WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - Leaders of a major methamphetamine operation believed a voodoo priest who told them they would not get caught dealing the drug throughout central Florida, according to Polk County investigators.
Sheriff Grady Judd announced Wednesday that deputies and DEA agents intercepted a hand-off of 44 pounds of meth at the Love's truck stop in Polk City.
Months of surveillance and wire tapping lead to the bust, which also resulted in the seizure of more than 100 guns, including 40 assault rifles, silencers and even a grenade launcher.
"Where you have drugs, you have lots of guns, and lots of danger," Judd said.
According to the sheriff, 13 suspects have been arrested and deputies are searching for 12 more. Investigators believe the operation stems from southern California and distributes in cities throughout the country, including Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Atlanta and also central Florida.
Judd said the ring leaders thought they would never get caught because of the frequent advice they received from a voodoo priest.
"That's why we called it Operation Hoodoo Voodoo, because we hoodoo'd the voodoo witch doctor," Judd said.
Supposedly, the witch told local leaders not to fear because no one was looking for them, but he was wrong.
Among those arrested is the alleged local leader, Ma Lopez.
Lopez has already served prison time for a meth arrest in 2006 and was deported back to Mexico.
She also receives federal assistance.
"It just drives me crazy," Judd said. "We're giving a drug dealer who deals millions of dollars worth of drugs federal assistance. I think we need a federal investigation."
Relatives at the Lakeland home Lopez shared with at least two other suspects would not answer questions Wednesday.
The “uncut” street value of 44 pounds of pure crystal meth is approximately $2 million, but Judd said it could balloon to more than $8 million once dealt.