Florida sheriff’s office seizes largest amount of fentanyl in county history

(The Center Square) – The Polk County Sheriff’s Office in one operation disrupted a Mexican drug trafficking organization operating in several states. In the process, deputies seized the largest amount of fentanyl in county history of 14 kilograms, or 30.86 pounds – enough to kill one-third of the state’s population.

Two of the four individuals arrested were in the country illegally, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

“Fentanyl is the drug that is coming from Mexico through an open border … and it’s killing people all over the United States,” Judd said at a news conference. “It seems like every time I talk about a fentanyl operation, I’m saying it’s the largest fentanyl seizure in the state of Florida. Once again, that’s what I’m saying. The seizure of 14 kilos of fentanyl is the single largest seizure in the history of Polk County.”

The two criminal aliens they arrested, Judd said, “didn’t come here to better themselves and their family. They came here illegally to kill people in America with a deadly drug through a porous border that we need to seal off.”

“What’s frightening about this,” he said, is “the drugs we seized were enough to kill every man, woman and child” in 14 counties. Since January 2023, his deputies alone have seized enough fentanyl to kill everyone in Florida, he said. They’ve also saved 23 people’s lives from fentanyl poisoning using Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses if administered quickly enough.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said the record amount of fentanyl seized in Polk County, “enough to kill a third of our state,” originated from the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico. “How does that happen? It happens because our border is wide open,” she said.

“Since 2021, since [President Joe] Biden took office, over 10 million people have poured into this country,” she said, citing the record numbers reported by The Center Square. In the first six months of fiscal 2024, more than 1.7 million illegally entered, the greatest number in U.S. history.

“As long as the border is wide open, we will continue to see those that crossed over illegally pouring deadly drugs into our state,” Moody said.

She also said Florida law enforcement officers and prosecutors were “being very aggressive to take down the poison peddlers.” The Florida legislature has also ensured law enforcement officers and first responders are fully funded and residents who have substance abuse issues are provided with a range of resources.

The sheriff’s operation began in August 2023 when members of a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force began investigating a Mexican drug trafficking organization specializing in fentanyl. The task force also worked with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Border Patrol, and the State Attorney’s Office 10th Judicial Circuit.

In the early stages of the investigation, Polk County Sheriff’s detectives working undercover received two kilograms of fentanyl from a drug trafficker in Mexico. They later coordinated a delivery to be made in person this month at a motel in Lakeland, where they received one kilogram. They then arranged for a third delivery, with the trafficking organization agreeing to ship 11 more kilograms of fentanyl to Polk County.

On April 22, 2024, four individuals arrived at a predetermined location in Polk County to deliver the 11 kilos and were met by Judd’s team. All four were arrested: Maria Machuca-Alderete, Maria Guadalupe-Garcia, Sergio Garcia, and Pedro Rodriguez-Correa. A fifth individual believed to be working with them is wanted and at large.

Garcia, a U.S. Army veteran, brought the drugs from California to Florida, which came from Sinaloa, Mexico. His wife, Guadalupe-Garcia, said they were paid $42,500 to drive the drugs to Florida, Judd said.

Rodriguez-Correa, who was in the country illegally, drove the alleged four fentanyl traffickers and brought with them a 6-year-old boy to the delivery. Florida Department of Children & Families was called and took custody of him.

The detectives also seized two vehicles used by the drug traffickers, and $5,461 in cash, according to the sheriff’s office.