TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Florida Department of Law Enforcement held a press conference on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, to announce the arrest of 27 individuals in "Operation No Warning," a 10-month, multi-agency drug-trafficking investigation in North Florida.
FDLE said it began the case in June 2020, leading to agents spending 12,000 working hours on this drug investigation to identify and research each of the 27 suspects.
"This case, like most drug cases, has an element of violence," said Rick Swearingen, the head of FDLE. "Between [the 27 suspects] they have 73 prior drug arrests, some of them have previously been indicted in federal drug cases. They have 67 violent crime arrests and between them, they have 175 previous felonies."
Swearingen says these drug traffickers are a direct link to the increase of violent crimes in Leon and Gadsden County's and many community members are unaware of the drug use and violence taking place around them.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said during the operation, enough fentanyl was found to kill 30,000 people.
“They suck the life and vitality out of communities," said Moody. "These drug trafficking rings only bring destruction, violence, pain to communities.”
Special Agent Perez said the investigation resulted in the identification of several organizations, taking down one of the largest networks of drug traffickers in North Florida in recent history.
Perez said although FDLE initiated the investigation with AG Moody's office, they knew the operation would not have been as successful without the collaboration of Leon County Sheriff's Office, Gadsden County Sheriff's Office, Florida Highway Patrol, Tallahassee Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, and the Second Judicial Circuit.
According to FDLE, most of the suspects are gang members with violent histories and one of the main targets was murdered in Gadsden County during the investigation.
Both GCSO and TPD are working to pull data to see just how many shootings were a direct link to the drugs. Being a federal case, they don’t have complete access to all information.
Operation No Warning began in June 2020. Investigators say the drug-trafficking organization was responsible for spreading large amounts of illegal drugs including cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, molly and marijuana throughout Florida, but predominantly in Leon and Gadsden counties. The organization also operated in Georgia, Texas and California.
During the investigation agents seized:
- nearly 30 pounds of cocaine,
- a half-pound of methamphetamine,
- more than one pound of brown heroin,
- three ounces of black tar heroin,
- over two ounces of fentanyl,
- more than $330,000,
- nine firearms, and
- three stolen vehicles.