Drug trafficking organization dismantled, Volusia County deputies say
VCSO: Some heroin sold by organization contained deadly opioid fentanyl
VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said a drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing 2 to 3 kilograms of heroin per month throughout the east side of Volusia County was dismantled Friday.
It's the result of a joint investigation between the Volusia Bureau of Investigation and the Daytona Beach Police Department Special Investigations Unit, which spent months building a case against the traffickers, deputies said.
Some of the heroin that was sold by the organization contained the deadly opioid fentanyl, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The group called itself "The Money Team." Deputies said authorities arrested its ringleader, his associates and the organization's street-level members.
The VBI operation, known as "Operation Tax Time," resulted in arrest warrants for 19 people, along with search warrants for eight locations in Daytona Beach, Holly Hill and Palm Coast, deputies said. The Tri-County Task Force and the Flagler County Sheriff's Office assisted in the execution of the search warrant in Palm Coast.
Deputies said 10 of the 19 members were in custody as of Friday afternoon. Detectives have seized 575 grams of heroin, 2 ounces of cocaine and three guns.
"They are destroying families. They are destroying lives," Sheriff Mike Chitwood said at a news conference. "How many parents in this community are grieving the loss of a loved one because what that little scumbag (drug dealer) was doing?"
"The opioid epidemic is a national crisis that is killing people in our community," Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri said. "It is going to take cooperation with law enforcement, as seen here today, and private sector partnerships working together to solve this problem."
"VCSO and FCSO, along with other local agencies, are teaming up to get drug dealers out of our counties," said Sheriff Rick Staly in Flagler County, where deputies said the ringleader's Palm Coast residence was raided. "We will not sit back and watch this epidemic continue. We're coming after you."
Deputies said it's believed the organization was spending $40,000 to $100,000 at a time roughly on a monthly basis to purchase heroin for distribution on the street in Volusia County.
The investigation revealed members were distributing trafficking quantities of cocaine and pharmaceuticals, deputies said.
In January, undercover Daytona Beach detectives started making controlled purchases of heroin from the head of the organization, Julian Miller, 31. Deputies said that in January, the first purchase was made for $60 in heroin that tested positive for the presence of fentanyl.
After a judge authorized wiretaps on some of the organization's phones, detectives were able to monitor repeated calls and texts setting up drug deals on the street, deputies said. VBI members who were conducting surveillance on the locations discussed on the wire were able to watch the deals take place.
Deputies said several of the organization's members have been arrested and convicted of past crimes ranging from possession and sales of narcotics, to aggravated assault with a firearm, to possession of dangerous drug equipment, to fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement.
The Sheriff's Office said the 10 "Money Team" members in custody as of Friday include:
- Julian Miller, 31: Conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance, solicitation to deliver a controlled substance
- Mark Johnson Jr., 31: Conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance
- Mark Johnson Sr., 57: Conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance
- Shykeem Thomas, 30: Solicitation to deliver a controlled substance
- William Dennison, 28: Solicitation to deliver a controlled substance
- Justin Allen, 29: Solicitation to deliver a controlled substance
- Stacia Schriever, 38: Delivery of a controlled substance
- Andrew Deperalta, 24: Conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance
- Brian Conti, 53: Conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance
Deputies said a "Money Team" member who was identified during the investigation was already incarcerated at the Volusia County Branch Jail. That member is Brandon Barker, 25, (conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance).
Approximately 100 deaths in Volusia County have been attributed to opioids so far in 2017, deputies said. This compares to 101 in all of 2016, 111 in 2015 and 76 in 2014.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said it is investigating three open homicide cases in which the evidence suggests delivery and consumption of an opioid caused the user's death.
"Using fentanyl just one time can kill, and that is why it is vital that we continue to aggressively investigate drug trafficking and remove these substances from our streets," said Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose Office of Statewide Prosecution assisted in the operation. "I firmly believe this investigation saved lives and I am grateful for each law enforcement officer who worked to seize these deadly drugs before they could be sold in our state."
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