OKEECHOBEE - On April 11, members of the Okeechobee County Narcotics Task Force, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) concluded months of investigation into drug sales and distribution within Okeechobee County.
Twenty-six individuals ranging from 20 to 67 years of age, all Okeechobee County residents, were arrested for the sale of a controlled substance. Purchased during this undercover operation were crack & powder cocaine, hydromorphone, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and synthetic cannabinoids.
Sheriff Noel E. Stephen stated, “Operation Bittersweet had concluded this morning. The ‘sweet’ comes from the success of removing the dozens of men and women who are being sought, arrested, and booked into the Okeechobee County Jail for selling illicit, illegal drugs in Okeechobee County. With the assistance of multiple other State and Federal Narcotics Detectives, our Narcotics Task Force Detectives have spent the last four months investigating and gathering enough evidence to arrest these drug sellers.
“The ‘bitter’ comes from the fact that these dope sellers have collectively been arrested in Okeechobee County alone a staggering 368 times. I have referred to this before, and I can only hope that today drives that point home. Adding to the bitter is the fact that our community had two drug overdose deaths yesterday which is very sad for their families.
“I feel the events of the past few days reflect my struggle in chasing and arresting the same individuals over and over again. That said, I agree we all have our struggles and are going to make mistakes. Hopefully, those involved will learn from those mistakes and not make them again. However, today reflects that there is not enough deterrent in our system, a failing system. I ask that everyone assist me in lobbying our State and Federal Lawmakers to look at our Judicial System and make the necessary enhancements to allow our prosecutors and Judges to address the “multiple offenders properly.
“I have approached our county commission with the extreme need for an expansion to our 35-year-old sheriff’s office and jail complex. The expansion consultants, hired by the county commission, have recommended an addition that will cost us, the Okeechobee County taxpayers, $55 million. All of this is happening while my budget only goes up every year while attempting to maintain a competitive wage to retain my men and women doing their jobs, keep the criminal element out of our living rooms and keep our roads safe.”
The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office is committed to providing our community with the safest opportunity to live, work, and leisure without the fear of crime or danger. We thank the Okeechobee community for their continued support and the investigators’ tireless efforts involved with this case from OCSO-NARC, DEA, HSI, and FDLE.