WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Enough fentanyl to kill five million people was recently seized during an undercover operation that led to the arrest of three men, two of whom were in the country illegally, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
"They tried to treat us with fentanyl, and we tricked them with an arrest," the sheriff said during a press conference on Halloween.
According to Sheriff Judd, detectives went undercover and met with Ruperto Rocha, 55, in Bartow and he sold deputies one kilogram of cocaine on September 14. Two days later, Juan Manuel Gutierrez Medina, sold the deputies another kilogram as Rocha sold them three more kilograms.
"Now, we’ve got four kilos of fentanyl and it is mixed with methamphetamine. It’s stamped in the pills. It’s mixed in the pills. This is really pure meth," Sheriff Judd said.
On October 5, deputies met with Rocha again and made a partial payment.
Over time, deputies say they figured out the drugs were coming from a Mexican cartel and then going to Compton, California to Polk County.
"It came to Polk County straight out of Compton," the sheriff said.
Deputies say they followed Gutierrez Medina to Compton, California where deputies say he went to buy more drugs. In the meantime, Sheriff Judd said deputies got a warrant for his arrest for a first-degree felony.
Sheriff Judd says the fentanyl is being trafficked from Mexico.
According to Sheriff Judd, Polk deputies and Homeland Security contacted the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and asked the agency to knock on the door of a home where Gutierrez Medina's phone was pinging, but Sheriff Judd says the agency said no. However, the agency said it would help if they catch him driving or outside the home.
"They made a mistake when they came to Florida because we knock on doors. We arrest people," Sheriff Judd stated.
On October 18, Sheriff Judd says Gutierrez Medina was headed back to Polk County and was captured in Suwannee County after being stopped by the Florida Highway Patrol.
Sheriff Judd noted that Gutierrez Medina is in the United States illegally from Mexico and has been deported several times.
Sheriff Grady Judd says this is the largest fentanyl seizure in the county's history.
"He’s got a long history with border patrol, and he’s here again and he’s bringing poison to kill people in the United States," Sheriff Judd said.
Sheriff Judd said Contreras Gutierrez, who Sheriff Judd says was also in the country illegally, sold undercover deputies six more kilograms on October 20 in Hillsborough County. Five days later, Polk deputies, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrest him.
According to PCSO, the street value of the 10 kilos of fentanyl is approximately $2,500,000.
On October 20, detectives say they 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, according to PCSO.
Mugshots of the three men arrested courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Juan Manuel Gutierrez Medina has been charged with 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 Sr.
Juan Manuel Contreras Gutierrez was charged with trafficking fentanyl over 28 grams. PSCO says Contreras Gutierrez’ criminal history includes possession of drugs without a prescription, first-degree robbery and grand theft (convicted, 5 years’ probation), 2018, Los Angeles, California. PCSO says Contreras Gutierrez is in the United States illegally—he was ordered removed by an immigration judge on Nov. 19, 2020 and deported back to Mexico on Nov. 23, 2020. On Nov. 28, 2020, he was caught 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.
Rocha has been charged with trafficking fentanyl over 28 grams. According to PCSO, his criminal history includes a criminal traffic charge in 1998 in Hardee County; transporting illegal immigrants, Del Rio, Texas, 1981 (convicted, 3-month sentence); home invasion, armed violence, aggravated battery, 1989, Belvidere, Illinois; and aggravated battery, Lockport Correctional, Illinois, 1990 (convicted 5-year sentence). Rocha has an unknown resident alien status.
Sheriff Judd added that they’ve been in and out of the country since the 1990s, and he doesn’t see that they were ever gainfully employed.