A two-year undercover drug smuggling operation uncovered drug dealers smuggling methamphetamine from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in California to other airports in Florida, simply by hiding it in luggage.
In a news release Friday, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida said 85 people had been arrested and more than $12 million worth of illegal drugs had been seized as a result of the undercover operation.
Friday’s announcement comes about two years after the undercover investigation was launched in September 2020 after detectives executed a search warrant at a residence in Winter Haven, Florida, and recovered a pound of methamphetamine.
“From this point on, detectives continued to purchase undercover narcotics from dealers in the Winter Haven area and learned that large quantities of methamphetamine had been smuggled from California to Florida in checked baggage on domestic flights,” the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Press release.
At a Friday press conference, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd spoke about uncovering drug smuggling at airports and said smugglers “didn’t even throw a pair of pennies -clothes in the suitcase to act like they’re hiding the drugs.”
“Do you think LAX has a problem with dealing drugs at the airport? I believe that is the case, and they need to fix it ASAP,” Judd said. “There has to be a deep dive into the baggage handlers, and to see where the hookup was, to allow suitcase after suitcase after suitcase to pass the scan with no clothes inside, no evidence of clothes inside, just drug.”
Besides uncovering drug trafficking at the airport, the sting operation also resulted in dozens of arrests. A total of 85 people have been arrested and are currently facing 355 felony charges and 93 misdemeanor charges.
One of those found smuggling drugs through airports has been identified as 32-year-old Demarcus Terrell Jefferson.
“Detectives received information that Demarcus and other family members were involved in smuggling large amounts of methamphetamine through airlines in checked baggage on domestic flights from California. Detectives conducted several undercover drug purchases at his home,” the press release read. “During the investigation, detectives also learned that one of Demarcus’ brothers, Devontae, died of an overdose of Fentanyl and Xanax at this same home on March 24, 2020. Drugs continued to be sold by family members after his death.”
The $12.8 million in drugs seized included 268 pounds of methamphetamine, 31 pounds of cocaine, 128 pounds of marijuana, 3.4 pounds of MDMA (ecstasy), 6.8 ounces of fentanyl, 68 Xanax pills and 173 pills of Oxycodone. Additionally, police also recovered 49 firearms, three non-active grenades, two body armor and a stolen motorcycle.
Newsweek was directed to the press conference after contacting the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for comment.