JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Guns, drugs and stolen property were all seized in a federal raid this week on Jacksonville’s Westside.
The raid was part of a six-month sting that Drug Enforcement Administration agents dubbed “Operation Python,” in which millions of dollars’ worth of illegal drugs have been taken off the streets.
The DEA gave News4Jax exclusive access in the undercover investigation. At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, DEA agents served a search warrant at the Westside home. Agents did not take any chances because they said the man who lived there, 32-year-old Jules Miller, has indirect ties to Cartel Jalisco New Generation, or CJNG, a Mexican drug cartel that’s one of the most powerful in the world.
Within seconds of the front door being forced open, Miller surrendered with his hands up and he was immediately taken into custody. DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Mike Dubet, with the Jacksonville District Office, said he and his agents found what they were looking for inside the home.
“We found several weapons to include a couple of assault rifles. We found what appears to be fentanyl,” Dubet said.
Agents said marijuana and large amounts of cash were also found throughout the house and inside a safe. In a room, agents located stockpiles of stolen goods worth thousands of dollars. Agents said they believe the merchandise was stolen from a home improvement store by someone else, who was trading the goods with Miller for drugs. It’s unclear whether the stolen merchandise was then being sold.
Tuesday’s raid was part of the national DEA investigation called Operation Python. Like the famous reptile constrictor, agents were targeting suspects all over the United States with direct and indirect ties to CJNG and putting a squeeze on their operation.
“They are responsible for distributing a significant portion of methamphetamines, heroin and cocaine to the United States and to our area," Dubet said.
According to federal investigators, CJNG has infiltrated 17 countries, including the U.S., with cartel members who are assigned to distribution hubs in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Atlanta is identified as the cartel’s hub for distribution in the Southeast, and cartel members working out that hub hire distributors throughout the region, including Florida. Dubet said Miller, the man taken into custody Tuesday, is a “distributor of heroin and fentanyl” who is indirectly connected to the CJNG.
News4Jax asked DEA’s Miami Field Division Intelligence Chief Justin Miller how close are some of the street dealers and distributors to cartel higher-ups in Atlanta and in Mexico -- where the cartel’s leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as “El Mencho,” is hiding out.
“In some cases, it may be two or three levels away. In some cases, we have induvials who are communicating directly with CJNG members and arranging the negotiations for meth, cocaine, fentanyl and heroin," he said.
Operation Python began Sept. 1. During the operation, the DEA’s Jacksonville District Office, which covers all of North Florida, has seized more than 6 kilograms of meth, 30 kilograms of heroin, 31 kilograms of cocaine, 1.5 kilograms of fentanyl and more than 2 ounces of a drug called “gray death.” The combined street value of those narcotics is more than $5.5 million on top of more than $80,000 in seized cash.
The DEA’s Jacksonville District Office also confiscated more than 30 guns.
Miller was booked Tuesday afternoon into the Duval County jail on 10 charges involving illegal narcotics and possession of firearms by a convicted felon, according to online jail records. As of early Wednesday evening, Mules remained in jail on $50,000 bond, records show.
Though Operation Python officially ended Wednesday afternoon, Dubet told News4Jax that he believes Miller’s arrest will lead to identifying more suspects locally.
The DEA encourages anyone who suspects suspicious drug activity in their community to call the agency’s Jacksonville District Office at 904-348-5225.