ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Various law enforcement agencies announced Wednesday morning that charges have been filed and arrest warrants have been issued for nine people accused of being part of a central Florida cocaine trafficking organization.
The Orlando Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, with the assistance of Orange and Osceola County sheriff’s deputies and Orlando police, made the announcement as part of "Operation Ruff Rider."
Officials named Dave "Chino" Romero, 36, and Curtis Ruff, 39, as the leaders of the cocaine trafficking organization.
MBI and DEA agents coordinated the investigation and found that the group was distributing multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine to individual drug dealers in the central Florida area.
The group moved kilos of cocaine through hidden compartments in vehicles, authorities said. Agents uncovered a vehicle equipped with a hydraulic system concealing 6 kilos in just one traffic stop, according to court documents.
"This organization was moving several hundred thousand dollars' worth of cocaine through central Florida," MBI agent Larry Zwieg said.
Officials said more than 7 kilos of cocaine was seized during the investigation.
Agents said they have arrested eight of the accused and are still searching for Ruff, who wasn't in his home during Tuesday night's raid.
Officials believe that Ruff was tipped off by someone that he was about to be arrested.
"I don't think any law
-abiding citizen was looking out for any of them, but could it have been someone in their inner circle? Absolutely. They've been at this for a very long time," DEA agent Jeff Walsh said.
Romero and Ruff have extensive criminal histories, including 12 and 22 felony arrests, respectively, and lived in high-end, gated communities.
Investigators said Ruff had a realty business called Platinum Investments
, that was used solely as a front to launder money for the cocaine-dealing operation.
Other members of the organization charged were Jair Javier Olivo Ramirez, Angel L. Valdes Jr., Wilson Martinez Rodriguez, Antonio Davis and Darrell Williams, according to officials.
Search warrants were served Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning at multiple homes and at several storage facilities that were believed to be used to store and to distribute cocaine.
Another tip led to a search warrant being served Wednesday afternoon.
"Information we received last night led to another search warrant this afternoon where we seized another 4 kilos, four firearms and $50,000 in cash," Zwieg said.
MBI and DEA asked anyone with additional information about the organization or Ruff to contact MBI at 407-836-9701 or Crimeline at 407-423-TIPS.