Heroin Ring Dismantled
It all came to a head in March 2017, when investigators executed search warrants on residences, storage units, and other locations associated with Lagunas’ organization. Among the items seized were approximately 6.5 kilograms of heroin, nine firearms, and approximately $600,000 in drug proceeds—believed to be an average day’s work for members of the organization.
Tampa Police Detective Lester Gonzalez, also a member of the Safe Streets Task Force, believes that it was the collaboration with the FBI and other agencies that made the difference in this case. “We conducted an intricate investigation to identify local suppliers of heroin in the Orlando-Tampa area,” he said, “uncovering the methods they used to transport and distribute the heroin. We then continued the investigation and were able to identify a Mexican national in California as the person responsible for the importation of that same heroin into the U.S.”
Both Gonzalez and Vargas believe that the dismantlement of the Lagunas drug trafficking organization has had a positive impact on Tampa Bay-area communities.
“Being able to stop these individuals from importing kilogram amounts of heroin into Tampa has made the Tampa Bay area safer,” said Gonzalez. “Their arrests have not only affected the availability of street-level heroin in this area but have also had an impact on the additional criminal activities that these individuals were involved in.”
And according to Vargas, “The long prison terms given to Lagunas and his co-conspirators were primarily the result of the large amounts of heroin going into Florida and contributing to the opioid epidemic.”
He also said that once the asset forfeiture aspect of this case is over, close to a million dollars might be forfeited. “Much of that,” said Vargas, “will be going back to participating agencies, with more than half going to the Tampa Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which will help them to continue the fight against the scourge of opioid-related crimes in their communities.”