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Law enforcement arrests 83 people in Marion County involved in drug trafficking

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 7:24 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - Agents with the Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team (UDEST) announced Wednesday that they have seized more than 300 marijuana plants, plus an additional 300 packaged marijuana products.

They also confiscated 36 pounds of crystal meth, two kilograms of cocaine, over one kilogram of heroin, three kilograms of fentanyl, $108,000 in cash and 21 guns and ammunition - all in just three months.

Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken spoke about this drug epidemic in the city during the press conference.

He said since OPD started tracking drugs in the community in 2017, just in Ocala proper, police have responded to roughly 900 over dose incidents.

Out of those 900 cases, 119 people lost their lives.

“It’s terrifying that number of people can die at the hands of a drug dealer that wants to turn a quick profit, and for those people that are watching this press conference later on, let me say this, I know that there are addicts out there that are going to see this, and I’m going to ask you to do this, reach out for help. Reach out for help. Reach out to your local police department, your sheriff’s office, ask for that help. We can help you take control and power away from the drug dealer and in so doing, maybe save your own life or the life of somebody else,” Balken said.

Officials said that the arrest of Noah Francis in Summerfield was their biggest bust of the bunch, as they were able to recover two kilograms of fentanyl, the drug that is most commonly the cause of over dose deaths.

Deputy Chief Lou Biondi and Chief Mike Balken examine over 30 pounds of Crystal Meth “Ice” that...
Deputy Chief Lou Biondi and Chief Mike Balken examine over 30 pounds of Crystal Meth “Ice” that was seized over the past three months.(WCJB)

Director of UDEST, Captain Jason Douglas said he won’t stop.

“The big scale when you look at it, and you look at the big picture, some would say it’s something we just can’t beat, I don’t believe that. I believe that if we try hard enough we can do anything,” Douglas said.

Officials said that several suspects who were directly involved with opioid overdose death investigations were arrested.

There are also plans to hand over those cases to the Office of the State Attorney after each investigation is done, with the intention of securing manslaughter indictments.

Related story: Ocala police uncover drug operation run by father and son during shooting investigation

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