Drug-trafficking ring operated out of Orange County jail, investigators say

Multi-agency bust identifies 16 suspects, some still at large

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Leaders in local law enforcement attended a news conference Wednesday at the Ninth Judicial State Attorney’s Office in Orlando to announce the arrest, prosecution and/or search for 16 people who investigators say are members of a drug trafficking organization.

“Operation Icarus,” a joint investigation among the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Association, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Orange County Corrections, found that the defendants’ group was responsible for trafficking cocaine and thousands of fentanyl pills throughout Central Florida. They also found that an individual incarcerated at the Orange County Jail played an integral role in the drug ring, and that those arrested will be prosecuted by the office of Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell.

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“The increase of fentanyl overdose deaths in our circuit is alarming, and as state attorney I will continue to utilize my resources to incapacitate the drug trafficking organizations that continue to bring fentanyl into our communities,” Worrell said. “Fentanyl has greatly impacted Central Florida and is fueling the overdose epidemic in our communities.”

Worrell said fentanyl was listed as the cause of death in 91% of drug overdose deaths in Florida in 2020, and a report by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida concluded that there were almost twice as many fentanyl-related deaths in Florida in 2019 than deaths caused by gun violence.

“Unlike gun violence, fentanyl is a silent killer that doesn’t draw the attention that it deserves,” Worrell said. “There is no typical demographic of a drug trafficker. As you can see by the photo that’s presented for you today, these individuals involved were of many different age groups, ethnicities, gender and backgrounds.”

A poster board presented at a news conference to discuss the results of a multi-agency drug trafficking investigation on April 6, 2022. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Worrell was joined at the conference by Orange County Sheriff John Mina, Orange County Corrections Chief Louis Quinones Jr., Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón and A.J. Collazo, deputy director for the Central Florida High Drug Traffic Area. Members of the MBI board of directors were at the event, as was MBI Director Ron Stucker. Also in attendance was D.E.A. Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rodney Blount.

Stucker said the ring was attempting to sell cocaine throughout Central Florida, as well as pressed fentanyl pills that were disguised as oxycodone. Due to the operation, Stucker said more than 11,000 fentanyl pills were halted from reaching the streets.

“So it’s the same shape, the same color, the same size, and they will mark it with the same markings as if it’s oxycodone. The danger here is you may have somebody who has had chronic pain and maybe they have become addicted or dependent on pain pills. They’re going to the street to get that supply now, they think they’re buying oxycodone but instead someone is selling them a substance that’s 100 times more potent than that,” Stucker said.

Sheriff John Mina said that the operation saved thousands of lives.

“If you think about 11,000 pressed fentanyl pills, stopped (from) going into our community, that prevented thousands of thousands of dangerous opportunities to those who are addicted from opioids, and I’m just thankful that we have such a great working relationship here in Orange County, and we continue to collaborate together,” Mina said.

He also described the intricacies of the ring itself and its relation to Steven Robert John Albers, 28, a documented gang member kept at the Orange County Jail who reportedly managed to smuggle drugs into the facility and even helped operate drug trafficking measures throughout Central Florida while behind bars.

“What Albers and these other inmates were trying to do was trying to smuggle what’s called Suboxone, or Xanax, into the jail for use inside the jail, and so they were trying to get that in. That’s what we discovered, corrections discovered it very early, brought it to our attention, we began to investigate,” Stucker said.

Stucker said that Operation Icarus began in April 2021 when Orange County Corrections approached MBI after discovering the Xanax smuggling operation. As far as how Albers was able to smuggle drugs into the Orange County jail, however, Stucker said that he couldn’t specifically discuss jail security procedures.

“Once we began to investigate, we discovered the fentanyl operation which was being distributed throughout Central Florida. They were not bringing fentanyl into the Orange County Jail. They were not attempting to do that in the jail. Albers had his drug traffic organization, he was arrested, he continued from inside the jail to direct that organization to distribute pills,” Stucker said.

Outside the jail, Albers’ girlfriend Dawn Darlene Raimondi, 32, would allegedly follow Albers’ directions on how to run the organization herself, acting on instructions regarding how to package, price and sell the fentanyl pills, Stucker said.

Charges faced by members of the group include racketeering, trafficking of fentanyl and cocaine and introduction of contraband into a county facility, among others.

Though the majority of the investigation was completed last year, with much of the suspects arrested before the 2021 holidays, some are still currently at large. Due to how at least one suspect is believed to be out-of-state — Marshawn Barnes, 28, who Stucker said shipped the fentanyl pills via multiple carriers from Arizona to Albers’ supplier in Orlando — the D.E.A. will further investigate, treating the case as a multi-state operation.

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.