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NET Force announces major drug sweep

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Sep 9, 2020


Over the past few months, law enforcement agencies throughout Southwest Florida teamed up with the 20th District State Attorney’s Office to target drugs, weapons and criminals, officials said Thursday.

Law enforcement officials from Lee, Hendry, Glades, Charlotte and Collier counties, as well as the command teams for the Cape Coral and Fort Myers police departments, gathered at the Lee County Port Authority Training and Conference Center at the Southwest Florida International Airport to announce the agencies had teamed up for a major drug sweep.

Over the last 36 hours, 41 people had been arrested through a coordinated effort throughout the agencies, officials said.

NET Force, the Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, was created in late 2019 by State Attorney Amira Fox, to coordinate a circuit-wide approach to identifying, investigating, and dismantling long-term organized crime, narcotics, racketeering, and money-laundering criminal enterprises.

“NET Force started in Fort Myers to focus on identifying and eradicating major narcotics suppliers,” Fox said. “Law enforcement identified multiple individuals who are allegedly responsible for the distribution of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and meth Throughout Fort Myers and Lee County.”

It was soon discovered there were others distributing drugs in Collier County, and its sheriff’s office conducted a parallel investigation to identify and dismantle the drug trafficking operation that was operating within Collier. During its investigation, CCSO identified numerous individuals allegedly responsible for the largescale distribution of many dangerous narcotics, including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, officials said.

During the course of the investigation, FMPD and CCSO purchased or seized approximately: 16 kilos of cocaine, 15 ounces of fentanyl, nearly 12 pounds of marijuana, and 35.5 ounces of methamphetamine, with an approximate total street value of $649,665.

In just one day in May, Fort Myers police seized two kilos of cocaine coming into Lee County and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office seized 12 kilos of cocaine coming into Collier County.

The criminal targets involved in this case are accused of conspiring to traffic in 26 kilos of cocaine, 13 ounces of heroin, 30 pounds of marijuana, 118 ounces of fentanyl, and 85 ounces of methamphetamine, with a street value of $1,302,700.

“Make no mistake. This is only the beginning. I will not rest until all illegal drugs, illegally owned guns and the senseless violence on our streets have been eradicated,” said Fort Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs.

Cape Coral Chief David Newlan spoke of how NET Force has helped make Cape Coral streets safer and thanked his law enforcement partners for their role.

“With the collaborative efforts on cases such as this we can keep our streets safer. We will continue to fight drugs and keep our citizens safe,” Newlan said.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said law enforcement, no matter the color uniform, is a brotherhood and that there are no egos in initiatives like this.

“We work as one cohesive team, no matter the color of patch, we come together as a family, and when we do, this is the result. Bad people are off the streets and in jail,” Marceno said.

Since inception, NET Force has seized nearly $650,000 in illegal drugs (including 12 kilos of cocaine) in Southwest Florida and $350,000 in cash from drug sales.