Cocaine 'treasure hunter' arrested after undercover sting

Alachua Co. man hears of buried cocaine in Puerto Rico

Published On: Aug 14 2012 05:02:22 PM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

After hearing of a buried cache of cocaine in Puerto Rico, an Alachua County man made it his mission to find the stash, only to end up in handcuffs, Homeland Security officials said.

In early June, Rodney Hyden, 54, heard from a friend that 30 kilograms of cocaine was buried in a remote location in Puerto Rico, court documents said. Hyden's friend had found the drugs washed up on the coast of Culebra, Puerto Rico, and buried it near a trailer next to the Leatherback Turtle Sanctuary.

Posing as drug traffickers, two undercover special agents met with Hyden at Casa Maria Restaurant in Jacksonville. Hyden told the undercover agents he needed their help getting the drugs from Puerto Rico back to Florida, if he could find them. In return, Hyden would give the agents "four bricks" or four kilograms of cocaine, documents said.

During June and July, Hyden traveled to Puerto Rico, but told undercover agents later that because the sand hardened where he was trying to dig up the stash, he couldn't unearth the drugs, according to Homeland Security.

Court documents show using information from Hyden on exactly where the drugs were purported to be, agents from HIS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and CBP officers from Puerto Rico dug up 13 kilograms of a white powdery substance that was not, in fact, cocaine.

Instead, the agents met Hyden at the Gander Mountain store in St. Augustine and gave him a mix of real and fake cocaine. Once he took possession, officers moved in and arrested him for possession with intent to distribute, a signed affidavit said.