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North Florida HIDTA

General Information:
  Year of Designation:  2001
  Geographic Area of Responsibility:
    Florida:

Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, and St. Johns Counties.

    Contact: (904) 256-5903

Mission Statement:

To measurably reduce drug trafficking, related money laundering and violent crime through a balanced partnership of federal, state and local law enforcement leaders directing intelligence-driven initiatives that are performance-oriented and aimed at eliminating or reducing drug trafficking and its harmful consequences in North Florida and the United States.

Threat Abstract:

COCAINE

The demand, availability and abuse of illegal drugs are ever-present in the North Florida region. Cocaine HCl and crack cocaine remain the most widely used and distributed drugs in the NFHIDTA and pose the most significant threat to the region. Seventy percent of the law enforcement agencies that participated in the NFHIDTA Annual Drug Threat Assessment reported that cocaine HCl and crack cocaine were their primary drug threat.

The chart below compares the cocaine and crack seizures effected by members of the NFHIDTA initiatives during CY 2001, CY 2002 CY 2003 and through September 2004. The amount of cocaine seized has increased 21% during the first three quarters of 2004 over calendar year 2003. This increase may be a result of an increased availability of cocaine in the region.

A comparison of the cocaine and crack seizures effected by members of the NFHIDTA initiatives.

The following chart compares the number of deaths where cocaine either was the cause of death or was found in the decedent in four North Florida districts, according to the Florida Medical Examiner's 2001, 2002 and 2003 Interim Reports. (Data for 2004 is not available). In 2003, there was a 37% increase in the number of cocaine related deaths in North Florida as compared to 2002.

Cocaine related deaths in North Florida as reported by the Florida Medical Examiners.

METHAMPHETAMINE

Methamphetamine has emerged as the secondary drug threat, as its production and availability in the NFHIDTA continue to increase. Members of the NFHIDTA initiatives seized 5.6 kilograms of methamphetamine during the first three quarters of 2004, as compared to 2.4 kilograms during the same period in 2003. This 133% increase may indicate that there is an increased availability of the drug in the region. According to EPIC's National Clandestine Laboratory Seizure System (CLSS), methamphetamine related seizures, including those of manufacturing equipment, chemical dumpsites and laboratories, have steadily increased over the past several years. In addition, the number of NFHIDTA counties that are affected by methamphetamine production is growing. A CLSS report revealed that there were eight meth-related seizures in three NFHIDTA counties during the first three quarters of 2004, as compared to nine laboratory seizures in only two NFHIDTA counties during the same period in 2003.

DIVERTED PHARMACEUTICALS

The diversion of pharmaceuticals, particularly OxyContin (oxycodone), methadone and hydrocodone is an ongoing problem. The diversion of pharmaceuticals has emerged as the tertiary drug threat.

Strategy Abstract:

Each NFHIDTA participating initiative has its own strategies, requirements and missions. The NFHIDTA Executive Board coordinates the integration and synchronization of efforts to reduce drug trafficking, eliminate unnecessary duplication of equipment or effort, and promote the sharing of drug intelligence and targeting information.

The NFHIDTA Executive Board is comprised of sixteen members from federal, state and local agencies. In CY 2004, the Executive Board is chaired by Randall Bohman, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge, with Special Agent in Charge Ken Tucker, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Jacksonville Office, as the vice chair. Since the designation of NFHIDTA in 2001, a large number of participating agencies have worked together to coordinate drug suppression activities. The activities have extended throughout the eight counties within the NFHIDTA and enhanced the efforts of the U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida; four State Attorney's Offices; nine federal; four state and ten local agencies. Partnerships have been established with 107 full-time and 36 part-time participants in ten current initiatives. The partnerships formed balance the efforts to attack drug trafficking within the region and across the country at every level.

The diversity of the drug trafficking and money laundering problems in the NFHIDTA require a law enforcement approach that includes multi-agency intelligence sharing. The unique geography of the area is also addressed in this approach. The collocation of the multi- agency task forces fosters open lines of communication and provides for a coordinated law enforcement effort. The NFHIDTA is comprised of ten initiatives that include seven enforcement initiatives, two support initiatives and one intelligence initiative. The intelligence initiative is the Northeast Florida Investigative Support Center (NeFISC) and the support initiatives include the administrative and training components. These initiatives focus on disrupting and dismantling local, regional, national and international drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. It is important to note that a strong and productive relationship exists between the OCDETF and the NFHIDTA programs in North Florida. The standard for the NFHIDTA is the development of OCDETF, CPOT and RPOT designated investigations. The NFHIDTA initiatives are seamlessly organized into subsystems that focus on a counterdrug emphasis.

