700+ pounds of cocaine seized in huge Central Florida drug trafficking bust
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Federal and state officials said more than 339 kilos – or 700 pounds of cocaine – was seized – and 35 people arrested – in an international drug trafficking ring that shipped and distributed the drugs in Central Florida, and along the U.S. Eastern Coast.
MBI Director Ron Stucker described the bust as "one of the largest cocaine trafficking operations we've seen in Central Florida in three decades."
"The members of this organization are accused of trafficking hundreds of kilos of cocaine into and through Central Florida," he told reporters during a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
He said the alleged drug trafficking ring used the U.S. Postal Service and other private carriers to ship cocaine from Puerto Rico to Central Florida, and then distribute it here and up the Eastern Coast, including Maine and New Jersey.
Officials also seized 25 guns and fentanyl, a highly potent --and deadly – synthetic opioid.
A total of 35 people were arrested and face a variety of charges, including racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, trafficking in cocaine, and trafficking in Fentanyl, among others. Officials said additional charges were pending the results of lab tests.
Officials said three men – Xavier Ramos Rosado, Carlos Miguel Velez Olivencia, and Michael Gonzalez Mendez – were the lead directors of the alleged drug operation.
Director Stucker said 2022 marked the third-largest amount of cocaine that MBI had seized in its history. Before that, the top years were in 1991 and 1992 during the crack cocaine epidemic, he said.
"The amount of cocaine coming into Central Florida over the last couple years has actually driven down the price of bulk cocaine by approximately one third," he said. One defendant allegedly mixed the powdered cocaine with horse tranquilizer to increase its volume, Stucker said.
The investigation was done by the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. DEA, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.