Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement Conduct Major Sweep of Alleged Drug Traffickers in Fort Myers, Florida
Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Miami Field Division, U.S. Attorney Paul I. Perez, Middle District of Florida, Chief Hilton Daniels, Fort Myers Police Department, Stephen B. Russell, State Attorney 20th Judicial Circuit, and Captain Eddie Johnson, District Commander, Florida Highway Patrol, announced that 86 individuals were charged with various drug offenses, 30 of whom have been indicted federally and 47 of whom have been charged by state authorities. On August 18, 2005, more than 150 law enforcement officers throughout Fort Myers began arresting these individuals.
A federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida on August 17, 2005, indicted 23 individuals in a single indictment charging them with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of cocaine base. Another 16 individuals were charged with cocaine distribution related charges in separate indictments, five were charged on August 4, and 11 were charged on August 17. These defendants face penalties that range from a minimum mandatory of ten years' imprisonment up to life imprisonment. The indictments remained sealed until search warrants were executed August 18th.
The defendants facing state violations were charged over the last eight months. These federal and state charges are the culmination of an investigation known as "Operation Dunbar," which began in July 2004. The goal of Operation Dunbar was to investigate and dismantle a drug organization responsible for bringing drugs from the Miami area to Fort Myers and distributing the drugs in the Dunbar area of Fort Myers.
A number of undercover operations and other intelligence gathering techniques led to the identification of upper and mid-level individuals in the organization allegedly involved in the distribution of cocaine.
The Dunbar area is one of eleven Weed & Seed sites throughout the Middle District of Florida. Weed & Seed is a U.S. Department of Justice sponsored comprehensive strategy designed to combat drug activity and violent crime within specific neighborhoods. Along with enforcement of these crimes, the Weed & Seed strategy simultaneously works with social services, prevention and economic development entities to "seed" the areas with new opportunities for its residents. The purpose is to "weed out" criminal activity and negative activity, while "seeding" the community with opportunity and hope.
In addition, the DEA Miami Field Division Mobile Enforcement Team (MET) deployed in the Fort Myers area in May and June 2005. The MET group is based in Miami and travels throughout Florida assisting state and local law enforcement agencies in fighting the street level drug problem. Eleven of the defendants sought on federal charges and 16 of the defendants sought on state drug charges were targeted by the MET Team. Earlier this year, eleven defendants were arrested as a result of a MET deployment, two of whom have pled guilty to federal charges.
This case was initiated by the Fort Myers Police Department, in conjunction with the DEA Miami Field Division, and was investigated by the State Attorney's Office 20th Judicial Circuit, and the Florida Highway Patrol. Other law enforcement agencies assisting included the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Lee County Sheriff's Office, Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, Collier County Sheriff's Office and the Cape Coral Police Department.