened bottled drinks or cans over drinks in glasses

■ Look for obvious signs of tampering. Signs include a drink being moved from where you left it, odd bubbling or fizzing, a different color or odor, floaters of any kind, empty medicinal packets next to the glass or on the floor and more or less liquid than you remember.

■ Cease drinking anything that has an unusual taste or appearance.

■ If you are out and suspect your drink has been drugged, call 911.

Blue Martini

9114 Strada Place, Naples, FL

— As investigators with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office continue to explore accusations from nearly 50 people who believe they were drugged at the Blue Martini in North Naples, the agency released reports on Thursday from two customers who believe they were drugged at two more restaurants in the same shopping center.

“I have to take it seriously, because if I don’t and there is something to it, then I failed in my duties,” Collier Chief of Investigations Jim Williams said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to prove a negative. If it’s not happening, I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to prove that.”

North Naples resident Barbara Sales, 57, told investigators that on Dec. 29, she was at the Piola, an Italian chain at 9118 Strada Place, in the Mercato shopping center. Sales was only at the restaurant for about a half hour when she reported feeling dazed and not being able to speak, according to an incident report.

In a report filed on March 17, Sales told investigators that she believed she was drugged. Attempts to reach her for comment were unsuccessful.

Also on March 17, Louanne Delgado, 56, of Golden Gate Estates filed a report with the Sheriff’s Office saying she believed someone put something in her drink the night before at McCormick & Schmicks Seafood Restaurant, 9114 Strada Place, also in the Mercato.

Delgado said she went to McCormick & Schimicks with a friend around 5:30 p.m. for drinks and an appetizer.

After finishing a vodka martini, Delgado said she ordered a second, but it tasted bitter. She sent it back twice, and then started feeling light-headed and having difficulty walking. Delgado said she doesn’t remember driving home, and fell inside her house.

“For this X number of people to come forward, this is not a hoax,” Delgado said. “This is actually happening, and nobody is believing us.”

When reached on the telephone, managers at Piola and McCormick & Schmicks declined comment.

About 50 people have now come forward to report that they believe they were drugged while dining at Mercato restaurants, most of them after the Daily News published a story on March 4 about the accusations at Blue Martini.

Although details of the Sheriff’s Offices investigation remain cloudy, the agency reported Thursday that it is interviewing Blue Martini employees, and in February began submitting samples of Blue Martini drinks for testing by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“They’re in the process of working on them,” Williams said.

Three people who later filed reports with the Sheriff’s Office went to the emergency room after leaving Blue Martini. Toxicology tests performed at the hospital were negative and their blood alcohol levels ranged from .16 to .219, more than twice the legal limit of .08 for a driver in Florida.

Drugging a drink is a first-degree felony in Florida under the state’s Anti-Tampering Act, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

People continue to file reports with the Sheriff’s Office.

Williams warned people about drawing any unwarranted conclusions.

“We have not come up with any forensic evidence to indicate the presence of drugs in any drinks to date,” he said.

Customers who believe they may have been drugged at a Collier County bar or restaurant are asked to report it to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 252-9300. Blue Martini has established a hotline for concerned customers and community members at (239) 206-1987

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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