Tampa, Florida –United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that a federal jury has found Robert Lee Ward (53, Fort Myers) guilty of conspiracy to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine and of tampering with an informant by killing. Ward faces a mandatory penalty of life in federal prison. His sentencing hearing has not yet been set. Ward had been indicted on November 27, 2018.
According to evidence and testimony presented at trial, Ward was the leader of a drug trafficking organization in Fort Myers that distributed cocaine in Fort Myers and other locations for more than a decade until Ward’s arrest in 2018. Ward and his co-conspirators routinely purchased kilograms of cocaine from Ward’s supplier in Miami and distributed the drugs in Fort Myers and Panama City. Federal investigators used confidential informants (CIs) to make multiple purchases of cocaine from Ward’s co-conspirators. A CI who had purchased cocaine from Ward was relocated by investigators after they learned of a threat against the CI’s life.
In 2012, the FBI obtained the assistance of Kristopher Smith, a member of Ward’s organization, who agreed to cooperate in the investigation against Ward. After learning about Smith’s cooperation with investigators, Ward solicited James Broomfield to kill Smith. Broomfield agreed to kill Smith in exchange for $30,000. Ward provided Broomfield with a loaded firearm and told him where to locate Smith. On January 7, 2013, Broomfield and another individual followed Smith and his girlfriend as they drove to their son’s school in Fort Myers. Smith remained in the vehicle while his girlfriend entered the school to deliver lunch to their son, who attended first grade at the school. Broomfield and his accomplice parked their vehicle behind the CI’s car and Broomfield ran up to the car and shot Smith several times, killing him.
In February 2014, investigators obtained a search warrant for a storage unit in Tampa that Ward had rented. Investigators seized more than $200,000 in cash hidden inside the storage unit.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Myers Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Panama City Police Department, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, and the Tampa Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Sinacore and Candace Rich.
This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at www.justice.gov/OCDETF.