The investigation entitled, “Operation Flying Ice,” stemmed from a September 2020 search warrant in Winter Haven, Florida, that netted just one pound of methamphetamine. From that initial incident, investigators uncovered a methamphetamine trafficking scheme that involved large amounts of methamphetamine being smuggled from California to Florida in checked luggage on domestic flights, according to police.
At a Friday news conference, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd showed six pieces of luggage that were fully loaded with methamphetamine.
“On one occasion, on one airline, six suitcases with this drug were smuggled into Orlando. They didn’t so much throw a pair of underwear in the suitcase to act like they were hiding the drugs. You think LAX has a drug smuggling problem at the airport? I believe they do, and they need to address it ASAP. There were six of these suitcases on one flight,” Judd said, referring to Los Angeles International Airport.
In total, 268 pounds with a street value of $9,725,040 was recovered in the operation.
“I’m so very proud of our detectives and the agents and law enforcement officers who partnered with us to get these dangerous drugs and felons off the street. This is the single largest seizure of drugs and arrests made in the history of Polk County during an undercover wiretap investigation. We will continue to follow up leads and make more arrests, so those who think they got away from us — think again,” Judd said.
The 85 suspects arrested in the operation were charged with a total of 355 felonies and 93 misdemeanors, according to police.
Detectives learned that one of the suspects arrested, Demarcus Terrell Jefferson, lost his brother, Devontae, as a result of an overdose of fentanyl and Xanax. Family members continued to see drugs after his death, according to police.
CNN has reached out to Los Angeles International Airport for comment.