Drug Dealers Traveled With Bags Full of Meth From LAX to Florida: Sheriff

A two-year-long undercover drug trafficking operation discovered that drug dealers were smuggling methamphetamine from the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in California to other airports in Florida, simply by hiding it in luggage.

In a press release on Friday, the Polk County Sheriff's Office in Florida announced that 85 individuals were arrested and over $12 million worth of illegal drugs were seized as a result of the undercover operation.

The announcement on Friday comes roughly two years after the undercover investigation was launched in September 2020 after detectives executed a search warrant at a residence in Winter Haven, Florida and recovered one pound of methamphetamine.

"From that point forward detectives continued to make undercover narcotics purchases from dealers in the Winter Haven area, and learned that large amounts of methamphetamine were being smuggled from California to Florida in checked luggage on domestic flights," the Polk County Sheriff's Office said in a press release.

Los Angeles International Airport
Here, the Los Angeles International Airport LAX Sign on February 6, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. The Polk County Sheriff's Office announced on Friday that an undercover drug trafficking operation discovered that drug dealers were smuggling luggage bags filled with meth through the LAX airport to Florida. FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty

During a press conference on Friday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd spoke about the discovery of drug smuggling through airports and said the smugglers "didn't as so much as throw a pair of underwear in the suitcase to act like they were hiding the drugs."

"You think LAX has got a drug smuggling problem at the airport? I believe that they do, and they need to address it ASAP," Judd said. "There needs to be a deep dive into the baggage handlers, and to see where the hookup was, to allow suitcase after suitcase after suitcase to get through the scanning with no clothes inside, no evidence of clothes inside, just drugs."

In addition to the discovery of the airport drug smuggling, the undercover operation also resulted in dozens of arrests. In total, 85 individuals were arrested and they are currently facing 355 felony charges and 93 misdemeanor charges.

One of the individuals that were found smuggling drugs through airports was identified as 32-year-old Demarcus Terrell Jefferson.

"Detectives received information that Demarcus and other family members were involved in smuggling large amounts of methamphetamine through the airlines in checked luggage on domestic flights from California. Detectives made multiple undercover drug purchases at his home" the press release said. "During the investigation, detectives also learned that one of Demarcus' brothers, Devontae, died as a result of an overdose of Fentanyl and Xanax at that same house on March 24, 2020. Drugs continued to be sold by family members after his death."

The $12.8 million worth of drugs seized included 268 pounds of meth, 31 pounds of cocaine, 128 pounds of marijuana, 3.4 pounds of MDMA (ecstasy), 6.8 ounces of fentanyl, 68 Xanax pills and 173 Oxycodone pills. Additionally, police also recovered 49 firearms, three non-active grenades, two bullet-proof vests and one stolen motorcycle.

Newsweek was directed to the press conference after reaching out to the Polk County Sheriff's Office for comment.