Lee County, FL –
Two men were arrested and more than a $250,000 worth of cocaine is off the streets after federal agents raided two Lee County homes early Friday morning.
Our cameras were there as agents surrounded a hope in Cape Coral overnight.
Several marked and unmarked patrol cars were in the area of Southwest 23rd Terrace in Cape Coral between midnight and 6 a.m. Friday.
It all started when a drug dog at a U.S. postal facility flagged down two packages Thursday night.
U.S. Postal Inspectors were able to secure search warrants for the parcels and a coordinated operation involving the U.S. Postal Service, Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Homeland Security led to the identification of a potential suspect.
Joint search warrants were served at two separate residences; 623 SW 23rd Terrace, Cape Coral and 2804 20th Street SW, Lehigh Acres.
According to deputies, 38-year-old Francisco Melendez was part of an international cocaine distribution ring.
“He’s a really great dad, and a supportive father,” said Melendez’s daughter.
We spoke to Melendez’s 18-year-old daughter just hours after agents raided his Cape Coral home and the home of 38-year-old Alfredo Perez in Lehigh Acres.
Collectively, agents seized more than 11 pounds of power cocaine – worth $250,000 on the streets. Detectives say a handgun was also recovered at the residence along with evidence of drug packaging, weighing and distribution. Nearly $14,500 in drug proceeds was also seized for forfeiture.
Agents say Melendez and Perez would receive shipments of the drug from Puerto Rico.
It wasn’t until a drug dog flagged down two packages at a postal center last night that agents moved in.
“We have interrupted at least one decent mid-level, high mid-level operation that we think was a pretty significant source of cocaine in the streets here,” said Sheriff Mike Scott.
Sheriff Scott says cocaine has always been a problem in Southwest Florida, and these arrests don’t necessarily mean a comeback.
“I wouldn’t say a resurgence. I don’t think it every really ebbed. In fact, I think it’s been pretty consistent,” said Sheriff Scott.
Sheriff Scott says the recent spike in heroin and prescription pill abuse may have pushed cocaine out of the headlines, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone away.
“Cocaine has been around. It’s still a very popular drug in terms of the illegal world,” said Sheriff Scott. “Melendez and Perez are in jail where they belong. Our country is a better place because of it.”
Sheriff Scott tells us more arrests connected to this ring could be made in the future.
As for the K9 that flagged down the packages, the sheriff would not go into much detail. He says it’s not uncommon for the postal service and private shipping companies to periodically screen for these types of drugs.
Melendez is charged with Trafficking in Cocaine over 200 grams; Possession of a Firearm by a convicted felon and Possession of drug paraphernalia.
Perez is charged with Trafficking in Cocaine over 500 grams.