Late last month, Jacksonville police announced one of their largest drug seizures in recent years, with the discovery of nearly 16 pounds of heroin valued at close to $400,000.
In addition to the significant bust, authorities also took three suppliers off the streets as part of Operation Big Apple, a years-long investigation targeting drugs trafficked to Florida from New York City.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office pulled over Erik Salgado, who was driving a rental vehicle on I-95 on Sept 22, 2017. Upon search of the vehicle, police found 19,810 individual packets of heroin, amounting to nearly 20,000 individual doses taken off the streets in one single bust. Some of the heroin was laced with fentanyl, which is lethal in much smaller doses than heroin and can be absorbed through the skin and incidental contact. Deaths from fentanyl overdose outnumbered deaths from heroin overdose approximately 20,100 – 15,400 in 2016.
As for its effects in Jacksonville, Sheriff Mike Williams provided some alarming overdose statistics. There were 464 overdose deaths in Jacksonville last year, up 131% from the 201 deaths in 2015. The total amount of documented overdoses without death increased by 50% – from 2,114 in 2015 to 3,411 in 2016.
The investigation made its first strike in November of 2015, when the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s Narcotics Unit arrested Maxwell Beatty, recovering 21.8 grams of heroin, steroids, methamphetamine, marijuana, and $5,081 in cash. Beatty was re-arrested in June of 2016 after being found with heroin and crystal meth.
Using information connected to the 2015 investigation, detectives also arrested Eric Don Bucasas in 2016 after finding more than $4,000 worth of heroin in a rental home in west Jacksonville. The heroin was packaged in a similar manner as the drugs seized in the 2015 investigation. After the two incidents, investigators learned that the heroin was coming in from out of state. When police learned of a potential shipment coming into Jacksonville in 2017, they set up the surveillance necessary to make the big $400,000 bust.
For Sheriff Williams, the bust is about more than just taking the drugs off the streets – it’s also about sending a message.
“If you are a street-level drug dealer, you have to know we do cases like this every single day and your day will come. Eventually, your day will come and you will meet our JSO narcotics detectives and you’ll go to jail, potentially to prison, for a very long time,” Williams said. “We’re going to work very hard to make that happen every single day in our community. If you’re a user, particularly of heroin, you need to get help.”
The three men arrested over the past couple of years, although not appearing to work together, did appear to share a common connection in their supplier. Authorities believe that there’s a good chance that the investigation will expand and more arrests will be made as federal law enforcement gets involved.
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