85 Arrested After Wiretap Takes Down International Drug Smuggling Ring

Authorities have arrested 85 people and seized $12.8 million worth of drugs after a two-year investigation that ultimately led to the dismantling of an international drug trafficking organization that was operating out of Winter Haven, FL.  


The Investigation 


The Polk County Sheriff’s Office began the investigation in September 2020, around the same time that one of the suspects, Demarcus Terrell Jefferson, crashed his vehicle into a gas station, killing one person inside. While investigating the accident, authorities were told that Jefferson and some of his family members had helped smuggle large amounts of meth through airports in checked luggage.  


Undercover detectives made multiple drug purchases at his home and learned that one of his brothers passed away from a Fentanyl and Xanax overdose at the residence.  


Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said his detectives continued to make undercover drug purchases from dealers in the Winter Haven area and began working with local, state, and federal agencies across the country.  


In February 2022, they began a wiretap investigation to monitor the trafficking ring’s activity.  



Drug Trafficking  


Investigators said that the drug ring smuggled large amounts of illegal drugs from Mexico into Los Angeles and then transported them via domestic flights from Memphis, Tennessee, to Orlando, Florida. The drugs were then smuggled to Polk County by ground.  


On one occasion, they were able to smuggle six suitcases of drugs on a domestic flight from Los Angeles to Orlando. In another, 94 pounds of meth and 48 pounds of cannabis were smuggled into Florida on a flight, according to Sheriff Judd.  


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Warrants & Charges 


Detectives served 14 search warrants in Polk City, Auburndale, Davenport, Lake Wales, Winter Haven, Riverview, and Fresno, California, and seized the following: 


  • 268 pounds of Methamphetamine 
  • 31 pounds of Cocaine 
  • 180 pounds of Cannabis 
  • 3.4 pounds of MDMA (Ecstasy) 
  • 6.8 ounces of Fentanyl  
  • 68 Xanax pills 
  • 173 Oxycodone pills 
  • 49 firearms 
  • 3 non-active grenades 
  • 2 bulletproof vests 
  • 1 stolen motorcycle 
  • $235,000 cash 


The total street value of the drugs seized is more than $12.8 million and the amount of fentanyl seized could have killed up to 96,000 people.  


The sheriff’s office charged the 85 suspects with  

a total of 355 felonies and 93 misdemeanors.  


The criminal histories of those involved include 690 previous felonies, 712 misdemeanors, and 194 felony convictions.  


Officials have issued warrants for three other suspects.  


Drug Trafficking Defense 


If you have been charged with drug trafficking or another drug-related crime, our attorneys at Stechschulte Nell can advise you on your next steps. Our criminal defense attorneys have the experience to speak on your behalf and help mitigate the charges that you face.  


Call us at (813) 280-1244 for a case review. We are available 24/7 to take your call. 


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