PALATKA, Fla. – Authorities on Tuesday announced a crackdown on a Northeast Florida drug trafficking ring following a year-long operation that led to federal charges for four men, the arrests of nine more and the seizure of 20 pounds of crystal methamphetamine valued at more than $800,000.
The charges and seizures, which also included $100,000 cash and six firearms, are the results of Operation Polar Pop, a joint investigation between the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Nassau County Sheriff's Office and Drug Enforcement Administration, authorities said.
"In this case, law enforcement agencies from around the area joined forces and dismantled this drug trafficking organization that plagued our area by filling our streets with poison and the violence that comes with it," DEA Special Agent in Charge Mike Dubet said at an afternoon news conference.
Putnam County Sheriff Homer "Gator" DeLoach said the case resulted in the federal indictments of four men -- Anthony Donta Jones, 39, of Atlanta; James Lester Calloway, 49, of Jacksonville; Jason Jed Morris, 51, of Palatka; and Samuel Trevor Martin, 36, of Jacksonville -- and state charges for nine others.
“The crystal methamphetamine seized during the entirety of this investigation tested positive with a purity level of at least 99 percent, which gives us an indication that it’s coming from a large super lab likely south of the border somewhere in the country of Mexico," DeLoach said.
The sheriff said meth that pure and potent is not common in Putnam County.
"What we're used to seeing here is small, little mom-and-pop operations that are made in someone's garage or, very simply, in a Gatorade bottle," DeLoach said.
The operation was launched in August 2017 when Putnam County deputies and DEA agents began investigating Calloway, who was suspected was supplying several people throughout Putnam County with large amounts of crystal methamphetamine.
DeLoach said investigators recovered "trafficking amounts" of methamphetamine and a firearm when Morris was arrested the same month. Morris was sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and a gun charge.
Later, investigators served a search warrant at Calloway's Jacksonville home, where they seized methamphetamine, a gun and $70,000 cash.
A third defendant, Martin, was arrested in Nassau County. During a search of his vehicle's safe, investigators said they found 58 grams of methamphetamine and a firearm. Charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, he faces 10 years up to life in prison if convicted.
Acting on information that Calloway's source was Jones, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and DEA executed an operation in May 2018 that led to the arrest of Jones, the seizure of 14 pounds of methamphetamine, $2,600 cash and a stolen firearm, DeLoach said.
Jones was indicted in August 2018 for possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. If convicted, he faces 10 years up to life in federal prison.
In July, Calloway was involved in a motorcycle crash on Jacksonville's Westside. It was then that officers recovered a pound of methamphetamine, $22,000 cash and two firearms. Calloway has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He faces 20 years up to life in prison.
“The methamphetamine supply lines are fractured, but we must be diligent to ensure that it stays that way," DeLoach said.