Three suspects were arrested in Florida in connection with an undercover drug trafficking bust in which officials seized 11 pounds of fentanyl manufactured in Mexico.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said detectives seized more than 11 pounds of fentanyl, making it the largest fentanyl bust in the agency’s history. The quantity of the drug was enough to kill 2.7 million people.
According to investigators, the fentanyl was manufactured in Mexico and trafficked into the U.S. to be made into synthetic pills and sold on the streets.
The undercover operation, which began in September, was carried out in coordination with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security, and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
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The Polk County Sheriff’s Office had received information that an international drug trafficking organization was trafficking fentanyl from Mexico to the city of Bradenton and then to Polk County.
Undercover detectives arranged to purchase fentanyl from an unidentified source in Mexico for $24,000 per kilo.
The local facilitator for the drug buy, identified as 28-year-old Ignacio Rodriguez, told detectives the source in Mexico would only deal in large amounts and that the price of the drug fluctuated based on its quality.
Detectives negotiated the purchase of $60,000 worth of fentanyl on September 19.
Rodriguez showed up to the meeting in Polk County with five of the six kilograms. He had two kilos hidden in a Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal box and three kilos concealed in a yellow Igloo cooler.
The facilitator then warned the detectives about the risk of overdosing.
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He suggested wearing a mask and gloves, and that they drink milk before ingesting the drug to help with feelings of tightness in their chests. Rodriguez also told detectives he could sell them marijuana, meth and cocaine.
During the investigation, detectives identified two other suspects out of North Carolina. Mario Alberto Castro Solache, 29, and Pedro Mondragon, 27, drove from North Carolina to Polk County on October 11 to meet with undercover detectives about another fentanyl sale.
Castro Solache told detectives he and the supplier in Mexico wanted to establish a portion of their drug trafficking operation in Polk County and that he was going to move to the county and take responsibility for handling operations for the Mexican cartels.
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Both men were taken into custody on October 12 and told detectives they were being paid to collect money for the fentanyl drug dealer in Mexico. Castro Solache is in the country illegally and has a Border Patrol hold in the Polk County Jail.
Castro Solache and Mondragon are charged with conspiracy to traffic in fentanyl. Mondragon was released on bond on October 17.
Rodriguez was taken into custody by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office on October 14 for trafficking in fentanyl, conspiracy to traffic in fentanyl, possession of a vehicle for drug trafficking, unlawful use of a two-way communication device and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was released from the Manatee County Jail on October 15 after posting a $56,500 bond.
“This poison is coming into the country across the border from Mexico, and we are going to continue our investigation into the Mexican drug cartels who are killing innocent people,” Judd said in a statement.