OCALA, FL – In 2021, the Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team (UDEST), which is an initiative of the North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), seized a record number of various illegal drugs. Throughout the year, UDEST agents investigated several Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) responsible for bringing illegal drugs into Marion County. As a result of these investigations, 228 individuals were arrested with charges ranging from sale and possession of cocaine to trafficking in fentanyl.
In 2021, UDEST seized over $4,500,000 in illegal drugs including but not limited to the following:
- Fentanyl: 33 pounds
- Crystal Meth “Ice”: over 69 pounds
- Cocaine: over 24 pounds
- Heroin: over 3 pounds
- $395,000+ in cash, assets, 60 guns including assault rifles, shotguns, handguns, and ammunition.
The influx of Fentanyl contributed to the increased numbers of overdoses and continues to be a focus of UDEST. Fentanyl is a highly addictive and extremely lethal substance that is contributing to the rise in overdose deaths not only in Marion County but also across the country. This substance is being broken down and mixed with other drugs to include marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. The tremendous amount of work that the agents of UDEST exhibited in the seizures of Fentanyl is significant in that they potentially saved thousands of lives.
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In recognition of their outstanding work, UDEST was awarded the 2021 Statewide Drug Unit of the Year by the Florida Narcotics Officers Association.
UDEST is an initiative of the North Florida High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement professionals from the Ocala Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Homeland Security Investigations (ICE).