Local

FHP: Pursuit of stolen, cloned SUV leads to discovery of fentanyl pills disguised as OxyContin

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — An attempted traffic stop in Kissimmee last week led to a high-speed chase that ended with a crash and the discovery of a cache of deadly fentanyl, the Florida Highway Patrol announced Friday.

WATCH CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS

Troopers with FHP’s Criminal Intervention Unit were patrolling in the area of Old Canoe Creek Road and Kissimmee Park Road in Osceola County Thursday when they witnessed a white Mercedes SUV unlawfully change lanes while cutting off a marked FHP cruiser.

According to FHP, the troopers noted that the SUV appeared to have illegal tinting and a temporary tag that didn’t return to any vehicles.

READ: Second teen arrested for shooting death of 16-year-old at Orlando apartment complex

As they attempted to stop the SUV, troopers say the driver fled the area, at times reaching speeds of more than 100 miles-per-hour.

According to FHP, the suspect side-swiped one other driver and drove the wrong way into oncoming traffic multiple times while being followed by marked patrol units.

Eventually, troopers say the driver lost control of the SUV on a curve and crashed.

The driver, later identified as 22-year-old Jonathan Nicola, was initially taken into custody for felony fleeing and eluding as well as a long list of serious traffic offenses.

READ: Merritt Island man charged in fatal crash on New Year’s Eve

According to FHP, as troopers searched the SUV for any other occupants, they found evidence of drug trafficking activity, including a digital scale and several small baggies in the driver’s side door pocket.

An FHP Trooper responded to the scene with a K-9 that alerted to the presence of drugs in the vehicle.

According to FHP, another search of the Mercedes revealed a loaded 9mm handgun, additional drug paraphernalia, and a box containing a clear, vacuum-sealed bag containing 15,000 Fentanyl pills made to look like OxyContin, packaged and ready to sell.

After verifying the vehicle information, troopers say they determined it was reported stolen out of Lee County with a fake temporary tag and cloned VINs.

READ: New law could lead to improved living conditions at some military housing

Nicola, who troopers noted was a habitual traffic offender, was booked into the Orange County jail on multiple felony charges including trafficking in more than four grams of fentanyl, manufacturing or selling a synthetic narcotic, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, grand theft of a motor vehicle, and aggravated fleeing and eluding law enforcement.

Nicola also received a misdemeanor citation for reckless driving. He remains in the Orange County Jail on no bond.

FHP’s investigation is ongoing.

Click here to download our free news, weather and smart TV apps. And click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.