Series of raids bring down drug ring in West Volusia
$420,000 worth of cocaine seized from Glenwood house
The raids began before the sun was up Wednesday morning, Oct. 14. They were the results of an investigation called "Operation No Leash" begun in 2008. The raids netted 14 kilos of cocaine, nine guns and up to $250,000 in cash.
More than 250 narcotics agents with the Volusia Bureau of Investigation (VBI), the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and law-enforcement agencies in Volusia County, Flagler county, Lake County, DeLand, Orange City, New Smyrna Beach and Port Orange hit a series of targets, primarily in West Volusia. They made 19 arrests and dismantled a large-scale marijuana and cocaine distribution ring.
Armed with warrants and backed up by SWAT teams, the officers searched 11 different homes in DeLand, DeLeon Springs, Pierson, Seville and Crescent City.
Identified as the ringleaders and among the 19 arrested were 34-year-old Edward Dragon of DeLand and 27-year-old Hilario Dela-Sancha of DeLeon Springs.
Agents seized cocaine worth about $420,000 and 4 pounds of marijuana from a home on Gaudrey Street in Glenwood.
Neighbors awoke to see a SWAT team at the Glenwood house, as law-enforcement officers entered the home.
Educator and Beacon school-news columnist Tony Tussing lives down the street from the raided Gaudrey Street house. He saw the SWAT team at the house, Tussing said, then, by around 10 a.m., he saw "a multitude of cars and police" at the scene, with a helicopter circling overhead.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said the VBI has proved very successful. It pulls together officers from law-enforcement agencies throughout the county, along with state and DEA agents, to work together on major cases.
DEA agent Stephen Collins said the drug dealers had ties to a Mexican drug-trafficking organization. He described "great cooperation from the Mexican government" in the investigation.
Sheriff Johnson said it was important to nab the ringleaders of the operation.
"You have to get to the top of the chain," he said.
During the press conference, Collins presented Johnson with a check for $911,060, related to seizures during a 2006 drug bust in which 16 arrests were made during 12 raids in Volusia County, and more than 200 pounds of marijuana and 8 kilograms of cocaine were seized. The check was part of $1.2 million in seized assets.
During that operation, Daytona Beach Police Officer Jeff Cahill was shot in the upper chest. He recovered from his injuries.
There were no injuries reported in Oct. 14's raids.
Suspects arrested on open warrants were:
· Agustine Armenta-Obesa, 31, DeLand, for trafficking in cocaine, use of a two-way communications device to facilitate a crime; $55,000 bond.
· Francisco Camacho, 29, DeLand, for unlawful possession of a controlled substance, $15,000 bond.
· Cornelio Cardenas, 18, Pierson, for conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, trafficking in cocaine, delivery of cocaine, unlawful use of a two-way communications device; $80,000 bond.
· Adriana Colunga, 20, Crescent City, for unlawful possession of a controlled substance; $155,000 bond.
· Joseph Dauria, 58, Ormond Beach, for conspiracy to deliver cocaine, unlawful use of a two-way communications device; $10,000 bond.
· Hilario Dela-Sancha, 27, DeLeon Springs, for trafficking in illegal drugs, $205,000 bond.
· Edward Dragon, 34, DeLand, for unlawful possession of a controlled substance; $10,000 bond.
· Alejandro Figueroa, 34, Orange City, for trafficking in illegal drugs; $155,000 bond.
· Laura Figueroa, 30, Orange City, for trafficking in illegal drugs; $155,000 bond.
· Ramon Flores, 31, DeLand, for conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, conspiracy to traffic in marijuana, trafficking in marijuana; $255,000 bond.
· Adalberto Galarza, 37, Pierson, for trafficking in cocaine, use of a two-way communications device to facilitate a crime; $205,000 bond.
· Alfredo Galarza, 26, Seville, for conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, trafficking in cocaine; $280,000 bond.
· Juan Garcia, 24, DeLand, for conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, trafficking in cocaine; $270,000 bond.
· Derek Jackson, 19, DeLand; conspiracy to sell or deliver cocaine, conspiracy to sell or deliver marijuana, use of a two-way communications device to facilitate a crime; $25,000 bond.
· Carlos Lira, 27, Pierson; trafficking in cocaine, use of a two-way communications device to facilitate a crime; $155,000 bond.
· Courtney Rickman, 23, DeLand, for solicitation to deliver cocaine, child neglect, conspiracy to deliver marijuana, use of a two-way communications device to facilitate a crime; $20,000 bond.
· Carlos Verdel Jr., 30, DeLeon Springs, for conspiracy to traffic in marijuana, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; $60,000 bond.
In addition, two others, Alex Alvarado and Artura Rodriguez, were picked up during the raids and charged with armed drug trafficking.
By Pat Hatfield
BEACON STAFF WRITER