Investigative Support Center:

The Northeast Florida Investigative Support Center (NeFISC) is collocated with the NFHIDTA administrative component. The NeFISC is a multi-agency criminal investigative support center consisting of a coalition of collocated local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The NeFISC is staffed by representatives from the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Florida National Guard, Clay County Sheriff's Office, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. The NeFISC currently supports a 13 county area that includes the eight counties, which make up the NFHIDTA. The NeFISC was designed to assist law enforcement agencies to identify, target, arrest and prosecute key members of criminal organizations by facilitating a rapid and free exchange of information through enhanced coordination and communications. The NeFISC maintains a dedicated NFHIDTA website on the RISS network. The goals of NeFISC are to produce and provide strategic and organizational intelligence, enhance information sharing and cooperation, ensure officer safety through the use of the NINJAS event deconfliction system and ensure operational efficiency and effectiveness for all participating agencies.

In an effort to enhance communication and facilitate information sharing, several NeFISC analysts currently utilize the ADNETU web share program. In addition, the NeFISC developed and implemented an officer alert system via e-mail, which sends out e-mail notifications to over 1,100 officers throughout North Florida alerting them to check the NeFISC web page for active criminal intelligence related to various topics, including officer safety issues, narcotics information and current crime trends. This has been a very successful notification tool for all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies within the region.

In an effort to enhance analytical skills, several NeFISC analysts attended Analyst Notebook and Link Analysis training to refine their skills and prepare them to assist with complex cases, i.e. in-depth money laundering analysis. In addition, several NeFISC analysts are undergoing financial fraud training in pursuit of a Certified Fraud Examiner certification to better support financial investigations. In an effort to offer enhanced quality training, several analysts have taken the two-week Instructor Techniques course in pursuit of a state certification, which will also offer increased credibility to the NeFISC analysts who routinely conduct outreach training.

In addition to the above, NeFISC analysts also assist in active case analysis, post seizure and post arrest analysis, telephone toll analysis, trial preparation and counterdrug training. In addition to tactical case support, NeFISC analysts perform strategic analysis, to include researching current economic, drug and violent crimes affecting the region and in-depth threat assessments. NeFISC analysts publish the Annual NFHIDTA Drug Threat Assessment, along with a Semi-Annual Drug Threat Assessment and a minimum of two additional drug threat assessments on specific drug trends affecting the region.

Participating Agencies:

Federal: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Internal Revenue Service; Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Naval Criminal Investigative Service; U.S. Marshals Service; US Attorney's Office; U.S. Coast Guard and
U.S. Coast Guard.

State/Local: Baker County Sheriff's Office; Baldwin Police Department; Clay County Sheriff's Office; Flagler County Sheriff's Office; Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Florida Highway Patrol; Florida National Guard; State Attorney's Office; Jacksonville Beach Police Department; Jacksonville International Airport Police; Jacksonville Sheriff's Office; Ocala Police Department; Marion County Sheriff's Office; Palatka Police Department; St. Augustine Police Department; St. Johns County Sheriff's Office; Fernandina Beach Police Department; Nassau County Sheriff's Office; and Ocala Police Department.

Significant Achievements:

The NFHIDTA initiatives have made outstanding achievements in disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations that have been identified in the region. Their combined efforts have led to successfully disrupting 19 and dismantling 12 of the 31 identified drug trafficking organizations YTD 2004 in the NFHIDTA. Thirteen newly identified DTOs are currently being targeted.

One of the most recent notable long-term investigations, “Operation Up in Smoke” was a joint effort by members of NFHIDTA's Prescription and Designer Drug Squad and North Florida HIDTA Task Force, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. This multi-agency, multi-initiative investigation was designated as an RPOT and an OCDETF. On March 31, 2004, this yearlong investigation culminated in the arrest of 20 individuals and the seizure of nearly $130,000 U.S. currency, 23 kilograms of marijuana, a Rolex watch, 16 vehicles, 18 guns, two RF detectors, several computers, various drug packaging equipment and multiple spin-off cases that are currently under investigation. The arrested individuals were members of a marijuana/MDMA trafficking and money laundering Asian organization primarily based in the Jacksonville, Florida area. During the past three years, this organization was responsible for the distribution of thousands of pounds of high quality Canadian marijuana and thousands of tablets of MDMA throughout North Florida. The head of the Jacksonville cell brokered the importation of BC Bud and MDMA from his Canadian suppliers into the U.S. and then distributed the drugs to his two upper level distributors. His “second-in-command” was not only a distributor, but also stepped in while the group's leader was out of the country. By compartmentalizing each aspect (importation, transportation, distribution, communication) of his group, the leader limited the risk of being compromised by other members. Infiltration by outsiders was nearly impossible due to the close-knit nature of this Asian organization. A Title III was initiated in December 2003, which resulted in the documentation of numerous pertinent telephone calls made between the Jacksonville broker/leader and his co- conspirators. Conversations among confidential sources and the targets of this investigation revealed that millions of U.S. dollars in marijuana proceeds were delivered to the Canadian sources of supply. Unknown to the head of the Jacksonville group, a portion of the MDMA distributed by his “second-in-command” originated from a Vietnamese in Pennsylvania. Both the leader of the group and his “second-in-command” wire transferred large amounts of money to Vietnam and invested it in real estate and businesses. “Operation Up in Smoke” was part of a larger, international investigation known as “Operation Candy Box.”

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Last Updated: February 7, 2005