‘We are coming to get you:’ Florida sheriff’s office dismantles drug trafficking ring

(The Center Square) – A northeastern Florida sheriff warned drug dealers Thursday morning at a drug bust, saying, “if you are going to peddle this poison in our community, we are coming to get you.”

A major drug trafficking ring responsible for dealing fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine in Volusia County in northeast Florida was dismantled Thursday after a series of raids and arrests were made as part of “Operation Wild ‘N’ Out.” After making several arrests, officers seized enough fentanyl to kill at least half a million Floridians.

Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the results of an 8-month multi-jurisdictional investigation that identified more than three dozen suspects. Moody’s office filed charges against 38 members of the drug-trafficking ring that were operating out of Volusia and Putnam counties. Her office is prosecuting the case.

The ringleaders and the majority of the 38 defendants were arrested Thursday “as detectives and agents fanned out across the county with arrest warrants,” Sheriff Chitwood said. “Those remaining will be arrested in the hours and days to come.”

“It takes a team effort to bring down a drug trafficking organization like this, and that’s exactly what we did in this investigation,” he said. “Today we put a bunch of drug dealers in jail and made a major dent in the fentanyl, heroin and meth supply in our community.But we know our work is never done, and we have to pick it right back up tomorrow.”

The trafficking ring was allegedly led by four individuals who distributed illegal narcotics to other dealers throughout the county in Daytona Beach, Port Orange, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Oak Hill, and Deltona, and in Pomona Park in Putnam County.

The Volusia Bureau of Investigation (VBI) led the investigation, working with the East Volusia Narcotics Task Force. More than a dozen law enforcement agencies were involved, including the FBI, DEA, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, ATF, Central Florida HIDTA, several local police departments and narcotics task forces, among others.

“None of these drug dealers in Volusia or anywhere in the state are safe from prosecution,” FDLE Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jason Kriegsman said at the scene of one of the search warrants. He credited “all the members of the task force who are putting their lives on the line every day fighting these battles have been working this case for months and months.” He said the danger they faced wasn’t just dealing with violent criminals but dealing with fentanyl, having to handle it every day and the risk of possibly overdosing and fatal reactions.”

“The message has to be clear,” Sheriff Chitwood said. “If you’re going to peddle that poison in this community, we are coming to get you. Be prepared for what’s next.”

Investigators seized more than a kilogram of fentanyl. During a search warrant raid at a house in Daytona Beach, detectives found 75 grams of fentanyl stored in a baby diaper.

With two milligrams considered a lethal dose, they seized enough to kill at least half a million Floridians.

They also seized more than 19 pounds of methamphetamine, 69 grams of cocaine, and various equipment used to manufacture and package the drugs to sell, the sheriff’s office said.

The four ring leaders were charged with conspiracy to traffic in fentanyl, manufacture of fentanyl, conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, money laundering and unlawful use of a two-way communications device, according to AG Moody’s office.

Volusia County Councilman Matt Reinhart, who was at the scene when search warrants were being executed, said the commitment to taking drugs off of the streets “was personal.”

“When I say its personal, drugs impact every family. Everybody can go back and say how it’s touched their family in one way or another. It touched mine with the loss of my brother due to an overdose just over a year ago,” he said. The people being targeted “are very dangerous individuals that … we want to remove from our streets.”

Sheriff Chitwood’s successful operation came on the heels of a successful nearly year-long operation led by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced in April. In it, they disrupted a Mexican drug trafficking organization operating in several states and seized the largest amount of fentanyl in county history– enough to kill one-third of the state’s population, The Center Square reported.

AG Moody has been leading the charge against crimes she argues are stemming from the “open border policies” of President Joe Biden. She has been working with sheriffs and law enforcement statewide who are busting fentanyl and human trafficking rings after the drugs and people are smuggled across the border and into Florida.