Complaints from the residents of a quiet Florida community triggered an investigation that led to the arrest of 29 individuals on drug, gun, prostitution and racketeering charges. The chief of the West Palm Beach Police Department announced the arrests on May 9 outside one of the homes the suspects allegedly used to run their criminal enterprise. Operation Blockbuster was launched several years ago after people living in the Northwood Legacy neighborhood reported drug sales, prostitution and suspected gang activity.
According to media reports, police have taken 29 defendants into custody on a wide range of charges. Officials shared few details about the arrests, but they did say that 16 of the defendants are being charged under Florida’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. If they are convicted, they could be sent to prison for up to 60 years. Agencies that assisted the WPBPD during Operation Blockbuster include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Initial reports suggest that the suspects’ primary activity was distributing fentanyl, but they do not reveal how many of the arrested individuals are facing state drug charges. There were also no details about drugs, guns or cash being seized when the suspects were taken into custody. Reports do mention that 54 residents of the Northwood Legacy community have died from fentanyl overdoses in the last year.
Plea deals likely
Most of these defendants will likely plead guilty. When large numbers of suspects are taken into custody at the same time, prosecutors usually offer very attractive terms to the first defendant who is willing to plead guilty and cooperate with law enforcement. When police have a cooperating suspect, the remaining defendants tend to seek their own plea agreements.