ORLANDO, Fla. - Central Florida drug trafficking organization members have been arrested on charges of racketeering, trafficking in methamphetamine and conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, authorities said Wednesday.
Agents with the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, along with the Florida Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution, and several county law enforcement agencies were part of "Operation True Grit."
Authorities said the leader of the organization was identified as John Wayne Bell, 49.
Bell has an extensive criminal history, which includes 28 felony arrests and 11 misdemeanor arrests for crimes including trafficking in methamphetamine and cocaine, burglary, counterfeiting, aggravated assault of a police officer and grand theft, investigators said.
Bell was released from state prison on
Dec. 8, 2014, which was one month prior to the beginning of the MBI investigation.
The first month he did get out in January he immediately started his trafficking activities again,” said MBI agent Lt. Doug Goerke. "We've watched him receive pounds of meth, and then from there he would package it from here into smaller packages, and then deliver it throughout the central Florida area.”
Other high-ranking members of the drug trafficking organization who were charged include his son, John Bell Jr., and his wife, Colleene Bell. Most of the 16 persons charged have extensive violent criminal histories, authorities said.
“(John Wayne Bell) is the dealer of the dealers,” Goerke said.
In January 2015, MBI agents said they began to target the methamphetamine trafficking organization. The investigation revealed the organization was distributing multiple pounds of methamphetamine to several individual drug dealers in the central Florida area.
Agents said Bell used a "stash house" on Live Oak Lane in Davenport to store the methamphetamine before the drug could be divided up, supplied to dealers from Marion to Brevard County and sold.
“There’s always traffic and stuff. Too much traffic for normal visitors, I’ll put it that way,” an unnamed neighbor said.
A search warrant was served on the residence early Wednesday morning.
Agents said they found meth stashed throughout the house, including in bedrooms near where a 12-year-old girl slept.
Agents are currently in the process of locating and arresting other defendants at several locations in the central Florida area, authorities said.
Arrestees are being transported to the Orlando Police Department to be processed and interviewed. Agents said more arrests and seizures are anticipated as the investigation continues to progress.
“It’s just ridiculous. It’s about time and I’m just glad something was finally done,” the neighbor said.
Agents said the young girl is being placed with family members. Officials have not released information on what the relationship is between the girl and Bell.
Bell said nothing on his way to jail, but his wife denied everything.
“There was no drugs in my house,” Colleene Bell said.
Anyone with additional information related to the drug trafficking organization is asked to contact MBI at
407-836-9701 or Crimeline at 407-423-TIPS.
Follow Karla Ray on Twitter @KRayWFTV for live updates.