Three Mexican men living in Hillsborough County, two of them in the United States illegally, have been arrested and charged with trafficking in fentanyl during a multi-agency investigation.
Multiple law enforcement agencies collaborated during the Central Florida investigation resulting in the three arrests and the seizure of 10 kilograms of fentanyl. The street value of the 10 kilos of fentanyl is approximately $2,500,000.
“10 Kilograms is enough Fentanyl to kill 5 million people if taken in overdose amounts,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “These drugs are extremely dangerous, and the people bringing them across an unsecure border are evil. Of the three men arrested during this investigation, two are in the country illegally and the Sinaloa Cartel drug trafficking organization is the source of supply for this poison. I am very thankful for our local, state, and national law enforcement partners, including state prosecutors Mr. Haas and Ms. Lopez, for working together to make this a successful investigation.”
The drug trafficking operation even got the attention of top state officials.
“Due to the continued refusal of the Biden Administration to address the border crisis he created, states like Florida are forced to pick up the slack,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “The fentanyl taken off our streets today is enough to kill 5 million Floridians, and is yet another demonstration of how the federal government has failed to protect U.S. citizens. Thank you to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and all the men and women who dedicate their lives to keeping our communities safe.”
The investigation revealed the seized Fentanyl was illegally brought into the United States from the Sinaloa, Mexico region by the Sinaloa Cartel drug trafficking organization to Compton, California, to Riverview, Florida near Tampa, and then to Polk County. Those agencies participating in the investigation are: Polk County Sheriff’s Office; Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Florida Attorney General’s Office, Attorney General Ashley Moody; Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office; Florida Highway Patrol; United States Customs and Border Protection; United States Department of Homeland Security; 10th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office Brian Haas, State Attorney; and 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Susan S. Lopez.
“Enough fentanyl to kill 5 million Floridians made its way from Mexico, across our wide-open border and into our state, but thanks to the great police work by Sheriff Judd and FDLE it is now off our streets—along with the illegal immigrants who were trafficking it,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. “This major drug bust was bolstered by the State Assistance for Fentanyl Eradication in Florida Program, which we supported during this year’s legislative session. Further proof that Florida continues to lead even while the federal government refuses to do its job, secure the border and keep these deadly substances from killing Americans.”
Arrested during the investigation are, along with information provided by local law enforcement:
Juan Manuel Gutierrez Medina: Riverview, FL. Charges: trafficking fentanyl over 28 grams. He has a prior arrest in California (Los Angeles) in 2002 for DUI. He is from Mexico and is in the United States illegally. The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed a hold on Gutierrez-Medina.
Ruperto Rocha: Wimauma, FL. Charges: trafficking fentanyl over 28 Grams. His criminal history includes a criminal traffic charge in 1998 in Hardee County; transporting Illegal Aliens, Del Rio, Texas, 1981 (convicted, 3 month sentence); Home Invasion / Armed Violence / AGG Battery, 1989, Belvidere, Illinois; and aggravated battery, Lockport Correctional, Illinois, 1990 (convicted 5 year sentence). Rocha has an unknown resident alien status.
Juan Manuel Contreras Gutierrez: Riverview, FL; Charges: trafficking fentanyl over 28 Grams. Contreras Gutierrez’ criminal history includes possession of drugs w/o a prescription, 2021, Marion County; robbery-1st degree & grand theft (convicted, 5 years’ probation), 2018, Los Angeles, California. Contreras Gutierrez is in the United States illegally—he was ordered removed by an immigration judge on 11/19/2020 and deported back to Mexico on 11/23/2020. On 11/28/2020 he was encountered again trying to illegally enter the United States, he was again sent back to Mexico. Contreras Gutierrez re-entered the United States illegally at an unknown time after deportation.
HIDTA Task Force / multi-agency drug trafficking organization investigation background:
The investigation was initiated in the month of September, with Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives acting in an undercover capacity working with Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agents. Detectives made contact with a suspected drug trafficker, Juan Manuel Gutierrez Medina, who resides in Riverview, Florida near Tampa. Detectives arranged to purchase large quantities of Fentanyl with Medina. During the investigation, detectives completed drug transactions with Medina, Ruperto Rocha, and Juan Gutierrez Contreras.
At one point during the investigation, Gutierrez Medina was tracked travelling by vehicle to Compton, California, and then back to Florida. The Florida Highway Patrol, in concert with the investigation, arrested him in Suwannee County on October 18, 2023, on his way back to central Florida. Detectives met with Ruperto in Bartow on October 12th, and he was arrested without incident for trafficking fentanyl. On October 20th, detectives met Juan Gutierrez Contreras in Riverview where he delivered six kilograms of Fentanyl to undercover detectives. On October 25th detectives arranged to meet again with Gutierrez Contreras in the Riverview area. Working with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, he was arrested and charged with trafficking fentanyl over 28 grams. An ICE hold has been placed on him due to his illegal status.
The investigation has been conducted with the assistance of the State Financial Assistance for Fentanyl Eradication (S.A.F.E) Florida Program managed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In 2023, the Florida Legislature established state funding for the S.A.F.E program to conduct investigations designed to combat illegal fentanyl trafficking. The grant provides financial support and assistance for approved fentanyl-related investigative costs, such as overtime, travel, investigative supplies and equipment, and training.
“These arrests are the first in Florida using grant money from the State Assistance for Fentanyl Eradication (SAFE) program,” FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass said. “The grant provides money for local law enforcement agencies in fentanyl and drug trafficking investigations. Never has there been a time when shutting down a drug trafficking organization has been more important. While these cases are usually very expensive to investigate, this grant means money won’t be a barrier. Thank you to Governor Ron DeSantis and our lawmakers for empowering law enforcement to work more drug investigations making Florida safer by taking fentanyl and these dangerous drug traffickers off our streets.”