JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A pair of independent operations targeting fentanyl traffickers in Jacksonville netted a slew of guns, more than $370,000 worth of drugs and two arrests, Sheriff T.K. Waters announced Wednesday.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit teamed up with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area for Operation Tulsa and with North Florida HIDTA for Operation Jam.
Between the two operations, investigators seized enough fentanyl to equate to more than a million potential lethal doses, according to Waters.
“Even a tiny dose of fentanyl can be deadly,” Waters said. “Fentanyl’s increasing use as a street drug explains the explosion of overdose deaths in recent years in our community and nationally.”
The arrests were good news to the mother of a local man who accidentally died from a fentanyl overdose.
After losing her son to fentanyl, Carroll Miniard became a voice for other parents who recently lost their son or daughter to fentanyl.
“It’s your worst nightmare. You will never recover from that,” Miniard said.
Around this time four years ago, Miniard’s son Evan died after taking what he thought was heroin.
But it turned out to be heroin laced with fentanyl.
When JSO announced the seizure of kilo quantities of fentanyl, she was just happy those drugs never made it onto the streets.
In Operation Tulsa, investigators seized three handguns, two rifles, one kilo of fentanyl, 5.25 pounds of fentanyl pressed into pills, 6 pounds of methamphetamine and 89.40 grams of marijuana, Waters said. Waters said the drugs seized were worth a street value of more than $256,000, and the fentanyl equated to 500,000 potential lethal doses.
Chelan Ross, 34, was charged with two counts of trafficking in fentanyl, one count of trafficking in methamphetamine, possession of a firearm by a felon and felony marijuana possession as a result of Operation Tulsa, Waters said.
According to his arrest report, Ross was using FedEx to ship the fentanyl and meth for a year, and the 6 pounds of meth seized in the operation was found in one FedEx package.
Operation Jam resulted in the arrest of Tomi Maithland, 37, and the seizure of four handguns, one rifle, five pounds of methamphetamines, 1.18 kilos of fentanyl, more than $13,500 in cash and 16.68 pounds of marijuana.
The street value of the drugs seized in Operation Jam was more than $120,000, Waters said, and the fentanyl equated to more than 500,000 potential lethal doses.
“When I hear the number of lives being lost, I think it’s a lot of young people. A whole lot of people. And I think about the families that are left behind,” Miniard said.
Maithland was charged on May 25 with trafficking in fentanyl, trafficking in meth, felony possession of marijuana with intent to sell and felony possession of drug paraphernalia.
“These investigations take the people and the substances which fuel violence off our streets,” Waters said. “This proactive policing model stops violence before it happens.”
Because a child was seen coming in and out of the home where the guns and drugs were found during Operation Jam, Maithland was also charged with two counts of child neglect.
“Any time that fentanyl and any other dangerous narcotics are removed from our streets, Jacksonville immediately becomes a bit safer,” Waters said. “But the success of operations like these is far more reaching. Violence surrounds the street narcotics trade.”
Waters pointed to decreases in violent crime statistics across the city and said those positive results are connected to successful targeted narcotics operations like the ones he announced Wednesday.
“I am proud that this agency’s response to crime is multifaceted,” Waters said. “Prevention, intervention and enforcement.”
According to News4JAX records, there’s been a 24% drop in the number of murders in Jacksonville since the same time last year (from 62 in 2022 to 47 this year) and a 25% drop in the number of people shot (216 in 2022, compared to 162 this year).
Evan battled drug addiction for 15 years. He was 35 when he attempted to do heroin while not knowing the heroin was laced with fentanyl. She’s now a voice for parents who suddenly find themselves learning about their son or daughter overdosing and dying.
“The good thing for me that has come out of this tragedy is I do have the opportunity to speak with other parents about this because I understand their pain. I understand what they are going through. You wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” Miniard said.
As for anyone thinking about experimenting with drugs, especially children, Miniard has advice.
“You don’t want to try it. It could really cost you your life. You don’t know what you’re getting. Don’t try anything that you don’t get from your doctor,” she said.
If you or someone you or someone you know is battling drug addiction and want help, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration national helpline at 1-800-662-4357.