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PCSO News Release

Media Contact:
Wilder, Scott

Director of the Office of Communications 
News Date: 12/22/2016 

 Polk deputies arrest 9; seize weapons and trafficking amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, cannabis, and ecstasy  

PCSO & HIDTA Task Force arrest 9; seize weapons and trafficking amounts of heroin, methamphetamine, cannabis, and ecstasy

Investigation Summary:

  • 9 arrested
  • 62.5 grams of heroin seized
  • 3+ pounds of cannabis seized
  • 15 grams of ecstasy seized
  • 100 packages of K-2 seized
  • 66 ounces of liquid methamphetamine seized
  • Weapons seized:
    2 AK-47s
    .357 revolver
    .380 Taurus
    M&P handgun (stolen law enforcement weapon out of Orange County)

“Heroin and Methamphetamine are the two most destructive drugs being sold in our communities. They destroy lives and families. The users feed their habits through rampant property theft—each addict can be a one person crime wave. In this investigation, we took a significant amount of drugs off the street and took guns away from drug dealers and felons—including a handgun stolen from an Orange County law enforcement officer. Our detectives did an outstanding job—our community is safer as a result.” –Grady Judd, Sheriff  

In December 2016, members of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Special Investigations, Organized Crime Unit and HIDTA (Central Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking) Task Force began a narcotics investigation involving 26-year-old Judith Rodriguez of Highland St, Lakeland. Rodriguez was identified as a mid-level drug dealer in the Lakeland area. Detectives also discovered connections between Rodriguez and other larger drug distributors in the Lakeland area.  

On December 7, an undercover detective met with Judith Rodriguez who later met with Lamar Hamilton at an apartment complex in Lakeland, 183 Lake Morton Drive, Apartment H. Rodriguez acquired two (2) ounces of methamphetamine from Hamilton & sold it to the undercover detective for $2,400. After the drug deal was completed Rodriguez mentioned to the undercover detective that she had an AK-47 rifle that was for sale. The undercover detective then traveled to a home on W Highlands Avenue and met with 17-year-old Mario Chavez of Lakeland who agreed to sell the detective the AK-47 rifle and a small amount of cannabis.  

On December 13, Rodriguez introduced the undercover detective to 35-year-old Elias Velez of Lakeland, Rodriguez’ source of supply for heroin, so he could sell the undercover detective Heroin (5 grams for $500).  

On December 21, 2016, the undercover detective drove to Exclusive Auto Spa at 316 North Canal Avenue, Lakeland, which is Velez's place of business and met with Rodriguez, Elias Velez, and Elias’ brother Angel Rivera-Velez. Rivera-Velez turned over a large Ziploc bag that contained 22 bindles (220 baggies/ 22 grams) of heroin, at which time other HIDTA detectives moved in and took everyone into custody.  

HIDTA detectives then obtained search warrants for Velez’s business and for Elias and Angel Velez’s residence at 2245 New Tampa Highway Lot #24. The search warrant at the Velez residence resulted in the seizure of 16 bundles of Heroin, an additional 19.5 grams of Heroin, for a total of 35.5 grams. Also located in the residence were approximately 3 pounds of cannabis, approximately 100 packages of suspected K2, a .357 revolver, a Taurus .380 and various narcotic paraphernalia.    

Detectives also executed a search warrant at 1402 W Highland St, Lakeland, Florida. Mario Chavez was taken into custody and detectives found a small amount of cannabis, drug paraphernalia and ammunition.  

Another search warrant was executed at the residence of Lamar Hamilton (183 Lake Morton Ave, Lakeland). During the execution of the search warrant, three suspects identified as Lamar Hamilton, Natasha Mooneyham, and Amanda Banford were located and taken into custody. A search of Hamilton’s residence yielded the seizure of 15 grams of ecstasy, 64 ounces of liquid, which tested positive for methamphetamine, two guns (one AK-47 and one stolen M&P Police handgun confirmed stolen out of Orange County, Florida), and large amounts of drug paraphernalia. Lamar Hamilton is a convicted felon. He also had an active warrant for his arrest for Child Support.  

Mooneyham had an active warrant for her arrest. As a result of the search she was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.   

This investigation resulted in the combined seizure of approximately 62.5 grams of heroin, 66 ounces of liquid methamphetamine, over 3 pounds of cannabis, 15 grams of ecstasy, 100 packages of suspected K-2, a .357 revolver, (2) AK-47’s, .380 Taurus, a M&P handgun, and the arrest of 9 suspects.  

Those arrested are:  

1. Judith Rodriguez, 26, W Highland St, Lakeland, Florida Charges: Sale of Cannabis (2 counts), Possession of drug paraphernalia (2 counts), Conspiracy to traffic in heroin 14 gm - 28gm, Conspiracy to traffic heroin over 4 gm, Trafficking in heroin over 4 gm, trafficking over 14 gm, and Trafficking in methamphetamine 28 - 200 grams.  

2. Josue Ocasio, 30, Tanglewood St, Lakeland, Florida Charges: Possession of Heroin, Possession of drug paraphernalia  

3. Edward Rivera Jr, 35, N Crystal Lake Dr, Lakeland, Florida Charges: Possession of cannabis under 20gm, Possession of Narcotics Paraphernalia  

4. Elias Velez, 35, New Tampa Hwy, Lakeland, Florida Charges: Trafficking in heroin over 4 gm, Trafficking in heroin over 14 gm, Conspiracy to traffic over 4 gm, Conspiracy to traffic in heroin over 4 gm, Conspiracy to traffic in heroin over 14 gm, and Possession of drug paraphernalia.  

5. Angel Manuel Rivera-Velez, 37, New Tampa Hwy, Lakeland, Florida Charges: Trafficking in heroin over 14 gm, Conspiracy to traffic in heroin over 14 gm, and Possession of drug paraphernalia.  

6. Mario Chavez, 17 (JUVENILE), 1402 W Highland St, Lakeland, Florida Charges: Possession of firearm during the commission of a felony, Sale of cannabis, Conspiracy to sell cannabis, Possession of cannabis, and possession of drug paraphernalia.  

7. Lamar Hamilton, 35, Lake Morton Ave, Lakeland, Florida Charges: Armed trafficking in methamphetamine, armed trafficking of ecstasy, possession of firearm by convicted felon, grand theft of firearm,  possession of controlled substance (alprazolam), possession of paraphernalia, maintain a residence for drug trafficking, Tampering with evidence, Highlands County warrant for Child Support  

8. Natasha Mooneyham, 27, E Highland Dr, Lakeland, Florida Charges: Warrant VOP, Possession of methamphetamine, Possession of paraphernalia, violation of probation.  

9. Amanda Banford, 35, St Kitts Circle, Winter Haven, Florida Charges