$50M worth of meth seized in multi-state bust in ‘Operation Dirty Water’, Florida sheriff says

National News

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) — Federal and local law enforcement officials have arrested six people in connection to a drug trafficking operation with Mexican drug cartel ties, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

During a press conference Thursday morning, Judd said earlier this year the Polk County Sheriff’s Office High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations started a joint investigation of the drug trafficking organization with ties to the Juarez Mexican Drug Cartel. The primary drug trafficking broker worked from a federal prison in Georgia, he said.

According to Judd, the investigation began on Jan. 14 when a package shipped from Quebec, Canada, containing roughly 2,500 Xanax pills was found by investigators. Polk County undercover detectives conducted a controlled delivery in Winter Haven, Florida, and arrested 37-year-old Amber Cayson, deputies say.

Amber Cayson – Polk County Sheriff’s Office

According to the sheriff’s office, 24 pounds of THC edibles, 2.4 pounds of marijuana and a pound of methamphetamine were found at the Winter Haven home.

As the investigation continued, deputies say Polk detectives learned of a suspected drug trafficker in Georgia, later identified as 37-year-old Brian Stanton (known as “Lil B”) who was arranging the sale and delivery of methamphetamine in Polk County. Stanton is currently in the United States Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.

Brian Stanton – Polk County Sheriff’s Office

While inside the federal prison, the sheriff’s office said Stanton coordinated and arranged with undercover detectives the purchase and delivery of around 26 pounds of meth from Georgia to Polk County.

Deputies say 43-year-old Jennifer Meers of Stone Mountain, Georgia, delivered a suitcase with 12 large clear storage bags containing 26 pounds of meth to an undercover detective at a hotel in Lakeland. After the alleged delivery, Meers, who is on federal probation for drug trafficking, left the hotel and returned to Georgia.

Six days later, on March 16, Stanton still from within federal prison, arranged for another 35 pounds of meth to be delivered by Meers to PCSO undercover detectives, deputies say.

According to Judd, on March 30, members of Homeland Security and Polk County undercover detectives arranged to pick up the drugs from inside Meers’ truck near her place of employment in Atlanta. Inside Meers’ truck, they found luggage with 16 vacuum-sealed bags containing approximately 35 pounds of meth.

Deputies say Meers was arrested on a Polk County Sheriff’s Office warrant by the Sandy Springs, Georgia Police Department during a traffic stop. Georgia police say Meers told detectives that Stanton coordinated the meth delivery and that he pays her $500 for every kilo (2.2 pounds) of meth she delivers.

Her arrest led investigators to the location of three meth conversion labs in Georgia, according to PCSO. Homeland Security agents and Georgia law enforcement officials served search warrants at 8 locations in Georgia, arrested three people and seized 1,416 pounds of crystalized and liquid meth, deputies say.

During their search of one of the illegal conversion labs in Georgia, Homeland Security agents and Georgia law enforcement officials found and dismantled an illegal rooster fighting ring, which belonged to 59-year-old Isidoro Palacios.

Isidoro Palacio – Polk County Sheriff’s Office

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security agents have associated this illegal drug trafficking organization with the Juarez Mexican Cartel, a brutally violent cartel known for its targeted executions and violence.

“Some people still call this low-level, non-violent drugs. These drug dealers have blood on their hands. They make money off the misery of others. They use violence as a means to enforce their trafficking business,” Sheriff Judd said. “We seized 20 firearms during this investigation, including rifles, shotguns, handguns, and three stolen guns. Methamphetamine destroys lives, degrades communities, and ruins families. Through our partnership with Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies in Florida and Georgia, our detectives took a huge amount of meth off the street and shut down an active drug trafficker operating out of a federal prison.”

Throughout the investigation, local and federal law enforcement officials found and seized:

  • 20 firearms (3 were reported as stolen)
  • 5 vehicles (1 was reported as a stolen vehicle)
  • Approximately 1500 pounds of meth (street value: approximately $53.8 million)
  • Approximately 24.8 pounds of THC edibles (street value: approximately $8,480)
  • Approximately 2.4 pounds of marijuana (street value: approximately $7,000)
  • Approximately 2,500 Xanax pills (street value: approximately $25,000)

All of the items seized came to a street value total of $53,854,640.

