ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Over the last two days, investigators with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office have arrested 32 of 43 suspects on charges of conspiracy to produce methamphetamine and/or conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
Investigators say they have search warrants for 11 more people and believe there could be as many as 200 involved in what they call a sophisticated network of meth manufacturers and dealers.
Investigators said that for the last year and a half, detectives, as well as agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Florida Department of Law Enforcement, have diligently monitored the activity of suspects associated with the production and distribution of methamphetamine in what they called "Operation Ancient Brewers."
"The defendants in this case have had no regard for the safety of their families and the community. They only wanted to feed their addiction and to profit for their poisonous illegal drugs," said Cam Strahm, assistant special agent in charge for Jacksonville DEA.
As methamphetamine labs have become increasingly prevalent in the community, detectives said they determined that they had to take a proactive stance and evaluate all options in deterring criminal activity associated with the drug.
With the assistance of pharmaceutical logs, investigators were able to identify suspects they said were buying a large amount of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in the production of methamphetamine.
During the course of the two-day operation to locate and arrest the suspects, detectives coordinated with representatives from the Clay County Sheriff's Office, Flagler County Sheriff's Office, St. Augustine Police Department, St. Augustine Beach Police Department, and St. Johns County Fire Rescue.
The agencies assisted in identifying potential meth labs at three locations in St. Johns County -- the 5000 block of Avenue B, the 1400 block of San Juline Circle, and the 2500 block of State Road A1A South.
Sheriff David Shoar said the meth epidemic is progressively getting worse in St. John's County and touches all races, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. He described the operation as the county's first proactive and innovative move in combating the problem.
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, deputies described the danger of their two-day warrant sweep. But they said they were fortunate they didn't uncover any active meth labs or find any children inside any of the properties.
Investigators said the state attorney's office played a vital role in these cases. They said although arrests have been made, the investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information regarding wanted suspects is asked to call the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office at 904-824-8304 or Crime Stoppers at 888-277-TIPS.
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