Undersheriff Joel Bolante addressed a crowd leaders of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and Tri-County Narcotics Task Force today to announce the charging of 103 individuals and the seizure of over 1500 prescription pills that concludes an aggressive eight-month investigation.
Operation “Pain Management”, targeted North Florida street-level prescription drug traffickers.
The Tri-County Narcotics Task Force is comprised of St Johns, Putnam and Flagler Sheriff’s Offices, as well as the Palatka Police Department, the St. Augustine Beach Police Department, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Homeland Security Investigations and FDLE.
The North Florida HIDTA Annual Drug Threat Assessment identified a shift whereby the diversion of pharmaceutical drugs escalated to the region’s top drug threat.
“This is an example of outstanding team work from all agencies involved in this major investigation,” said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Jacksonville Special Agent in Charge Dominick Pape. “Only by a coordinated team approach like this can law enforcement continue to combat this ever increasing threat.”
“The illegal diversion and sale of prescription drugs has been a problem for many years, but it has clearly become Putnam County’s number one drug problem over the past two or three, said Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy. “This prescription drug epidemic impacts nearly every family in one way or another. Operation “Pain Management” was very successful and I would like to thank all of the investigators who worked the countless hours to bring these dealers to justice.”
“Our citizens are facing a crisis created by the flood of prescription drugs into our communities,” said Seventh Judicial State Attorney R.J. Larizza. “Today we took action against the drug dealers that cause pain, suffering and even death to our citizens.”
“This operation is the culmination of an 8 month investigation into the distribution and sale of oxycodone in Palatka as well as other areas of Putnam County, St. Johns County and Flagler County, and involved hard, dangerous work by members of the HIDTA task force,” said Palatka Police Chief Gary Getchell. “Thanks to the cooperative effort of all the agencies involved many mid and high level drug operations in the City of Palatka and surrounding communities will be terminated.”
“Flagler County is fortunate to be able to share manpower with other law enforcement agencies to strike out at these illegal operations,” said Flagler County Sheriff Donald W. Fleming. “ These arrests are significant for our community. The illegal distribution operation has been severely impacted and we hope to keep it that way.”
“Prescription pain pill addiction has had a devastating impact on Florida and the families who have suffered tragic losses over these drugs,” stated St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar. “It is our responsibility as law enforcement to ensure prescription drugs remain in the hands of those they have been prescribed to and continue to be vigilant in assisting those who are suffering from the addiction.”
In March 2011, Governor Scott announced a Statewide Drug Strike Force, headed by FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey, to combat the criminal distribution of prescription drugs in Florida. With support from Attorney General Pam Bondi and state and local law enforcement leaders, the strike force is charged with stopping the flow of dangerous drugs into communities by disrupting the major illegal supply and distribution points.
Since March 2011, Regional Drug Enforcement Strike Force members’ efforts statewide have resulted in 2,835 arrests (including 46 doctors) and the seizure of 723,172 pharmaceutical pills, 90 vehicles, 474 weapons, and $9,725,917. Additionally, 254 clinics have been closed.