DEA helps bust suspected street-level drug dealers in Lake County

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. —

Lake County Sheriff's Office officials and other agents said they rounded up dozens of street-level drug dealers on Thursday, but they're still looking for 30 more suspects.

The operation spanned four local cities and included the seizure of a large stockpile of illegal drugs, investigators said.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents compared notes with the Sheriff's Office and were able to take 51 of the 82 suspects into custody in one day.

"Their customer base is mostly a local base," said Special Agent Jeffrey Walsh. "So once we remove these people from the distribution network, it's very difficult for their customers to go elsewhere to find it."

The DEA worked with the Sheriff's Office and four local police departments on Operation Firecracker, a seven-month investigation.

The busts went down Thursday and agents were able to seize crystal meth, much of it packed in tiny bags ready for sale. They also seized larger bags of marijuana, including an airtight freezer bag full of pot that undercover deputies actually found in a freezer, and a large number of prescription painkillers.

"A lot of the information came from private citizens, all talking about the same people that were conducting illegal drug activity," said Walsh.

Detectives said only a handful of the suspects actually had legitimate day jobs and most have been arrested multiple times.

"We were fortunate to be able to put this number of people in jail. But it doesn't mean our job is over. We continue to look for drug dealers in this county. As we find them, we'll arrest them," said Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders.