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Polk Sheriff’s Office charges 32 suspects in drug trafficking investigation

The task force filed 301 felony charges after a 16-month undercover investigation.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announces charges against 32 suspects after a 16-month drug trafficking investigation in the Lake Wales area.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announces charges against 32 suspects after a 16-month drug trafficking investigation in the Lake Wales area. [ REBECCA LEE / THE LEDGER | The Ledger ]
Published Jul. 23

LAKELAND – A 16-month investigation has resulted in the arrests dozens of suspects in the Lake Wales area on charges related to drug trafficking, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

PCSO narcotics detectives and members of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force arrested 29 people in the investigation, and arrest warrants were issued for three others who are still at large.

In all, detectives seized:

• Eleven firearms.

• Approximately 22.4 pounds of marijuana.

• Approximately 4.3 pounds of methamphetamine.

• Approximately 1.7 pounds of cocaine.

• Approximately 36.3 grams of Ecstasy.

• Approximately 32 bags of THC candy.

• Approximately 2.5 grams of heroin.

• Approximately five grams of oxycodone.

“It amazes me that some people still think drug traffickers are somehow low-level, non-violent criminals. In this instance, eleven guns were in the hands of these felons – two of which were stolen. Illegal drugs ruin lives, destroy families, drive up property crime, and wreck neighborhoods,” Sheriff Grady Judd said in a press release.

Operation: Bell Gang Blues (July 22, 2021)

Sheriff Grady Judd is speaking to the media in regards to Operation: Bell Gang Blues, a drug trafficking investigation in Lake Wales that netted 29 suspects, and arrest warrants for three others. Click here to read the news release: https://tinyurl.com/n6af24r4

Posted by Polk County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, July 22, 2021

During the investigation, agents executed search warrants at eight locations in southeast Polk County — seven in the Lake Wales area and one in Frostproof.

“The criminals don’t follow any kind of jurisdiction,” Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez said at a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Sheriff’s Operations Center in Winter Haven. “They don’t stay within boundaries and by us partnering and working together as a team, we did the same thing. So, wherever they’d like to go, I can guarantee you that we’ll follow them.”

The Sheriff’s Office said the task force filed 301 felony and 134 misdemeanor charges against the suspects.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office displays some of the items seized during a joint task force's 16-month drug trafficking investigation.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office displays some of the items seized during a joint task force's 16-month drug trafficking investigation. [ REBECCA LEE, THE LEDGER | The Ledger ]

Altogether, the suspects have 645 previous charges including 314 prior felonies and 331 prior misdemeanors.

“Thirty-two people with warrants and most of them already arrested. I can tell you right now that our message is very clear,” Velasquez said, “that we know who the others are and we’re hearing a lot from our friends here on the wall and you’re next.”