Federal investigators bust I-Drive drug ring using 'heroin hotline'

11 people arrested, one still at large

ORLANDO, Fla. – A two-year joint investigation between federal, state, and local agencies busted a drug trafficking ring that was selling heroin to locals along International Drive, authorities said.

The suspects called themselves "La Compania" or "The Company." Federal investigators say they operated like one.

"These people were very busy. Two 12 hour shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with those phones selling heroin," Jeffery Walsh with the Drug Enforcement Administration said.

Walsh says they even fired people who did not show up to sell heroin.

Authorities say 12 people were part of the organization. They operated out of a tattoo and barbershop on International Drive. The business is no longer there.

Investigators tell News 6 they sold drugs in parking lots and hotels along the busy tourist district using a "heroin hotline."

"We believe this is mid level and it was being sold down and broken down further and being sold further," Walsh said.

Investigators say customers would call the "heroin hotline" to set up the deals. The suspects changed the phone number frequently.

"And when that heroin hotline number changed the new number would be texted out to all of La Compania's customers," Lee Bentley, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida said.

Authorities say they sold one kilogram of heroin per week and made $3.5 million dollars a year.

"These people have no respect for law or human decency and it's greed that drives them, it's money that drives them," Walsh said.

Eleven suspects were arrested. Investigators say one is still on the run. They are all facing federal drug charges.

Federal investigators add this bust takes out the players of an even larger drug trafficking operation.

"This is only a portion of it, but it was time for these people to go," Walsh said.

Authorities say this is a win in the fight against the growing heroin problem in Central Florida. They are also warning any future dealers to take their drugs somewhere else.

"We want you to move to another community. We're going to use the full authority of our government to ensure the individuals who choose to engage in illegal narcotics trafficking that they will go to jail," Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.