YULEE, Fla. – A monthslong, multi-agency investigation named “Operation: Heavyweights” has resulted in 54 arrests and the seizure of hundreds of pounds of illegal narcotics, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper announced Tuesday.
“If you are a poison peddler, drug dealer in Nassau County, we are coming after you,” Leeper said at a morning news conference.
According to the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, its Joint Narcotics Task Force has been investigating numerous people, their homes and other areas with a high volume of illegal drug activity in various communities throughout the county.
“Detectives employed multiple investigative techniques, including undercover operations, in order to infiltrate and gather real-time intelligence from various narcotics distribution networks,” Leeper said.
A total of 54 arrests were made between April to August, Leeper said. Of those arrested, according to the Sheriff’s Office, 25 people were from Fernandina Beach, 11 were from Yulee, five were from Georgia, five were from Hilliard, five were from Callahan, two were from Jacksonville and one was from Lake City.
“Several are previously convicted felons,” Leeper said. “Some others have a history of violent crimes, firearms and weapons violations, and street gang association.”
Combined, about 223 charges were filed against the suspects, the Sheriff’s Office said. The sheriff also noted two of the people arrested had young children in the car while they were transporting and selling drugs.
In addition, the sheriff said, 3.5 pounds of fentanyl were seized. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Leeper said drug dealers will mix it will other drugs including heroin, meth and cocaine, which increases the chances of a fatal interaction.
Also seized, he said, were 25 illegal guns, 380 pounds of marijuana and THC products, 6.5 pounds of meth, 3 pounds of cocaine, smaller amounts of other drugs, including heroin, and $72,000 worth of assets.
According to the sheriff, 38 people have died of overdoses in Nassau County since the start of 2021, and more than half of those deaths involved fentanyl.
“I don’t know about you, but I don’t know what’s more important than saving people’s lives, which is what these types of operations do,” Leeper said. “The great residents of Nassau County support law enforcement. They want law and order, and they’re going to have that.”
The agencies involved in the operation include NCSO, the Fernandina Beach Police Department, the DEA, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.