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Ring busted that flew drugs on checked bags to Florida from California, Grady Judd says

Eight-five people have been arrested and nearly $13 million in drugs have been seized.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, shown in this 2016 photo, announced the arrests of 85 people on Friday as a drug ring was busted up.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, shown in this 2016 photo, announced the arrests of 85 people on Friday as a drug ring was busted up.
Published Aug. 19

Eighty-five people have been arrested and millions of dollars in illicit drugs seized in a smuggling operation that used checked bags on commercial flights from California to Florida, investigators said Friday.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference that the drugs were hidden in luggage on flights from Los Angeles to Orlando over a two-year period. One seizure involved six piece of luggage containing nothing but drugs, he said.

“They didn’t even put so much as a pair of underwear in there to hide it,” Judd told reporters.

The 85 arrests involved 355 combined felonies and 93 misdemeanors in a case centered on drug trafficking in the area around Winter Haven, authorities said.

Street value of about $12.8 million was estimated for the seizures of drugs including methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, fentanyl, oxycodone and Xanax. Forty-nine guns and $235,000 in cash was also confiscated.

Judd said it was the largest wiretap-related investigation in Polk County history.

“It’s anything other than low-level and nonviolent,” the sheriff said. “The whole time they were peddling poison to your kids.”

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