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Central Florida HIDTA

General Information:
  Year of Designation:  1998
  Geographic Area of Responsibility:
    Central Florida:

Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, and Volusia counties.

    Contact: (407) 585-2741

Mission Statement:

The mission of the Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (CFHIDTA) is to measurably reduce drug trafficking, money laundering, and violent crime in Central Florida, thereby reducing the impact of these drugs and their associated violence in other parts of the United States.

Threat Abstract:

The CFHIDTA covers seven counties from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. It is comprised of (from West to East) Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, and Volusia Counties. Located within this 8,000 square mile area, inclusive of Brevard County, are several major population centers (Orlando, Tampa/St. Petersburg, and Daytona Beach), four international airports, two major seaports, and 75 miles of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico, 47 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, and a 2002 population estimate of 4,488,503 (which equates to 1/3 of the total Florida state population). Due to the movement of drugs between Tampa, Orlando, and Daytona Beach and the easy accessibility of all counties to US Interstate 4, this area has become known as the I-4 corridor.

The Central Florida HIDTA continues to face a unique drug trafficking situation. It is a center for the importation of drugs due to its geographic location, its tremendous tourism industry, and its large and efficient air, land, and sea transportation system. The area also supports a large "user" population as is evidenced by the overwhelming amount of heroin deaths. Its agricultural industry supports a migrant worker population responsible for the importation of marijuana and methamphetamine from California, Texas and Mexico. Clandestine Methamphetamine labs have been predominately located in Polk County. However, in 2003 methamphetamine labs appeared in the surrounding counties and have increased in number.

Heroin is still the number one problem facing the Central Florida area. Reported heroin overdose deaths for the CFHIDTA reached a total of 136 in 2003, with the most reported in Orange, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties.

The CFHIDTA counties comprise 10% of the Florida counties and accounted for over 59% of the total Heroin overdose deaths in the state. These heroin deaths overshadow the ever-present cocaine problem. The area as a whole has experienced increases in methamphetamine use, with concentrated areas found around the Mexican migrant farming communities. Marijuana is still the drug of choice across CFHIDTA region. This is facilitated by increased indoor grows, overnight parcel deliveries, as well as, over land transportation by privately owned vehicles with hidden compartments. The drug Ecstasy, also known as 3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is inundating the CFHIDTA area, primarily Orlando and Tampa metro areas. The "Rave scene" in these cities also promotes the use of other "Club drugs" such as Ketamine, Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate (GHB), Nitrous Oxide, and Lysergic Acid Diethyl amide (LSD). Also of concern is the diversion of the highly addictive pharmaceutical OxyContin.

Strategy Abstract:

The Central Florida HIDTA focuses on a regional concept, concentrating on the most prevalent drug in those regions. It strives to disrupt and dismantle those organizations responsible for the importation, manufacture, and distribution of those drugs. The Central Florida HIDTA coordinated thirteen initiatives in 2004. These initiatives are contained within three subsystems: Intelligence, Investigative, and Support.

The Central Florida Investigative Support Center (CFISC) houses the intelligence and support sub-system which was initiated to provide regional intelligence, investigative leads, and investigative support to all CFHIDTA initiatives as well as local law enforcement. The CFISC consists of 9 analysts, 1 DEA Supervisory Analyst and 1 computer program specialist. The investigative initiatives are made up of Eleven (11) investigative task forces/initiatives located throughout the CFHIDTA. These task forces drive the strategy through the disruption and dismantling of drug trafficking organizations. This strategy was formulated due to diverse and regionally unique drug problems throughout the Central Florida HIDTA area. These task forces (excluding a Fugitive Apprehension Task Force) are regionally specific, with the exception of the Methamphetamine Task Force and the Heroin Task Force, which are drug specific.

The support sub-system consists of the training initiative, the Central Florida HIDTA Management and Coordination initiative, which is responsible for managing and coordinating the CFHIDTA for the Executive Board. CFHIDTA funded personnel in this initiative include: the Director (contract), Deputy Director (contract). Executive secretary/training coordinator (Seminole County employee), Financial Analyst (Seminole County employee), and Receptionist/Administrative Aide (Contract employee). This sub-system coordinates all activities of the Executive Board, and conducts daily HIDTA business throughout the Central Florida HIDTA and National HIDTA/ONDCP. This sub-system has been responsible for all HIDTA training and maintains inventory control, program evaluation, and tracks all HIDTA funding with the HIDTA Assistance Center in Miami.

