27 arrested after major Jacksonville drug bust, JSO says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said a long-term drug investigation took down a major drug distribution ring in Jacksonville consisting of 27 arrests.

Throughout its investigation, JSO seized more than 100 pounds of cocaine, crack, meth, and marijuana. Officers also uncovered 11 rifles and 11 handguns along with about $800,000 in cash.

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“This may be one of the larger ones. But we have had seizures of this size before,” Sheriff Williams said. “With the volume of firearms, the volumes of narcotics seized — this is a significant operation, no doubt about it.”

Sheriff Williams said three key suppliers in Orlando, including Derek Morales, Omar Rodriguez, and Israel Garcia, were shipping up millions of dollars’' worth of cocaine every week from Puerto Rico. That’s where the investigation led to the arrest of Luis Ramos, Elian Ortiz, and Jeancarlo Nieves.

That amount of cocaine was then broken down and sold in Jacksonville, which the Sheriff said served as the hub for a distribution network that stretched as far north as New York and as far west as Colorado.

The Sheriff’s Office also arrested Kevin Marquez, an active-duty sergeant in the Army based in Fort Carson, CO., who was shipping and distributing drugs in Jacksonville.

They now all face trafficking or conspiracy to traffic.

Susan Pitman, the founder of Drug Free Duval (Drug Free Duval), said it’s a major victory.

“If we cut off that supply, then it’s reducing the availability of drugs,” she said. “It’s also devastating to know that kind of drug and that immense amount of drugs was coming into our community.”

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Pittman’s organization works to cut down on addiction with prevention. Most recently they formed a partnership with the Jacksonville Chamber to work with employees to provide resources for recovery and prevention.

The drug bust announced Thursday took down dealers higher up on the network. The Sheriff said the drugs would be further distributed to lower-tier dealers who could then eventually lace them with fentanyl.

“Then it gets to our kids’ schools, to UNF, to Edward Waters, to our companies,” Pitman explained.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, Pitman recommends calling the free LSF hotline at 1-877-229-9098 which operates 24/7.

Pitman also listed several other resources.