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24 Arrested in Massive Drug Cartel Sting, 50 lbs. of Fentanyl Taken off the Street

TAMPA - FDLE agents arrested 24 SUR 13 gang members charged with various crimes including conspiracy to commit murder, directing the activities of a criminal gang, conspiracy to commit aggravated battery upon a prison inmate, racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and trafficking in numerous controlled substances including fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and morphine. Hendry County Sheriff's Office, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI and Attorney General Ashley Moody's Office of Statewide Prosecution partnered with FDLE on this case.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, "This complex, multiagency investigation led to the dismantling of a massive fentanyl trafficking ring with connections to the Mexican drug cartels. I have no doubt that the actions taken by the brave law enforcement officers involved in investigating and executing this operation saved lives, and now my Statewide Prosecutors will make sure all 25 defendants face justice for their role in trafficking massive amounts of deadly fentanyl."

FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass said, "These suspects were arrested on a combined 64 first degree felony counts. The violence was often used to protect and further their large drug trafficking operation in southwest Florida. Investigators seized nearly 50 pounds of fentanyl, thousands of fentanyl pills and hundreds of pounds of methamphetamines. There is no question that lives have been saved in Florida because of this case."

Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden said, "We may be a smaller agency in comparison to some, but we have a staff that I will stand next to any large agency and be confident in their abilities. My narcotics unit is exceptionally adept at targeting major drug traffickers. When you couple that with the assistance of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of Attorney General Ashley Moody, we become a powerful force in combating drug dealers as witnessed in this operation that began in Hendry County. The criminal element needs to understand; if they set up in Hendry County, we will find them and eliminate them."

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa Special Agent in Charge John Condon said, "Transnational gang activity involving violence and the smuggling of dangerous narcotics such as fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamines, is a terminal societal disease that turns American streets into war zones. It destroys the fabric of law and order if left unchecked. Gang violence endangers communities across the nation and cannot be tolerated. Alongside our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, we will not sit idly by or turn a blind eye to the atrocities these bullies perpetrate in our communities, putting innocent citizens in the cross fire."

FBI Tampa Division Special Agent in Charge David Walker said, "This investigation highlights the multi-agency teamwork that is necessary to dismantle violent gangs preying on our communities. Our communities are safer today as a result of the hard work and commitment by state, local, and federal law enforcement to protect and serve."

FDC Secretary Ricky Dixon said, "These arrests underscore the dangers of cell phones in prison. Cell phones, like the ones used in this operation, open the door to a multitude of criminal enterprises and compromise the safety of our communities and our facilities. FDC has thousands of dedicated professional employees committed to disrupting these criminal networks and working collaboratively with law enforcement to protect Floridians."

The two-year investigation started after FDLE agents began receiving information on SUR 13 gang activity and drug trafficking in southwest Florida. Agents discovered a complex criminal network responsible for trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs and weapons across Florida and beyond. In addition, gang members were committing violent crimes to enforce the gang's stronghold in the state.

The investigation identified the leader of the Florida gang as Carlos Martinez, a Florida prison inmate. From inside prison, Martinez and his co-conspirators, gave instructions to other gang members who were able to move large shipments of narcotics across the United States to be distributed in Florida. Over the course of the investigation, FDLE agents, Hendry County Sheriff's deputies, HSI and FBI agents seized large shipments of drugs and weapons including:

380 + pounds of methamphetamine drugs

48 pounds of fentanyl

15,000 fentanyl pills

1 pound of heroin

½ pound of morphine

45 guns

$150,000 of US Currency

One gang member is still at large, Efren Berumen, 39, of Kissimmee. Officials say, if anyone has information on the whereabouts of Berumen, please contact FDLE Ft. Myers at 800-407-4880.

Additional agencies assisting FDLE in this investigation include the Ft. Myers and Wauchula police departments, Lee, Highlands, Polk and Hardee County sheriff's offices and the Florida Department of Corrections. Attorney General Ashley Moody's Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute this case.

The SUR 13 gang, also known as Surenos, began as a prison gang in Southern California and has grown into an international criminal organization with members operating both inside and outside of prison.

 

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