NEW PORT RICHEY — A day after deputies found drugs and guns in the home of two brothers here illegally from Mexico, Pasco County Sheriff Bob White called a news conference where he advocated stricter laws on illegal immigration.
"When we let illegal aliens come into this country and spread their stuff," White said, extending his arm toward a table covered with cocaine, crack and crystal methamphetamine from the $20,000 drug arrest, "then shame on us. Shame on everyone involved."
His comments came amid the national debate over a new Arizona law that is the strictest immigration measure in decades. That law requires police to check the papers of anyone they stop and suspect of being in the country illegally, and gives officers broad powers to detain anyone under those circumstances.
Opponents fear the measure could lead to harassment of Hispanics, regardless of their citizenship status. But White praised the Arizona law, saying it would help law enforcement round up people who are not here legally.
As it is now, White said, "We could talk about the beauty of your country, we could talk about your culture, but I couldn't keep you."
The drug arrests that prompted the news conference happened about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, after someone called 911 saying a home was being broken into at 11422 Fort King Road in Dade City.
Deputies found shattered glass and an open door. They surrounded the home and told those inside to come out.
The two brothers who live there — Ranferi Acuna, 23, and Adan Acuna, 20 — came out. Both are illegal immigrants from Mexico, White said. Neither spoke English.
White said the brothers allowed deputies inside the house, where $20,000 worth of drugs were in plain view, as well as an AK-47 assault rifle, two handguns, an air rifle, ammunition and $6,202 in cash, White said.
The drugs included 309 grams of powder cocaine, 22 grams of crack cocaine and 47 grams of crystal methamphetamine, White said. The drugs were parceled into multiple bags except for the methamphetamine, which was placed on aluminum foil, a report stated.
White said he suspects the Acuna brothers passed through several states in their trek from Mexico to Florida. Had it been on the books sooner, the Arizona law might have detained them, he said.
"They passed a lot of police officers in their journeys," he said.
White mentioned another drug arrest last August out of Dade City. Federal agents and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office spent a year and a half investigating a high-volume cocaine ring and found 52 kilos of cocaine — more than 114 pounds — and $200,000 in cash buried under a shed. The cocaine's street value was $1.5 million — the biggest cocaine haul in Pasco County history. The three suspects in that case were also undocumented immigrants from Mexico, White pointed out.
"There are a number of people coming across our border and a number of them are in the drugs trade," White said.
Ranferi and Adan Acuna were arrested on charges of possession of methamphetamine and two counts of possession of cocaine. Detectives don't know if they had ties to the August drug ring because the brothers are not cooperating with the investigation.
White said the brothers were not the ones who called 911 about the home invasion.
A vice and narcotics detective who wore a ski mask at the news conference, so as not to reveal his identity, said the brothers seemed like they had just woken up when deputies arrived.
"They seemed very surprised," he said. He said he believes the brothers are the only two who lived at the residence.
Both are being held at the Land O'Lakes jail, awaiting referral to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.