Three Mexican men living in Hillsborough County — two of them in the United States illegally — have been arrested and charged with trafficking in Fentanyl during a multi-agency investigation, a press release from the Polk County Sheriff's Office states.
According to the release, multiple law enforcement agencies collaborated during the investigation resulting in the three arrests, alongside the seizure of 10 kilograms of Fentanyl. The street value of the 10 kilos of fentanyl is approximated at $2,500,000 — enough to kill 5 million people if taken in overdose amounts says Sheriff Grady Judd.
“These drugs are extremely dangerous, and the people bringing them across an unsecure border are evil. Of the three men arrested during this investigation, two are in the country illegally and the Sinaloa Cartel drug trafficking organization is the source of supply for this poison." said Judd. "I am very thankful for our local, state, and national law enforcement partners, including state prosecutors Mr. Haas and Ms. Lopez, for working together to make this a successful investigation.”
The investigation was initiated in the month of September, with Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives acting in an undercover capacity working with Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agents. The investigation revealed the seized Fentanyl was illegally brought into the United States from the Sinaloa Mexico region by the Sinaloa Cartel drug trafficking organization to Compton California, to Riverview Florida, before making its way to Polk County.
Detectives made contact with a suspected drug trafficker, Juan Manuel Gutierrez Medina, who resides in Riverview, Florida. Detectives arranged to purchase large quantities of Fentanyl with Medina, completing the drug transactions with Medina, Ruperto Rocha, and Juan Gutierrez Contreras.
At one point during the investigation, Gutierrez Medina was tracked travelling by vehicle to Compton California, and then back to Florida. The Florida Highway Patrol, in concert with the investigation, arrested him in Suwannee County on October 18, 2023, on his way back to central Florida.
Detectives met with Ruperto in Bartow on October 12, and he was arrested without incident for trafficking fentanyl. On October 20, detectives met Juan Gutierrez Contreras in Riverview where he delivered 6 kilograms of Fentanyl to undercover detectives.
On October 25 detectives arranged to meet again with Gutierrez Contreras in the Riverview area. Working with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, he was arrested and charged with trafficking fentanyl over 28 grams. An ICE hold has been placed on him due to his illegal status.
The agencies that participated in the investigation include: Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Attorney General’s Office, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol, United States Customs and Border Protection, United States Department of Homeland Security, 10th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, Brian Haas, State Attorney, and 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, Susan S. Lopez, State Attorney.
The investigation has been conducted with the assistance of the State Financial Assistance for Fentanyl Eradication (S.A.F.E) Florida Program managed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In 2023, the Florida Legislature established state funding for the S.A.F.E program to conduct investigations designed to combat illegal fentanyl trafficking. The grant provides financial support and assistance for approved fentanyl-related investigative costs, such as overtime, travel, investigative supplies and equipment, and training.
“Enough fentanyl to kill 5 million Floridians made its way from Mexico, across our wide-open border and into our state, but thanks to the great police work by Sheriff Judd and FDLE it is now off our streets — along with the illegal immigrants who were trafficking it." said Florida Attorney General, Ashley Moody. "This major drug bust was bolstered by the State Assistance for Fentanyl Eradication in Florida Program, which we supported during this year’s legislative session. Further proof that Florida continues to lead even while the federal government refuses to do its job, secure the border and keep these deadly substances from killing Americans."
Those arrested during the investigation and their charges are as follows:
Juan Manuel Gutierrez Medina; DOB 9/29/1968; 12008 Anderson Drive, Riverview, FL. Charges: trafficking fentanyl over 28 grams. He has a prior arrest in California (Los Angeles) in 2002 for DUI. He is from Mexico and is in the United States illegally. The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed a hold on Gutierrez-Medina.
Ruperto Rocha, DOB 9/21/1958; 3417 Ridge Road, Wimauma, FL. Charges: trafficking fentanyl over 28 Grams. His criminal history includes a criminal traffic charge in 1998 in Hardee County; transporting Illegal Aliens, Del Rio, Texas, 1981 (convicted, 3 month sentence); Home Invasion / Armed Violence / AGG Battery, 1989, Belvidere, Illinois; and aggravated battery, Lockport Correctional, Illinois, 1990 (convicted 5 year sentence). Rocha has an unknown resident alien status.
Juan Manuel Contreras Gutierrez; DOB 09/06/1998; 12008 Anderson Drive, Riverview, FL; Charges: trafficking fentanyl over 28 Grams. Contreras Gutierrez’ criminal history includes possession of drugs w/o a prescription, 2021, Marion County; robbery-1st degree & grand theft (convicted, 5 years’ probation), 2018, Los Angeles, California. Contreras Gutierrez is in the United States illegally—he was ordered removed by an immigration judge on 11/19/2020 and deported back to Mexico on 11/23/2020. On 11/28/2020 he was encountered again trying to illegally enter the United States, he was again sent back to Mexico. Contreras Gutierrez re-entered the United States illegally at an unknown time after deportation.
Article by Rachael Volpe