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A multi-agency investigation led to the arrests of 11 people in Florida and the seizure of enough fentanyl to kill more than 1.7 million people, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. 

Judd’s office worked with federal, state and local law enforcement to combat two Central Florida drug trafficking rings, known as the Colon-Colon Drug Trafficking Organization and the Espinoza & Romero Central Florida Drug Trafficking Organization.

“We’re fighting a battle that we’ve got to win,” Judd said during a press conference Tuesday. “Fentanyl is killing people by the thousands across this country.”

The operation led to the seizure of 14 kilos of cocaine, 3.5 kilos of bulk fentanyl and fentanyl pills, along with four firearms, a vehicle and $12,985 in U.S. currency, Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) said in a news release.

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All 10 men and one woman arrested are legally in the United States, with most being of Puerto Rican descent, Judd said. Many of them have criminal history backgrounds. 

PCSO said detectives arranged to buy a kilo of cocaine from Pedro “Bemba” Romero in Haines City in November 2023. Romero allegedly took his drug supplier, 44-year-old Maximo Espinosa of Kissimmee, with him to the transaction.

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PCSO Colon-Colon drug trafficking

Investigators discovered Espinosa was operating a drug trafficking organization between the northeast U.S., South Florida, Puerto Rico and Mexico, trafficking cocaine and fentanyl, authorities said. Espinosa had previously been arrested by federal authorities for armed trafficking heroin, according to PCSO.

Additional meetings with numerous suspects occurred over the course of the investigations, which were conducted with the assistance of the State Financial Assistance for Fentanyl Eradication (SAFE) program managed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The Florida Legislature established SAFE program funding last year to combat illegal fentanyl trafficking.

“These drug traffickers are destroying lives, families and communities. These drugs go hand-in-hand with violence and misery in our communities,” Judd said in a statement.

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