5 arrested in crystal meth sting operation

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

BAKER COUNTY, Fla. - Five Florida men are facing federal drug charges after being arrested on charges of distributing crystal methamphetamine in a sting operation called Operation Summer Ice.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents said the purest form of meth was being shipped to northeast Florida from Mexico and distributed throughout multiple counties in north Florida.

IMAGES: Mug shots of crystal meth suspects

It's being called the largest crystal meth bust in recent history and comes as the result of a year-long investigation in Baker, Duval, Nassau counties, and Macon County, Ga. What the accused drug dealers didn't know is that they were selling the purest form of methamphetamine to undercover agents, investigators said.

DEA agents say their investigation originated off a dead-end road in Macclenny. They said a duplex along the street was just one of the locations drug dealers were using to distribute pure crystal meth.

On Wednesday, DEA agents announced the arrests of Ashley Lee, Archie Crook, Robert Hartzog, Garrett Follis and Anthony Fisher, charging each of them with federal crimes.

"There is nothing more important to the U.S. Attorney's Office than prosecuting crimes that have a devastating effect on the local communities," U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley said.

Drug agents said Lee was the primary supplier of the meth while living in Macon. Investigators said he worked closely with Cook, who distributed the meth to various locations throughout north Florida.

Baker County was often the first stop. Agents said the the five suspects moved pounds of meth over a year, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of their biggest undercover buys occurred in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant in Macclenny, while drug agents watched secretly from the hotel next door, agents said.

"This is probably the first we're talking about methamphetamine," Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson said. "Most of the others have been a meth lab or shake and bake."

Investigators said the crystal meth was likely being shipped from an unknown location in Mexico. Lee, Hartzog and Follis have already admitted their guilt and accepted plea deals. The other two suspects are going to trial.

Drug agents say crystal meth is incredibly damaging to the community.

"This methamphetamine has been a problem for two decades now, and I've personally seen the damages the product inflicts on its users," Bentley said.

DEA agents said the investigation is not over. Three of the arrested suspects are cooperating with investigators and providing them with more information.

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