Additionally, five suspects were arrested and one federal inmate was charged.

Those arrested on Polk County charges include:

  • Amber Cayson (37)
    • She is charged with:
      • Trafficking in methamphetamine
      • Possession of a structure for drug trafficking
      • Possession of Xanax with intent to sell
      • Possession of marijuana with intent to sell
      • Possession of marijuana over 20 grams
      • Possession of marijuana resin (edibles)
      • Possession of drug paraphernalia
    • She is currently in the Polk County Jail with no bond. Deputies say was incarcerated in state prison in 2006, and her previous criminal history includes 16 felonies and 31 misdemeanors, including charges of petit theft, forgery, fraud, possession of methamphetamine, possession of Xanax possession of marijuana, driving with a suspended license, and multiple probation violations.
  • Jennifer Meers (43)
    • She is charged with:
      • Conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine
      • Trafficking in methamphetamine
      • Possessing a vehicle for drug trafficking
      • Unlawful use of a two-way communication device
      • Possession of drug paraphernalia
    • She is currently in the Polk County Jail with no bond. Deputies say her previous criminal history includes 22 arrests in Georgia, including charges of drug trafficking, possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, DUI, battery, theft, fraud, giving a false name to a law enforcement officer, and multiple probation violations.
  • Brian Stanton (37)
    • He is charged with:
      • Conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine
      • Trafficking in methamphetamine
      • Unlawful use of a two-way communication device
    • He is still in the Atlanta US Penitentiary. His criminal history includes 26 arrests in Georgia, including charges of trafficking in methamphetamine, conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, threatening a law enforcement officer, furnishing alcohol to a minor, and numerous parole and probation violations.

Other related arrests include:

  • Crescencio Ornelas-Loza (30)
    • He was arrested by the Henry County Police Department. He is in the United States illegally. He is charged with theft by receiving stolen property. His criminal history includes four arrests in Georgia: three for driving without a valid license and one charge for theft by receiving stolen property.
  • Luis Ornelas-Martinez (50)
    • He was arrested by Homeland Security agents and the Henry County Police Department at his home in Stockbridge, Georgia. He is in the United States illegally and is charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and possession of a firearm while in the commission of a felony. His criminal history includes two arrests in Georgia with charges of trafficking in cocaine, illegal drug possession, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and driving without a valid license.
  • Isidoro Palacios (59)
    • He was arrested at a methamphetamine lab in College Park, Georgia. Homeland security agents and South Fulton County Police Department arrested him and seized 77 pounds of methamphetamine, a stolen vehicle, and a stolen shotgun. He is charged with trafficking methamphetamine, theft by receiving stolen property, and animal cruelty (stemming from the illegal rooster fighting ring). He is currently in Fulton County Jail with a $100,000 bond. His criminal history includes 11 arrests in Georgia to include charges of DUI, trafficking in methamphetamine, willful obstruction of law enforcement, and driving without a license. He has also been arrested in Florida three times for driving without a license.

Below are all of the participating law enforcement agencies in the drug trafficking organization investigation:

  • Polk County Sheriff’s Office (FL)
  • State Attorney’s Office 10th Judicial Circuit (FL)
  • Department of Homeland Security Investigations – Atlanta
  • Department of Homeland Security Investigations – Tampa
  • Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • US Customs and Border Protection – New York
  • US Border Patrol
  • Banks County Sheriff’s Office (GA)
  • Fayetteville Police Department (GA)
  • Forest Park Police Department (GA)
  • Haines City Police Department (FL)
  • Henry County Police Department (GA)
  • Sandy Springs Police Department (GA)
  • Snellville Police Department (GA)
  • South Fulton County Police Department (GA)
  • Sumter County Sheriff’s Office (FL)

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