Clay County man among nine indicted in multi-state drug trafficking organization
Nine individuals, including a Clay County man, have been indicted with a drug trafficking conspiracy and other charges as a result of a joint investigation named “Operation Ice Man.”
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According to the indictment and court documents, since early 2022, the Federal Burea of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, the DeLand Police Department and the Daytona Police Department have been involved in investigating a multi-state drug trafficking organization (DTO).
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The DTO initially purchased illegal narcotics from Mexico. It then transported methamphetamine and cocaine from Phoenix and Los Angeles to central Florida.
During the investigation, federal agents and task force officers identified several members of the conspiracy and how they shipped methamphetamine and cocaine from Mexico into the United States, ending up in central Florida. The primary way of transporting illegal drugs was by using commercial trucks.
Jimmie Lee Bizzell, 53, Green Cove Springs, was one of the commercial truck drivers tasked with transporting the drugs from Phoenix to Florida.
On Oct., 31, 2022, search warrants executed in six Florida locations resulted in 44.5 kilograms of methamphetamine and 2.7 kilograms of cocaine being seized. In addition, nine guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were seized from one of the defendant’s homes.
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Luis Miguel Hernandez, 36, Phoenix, and Saul Sandoval, 39, Phoenix, were found to be the sources of the methamphetamine and cocaine from Phoenix and Los Angeles. Agents learned that Sandoval and Hernandez had brokered deals with co-conspirators in Mexico who were sending drugs across the border for Sandoval and Hernandez to sell.
Law enforcement also discovered that Sandoval had multiple illegal firearms at his home. These included fully automatic firearms, short-barrel firearms and auto switches designed to be installed on Glock handguns to render them fully automatic.
Authorities believe that since 2021, Sandoval and Hernandez sold more than 300 kilograms of drugs that were shipped to central Florida.
On Apr. 25, 2023, Sandoval was arrested in Phoenix and a search warrant was executed at his home. Inside his home, agents located 1,114 grams of fentanyl pills, 18 firearms, 4 firearm suppressors and more than $5,000 in cash. Sandoval was detained and is currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending transport to the Middle District of Flordia for further proceedings.
Hernandez was arrested in Los Angeles on the same day as Sandoval. He was in the middle of conducting a new drug trafficking deal for approximately 36 kilograms of methamphetamine at the time of his arrest. Hernandez is also waiting transport to the Middle District of Florida.
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According to the Department of Justice, “This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.”
Bizzell faces a possible mandatory sentence of 10 years up to life in prison. Both Hernandez and Sandoval also face a minimum of 10 years and up to life in a federal prison.
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An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
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