TAMPA — More than a dozen people have been arrested in the bust of a methamphetamine trafficking operation centered on a rural home in Plant City.
The arrests are the result of a seven-month investigation by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of Statewide Prosecutor.
They were announced Wednesday at a sheriff's news conference.
The investigation was dubbed Ice Cubed, after the nickname for meth and after three of the key suspects arrested — all brothers.
The investigation began in September 2018 when a drug trafficking hub was identified at 1804 South Forbes Road just south of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the address of a manufactured home on a large rural lot surrounded by an agricultural field and other rural homes.
During the past several years, the Sheriff's Office has responded to more than 100 calls of service to the location.
The operation involved drugs brought in from Mexico, said William "Mike" Furgason of the DEA.
Since 2010, Furgason said, the agency has seen a spike in the use of meth nationwide as the purity of the drug rises and prices drop.
"Gone are the days of mom and pop meth labs in the back of a trailer," Furgason said.
They still exist, he said, but more of the drug is coming through cartels.
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said the arrests are noteworthy for the size of the meth operation and the way investigators learned about it.
"Often," Chronister said, "the only way can we can identify a residence that is making meth is when they blow themselves up."
Three defendants face some of the most serious charges filed in the case, including conspiracy to traffic in amphetamine and keeping a structure for drug activity. They are Leovigilda Rojas De Coronado, Eddie Rodriguez and Edgar Rodriguez Jr.