Investigative Support Center:

The CFISC represents an innovative concept to combine various information resources into a consolidated source product and to pool resources for increased investigative effectiveness and safety, while reducing investigative costs. The Center helps identify and eliminate overlapping investigations and duplicative efforts, and acts as a catalyst to unite agencies into more effective enforcement groups. Information and inquiries are provided from participating agencies to the Center. CFISC queries all available databases and collects all relevant information to be assembled by an analytical team. Multiple information inputs allow the CFISC to develop a broad and accurate assessment of the criminal activities that affect Central Florida. This information is disseminated via inquiring agencies in a useful and timely manner. The Center offers a variety of services to participating members. These services include, but are not necessarily limited to: NDPIX; NINJAS; Public record checks; Automated criminal intelligence database checks; Intelligence analysis; Transactions & transcriptions analysis; Coordination for Equipment loans; Information/intelligence publications; Graphic capabilities (overheads, charts, graphs and GIS products); Space for joint conference activities by participating agencies in multi-agency investigations; Training opportunities; Overall Trends, Patterns and Predictions of Organizations and Crimes. Recently, the CFISC has achieved a secure but unclassified network connectivity with all current Task Force/Initiatives and Florida HIDTA's. This connectivity allows a seamless connection to the CFHIDTA computer network providing agents and analysts the ability to request information from the �field�. The CFISC has been designed to provide a more effective link between intelligence and enforcement and to enhance the abilities of both 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.

During the latter part of 2002, a unique program was initiated in which each CFHIDTA Initiative was assigned a CFISC analyst. Initiatives not only have an assigned CFISC analyst, but are electronically connected through the system described above. Most recently, the CFISC completed the design and implementation of the Analyst Request Management System (ARMS). This system allows for the exchange of information requests and intelligence products. Additionally, it enables the CFHIDTA Initiatives to electronically submit their investigative statistical information to the CFHIDTA Director without having to stop, manually compile, and submit statistics on a quarterly/annual basis.

Participating Agencies:

Federal: AMTRAK Police; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Internal Revenue Service;
U.S. Attorney's Office; U.S. Border Patrol; U.S. Marshals Service.

State/Local: Altamonte Springs Police Department; Apopka Police Department; Clearwater Police Department; Clermont Police Department; Florida Department of Financial Services; Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco; Florida National Guard; Florida State Attorney's Office; Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office; Kissimmee Police Department; Lake County Sheriff's Office; Lake Mary Police Department; Lakeland Police Department; Largo Police Department; Maitland Police Department; Mount Dora Police Department; Mulberry Police Department; Ocoee Police Department; Orange County Sheriff's Office; Orlando Police Department; Osceola County Sheriff's Office; Oviedo Police Department; Pasco County Sheriff's Office; Pinellas County Sheriff's Office; Polk County Sheriff's Office; Sanford Police Department; Seminole County Sheriff's Office; St. Cloud Police Department; St. Petersburg Police Department; Tampa Police Department; Tarpon Springs Police Department; Volusia County Sheriff's Office; Winter Park Police Department; Winter Springs Police Department.

Significant Achievements:

In September 2002 and February 2003, two MDMA laboratories were discovered and dismantled in Orlando. These two MDMA laboratories were connected to the same suspect who reportedly bought the laboratory equipment over an Internet auction site and the precursor chemicals from an online company. Also of note, was that one of the laboratories had an unlicensed pill press and the other laboratory site had as pill press on order.

In January 2003, the Osceola County Investigative Bureau (OCIB), a CFHIDTA initiative, concluded a year long investigation called �Operation Crystal Phish�. This investigation targeted an organization which was trading methamphetamine for weapons. This organization has since been dismantled by OCIB. To date, this investigation led to nine federal and 10 state arrests. This investigation resulted in the seizure of 70 firearms (including several assault rifles), approximately 10,000 rounds of ammunition, 200 knives, 486 grams of methamphetamine, and four methamphetamine laboratories. OCIB Agents indicated that much of the methamphetamine was obtained during undercover �buys� and had been shipped from the Phoenix, Arizona area in Fed- Ex parcels. Some of the shipments were concealed in hollowed out candles.

During mid-August 2003, a major Central Florida GHB manufacturing and distribution ring was dismantled by the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI). The eight-month investigation conducted by this HIDTA initiative, resulted in the seizure of an active clandestine GHB lab, several gallons of GHB, GBL (the precursor chemical use in the manufacturing of GHB), and the arrest of 15 individuals. Undercover purchases of drugs and seized chemicals had a potential street value of $405,000 and could have been used to manufacture at least 60,000 doses of GHB. Since March 2003, MBI undercover agents bought approximately six gallons of GHB, 1,000 Ecstasy pills, nearly 6 1/2 ounces of cocaine and unspecified amounts of anabolic steroids from members of this drug trafficking organization (DTO). These drugs were being sold around the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the downtown Orlando club scene. Those arrested include two UCF students, an Orange County middle school teacher and a bodybuilder. Warrants were issued for six more suspects, including two additional UCF students. All subjects were from the Orange County, Florida area.

Between May 28, 2003 and May 31, 2003, the Polk County HIDTA Task Force along with several other local agencies seized 34 pounds of methamphetamine, several firearms and over $50,000. This enforcement operation also disrupted a large Mexican drug trafficking organization operating between Georgia and Central Florida. Of interest was that out of the 34 pounds of methamphetamine, there were four pounds of the highly potent type of methamphetamine called �ICE�. It is anticipated that all individuals arrested will be prosecuted in the federal court system in the Middle District of Florida.

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Last Updated: January 31, 2004