Investigators on Tuesday shut down an illegal family business in Spring Hill and seized 150 pounds of marijuana, thousands of dollars and a cache of guns and ammunition.
Three members of the Boschen family and one of the alleged buyers were arrested after a two-month investigation by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
It was one of the most ingenious and elaborate drug-trafficking schemes in Hernando's history, Sheriff Thomas Mylander said Wednesday. One investigator said the family made at least $200,000 a year and perhaps twice as much.
"It was a high-class operation, very professional," Mylander said. "They certainly knew what they were doing."
During the past two years, investigators allege, the family made at least 30 trips to Texas to buy hundreds of pounds of marijuana for distribution in Hernando, Pasco and Citrus counties.
The Boschens flew first-class from Tampa to San Antonio and bought sturdy new American Tourister luggage, investigators said.
They wrapped packages of marijuana in brown garbage bags, then disguised the heavy bundles in festive gift-wrap. The faux presents then allegedly were packed into suitcases.
The marijuana scent was disguised by Maxwell House coffee and sweet-smelling fabric softener sheets, investigators say.
To avoid customs officials and drug-sniffing dogs at airports, the Boschens allegedly returned to Hernando County by Greyhound bus.
In August, the Sheriff's Office got a tip about the operation. Narcotics investigators tapped the Boschens' telephone and monitored calls around theclock for several weeks. Four detectives followed the family on at least one trip.
Those arrested as of Wednesday were:
Raymond Fred Boschen, 44, who lived with his wife and daughter at 1610 Fayetteville Drive, Spring Hill. He was charged with marijuana trafficking, conspiracy to traffic, and possession with intent to sell. He was being held in the Hernando County Jail in lieu of $80,000 bail.
Barbara Jean Boschen, 42, Boschen's wife. She was charged with trafficking and conspiracy to traffic. Her bail was set at $80,000.
Sharlett Lee Boschen, 19, Boschen's daughter. She was charged with trafficking. Her bail was set at $50,000.
Sonny Keith Trammell, 25, of 15937 Winner Lane, Hudson. He was charged with possession with intent to sell, and his bail was set at $5,000.
Detectives arrested Trammell as he was leaving the Boschens' home, records show. Investigators say he had just purchased 2 pounds of marijuana that authorities said he probably would have sold on the street.
Mylander said other arrests are forthcoming, probably based on information gathered from the Boschens and Trammell.
"We're going after everyone we can," the sheriff said. "If there's a demand for (marijuana), there's going to be suppliers."
The marijuana seized Tuesday from suitcases and a refrigerator in the Boschens' home had a street value of about $223,000, detectives said. Police also seized seven guns, two of which were fully automatic. One of the weapons, a loaded Glock 10mm pistol, was found under a mattress, Mylander said.
After his arrest, Boschen told detectives he has been trafficking drugs for 25 years, said Sgt. Frank Bierwiler, sheriff's spokesman.
Fifteen years ago, according to records, Boschen and his wife were arrested in Karachi, Pakistan, for possession of 45 kilograms of hashish. A year later, Boschen was arrested on similar charges in High Gate Springs, Vt. In 1989, he was charged with having 14 pounds of marijuana in Jefferson County, La.
The disposition of those cases could not be determined Wednesday. Boschen may face illegal weapons charges because of the automatic guns found in his home.
Other agencies involved in the investigation were the FBI, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, Texas authorities, the state attorney's office, and Florida's statewide prosecution office.