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MARION COUNTY, FL – On Friday, March 11, 2022, a Marion County jury found 27 year-old Noah Steven Francis guilty on all charges and Francis was sentenced to life in prison. According to authorities, in January of 2021, the Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team (UDEST) began an investigation into Francis, who was suspected to be distributing Fentanyl and other drugs in Summerfield, Florida.
During the investigation, agents were able to obtain search warrants for locations controlled by Francis. In February of 2021, UDEST coordinated an operation and served the search warrants with the assistance of SWAT teams from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Ocala Police Department.
As a result of the operation, agents arrested Francis for drug trafficking, child neglect, and weapons-related charges. Agents also seized firearms, cash, a significant amount of Fentanyl, and other drugs.
During the operation UDEST seized 4.1 pounds of Fentanyl, 80 grams of Methamphetamine, 70 grams of Cocaine, 1,085 grams of Marijuana, three guns, high-capacity magazines, and ammunition, and over $16,000 in cash.
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.
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, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Homeland Security Investigations.
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