How to operate a Snow plow?
Damien Chaney got to the McDonald's at East Colonial Drive and Goldenrod Road about half an hour after his prospective heroin buyer did on Wednesday evening.
Chaney, 24, got in the undercover deputy's car and directed him to a gray one-story house on Trent Street, records show. Then he called an alleged dealer, Abbiezer Vivas, and waited.
Vivas, 32, drove up to the house on a motorcycle about 10 minutes later, records show.
He and Chaney walked into the house, leaving the deputy outside. Minutes later, Chaney climbed back into the deputy's passenger seat with a bag. It had more than the deputy asked for – 16.9 grams, records show.
The deputy paid Chaney $1, 600. Then he gave the take-down signal, and his colleagues moved in to make the arrests.
Chaney and Vivas were two of about 15 people arrested over the last two weeks in a crackdown on heroin and other drug operations in Central Florida. More arrests are likely on their way, officials said.
The joint crackdown, dubbed Operation Snowplow, involved the sheriff's office, Orlando police, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area analysts and the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation.
"Obviously we didn't solve the heroin problem, you know, in the last several months, " said Capt. Carlos Espinoza, who leads the Orange County sheriff's narcotics division. "But I can tell you that for this operation we had about 25 arrest warrants pending over the three or four months with all the different organizations."
Chaney and Vivas are being held in Orange County Jail on $100, 000 bonds. But of the 15 people arrested since Dec. 8 as part of what law enforcement officials called Operation Snowplow, seven were out of jail on bond by Friday evening. Some face charges of heroin possession, others different drug or gun charges.
Officials described the people arrested as users, low-level dealers, and a few mid-level dealers.
Law enforcement officials seized 8.5 kilograms of heroin, 18 weapons, and other drugs, Sheriff Jerry Demings said Friday.
The operation came as the region continues to struggle with heroin abuse.
"In August of this year, an epidemic of heroin-related overdoses and deaths reached a critical high here in Orange County, " Demings said. "…Attacking the supply side of this issue was not sufficient."
The new approach focuses on prevention and treatment, as well as arrests and prosecutions.
"We as far as the sheriff's office, have not had any drug activity in Blossom Park for several months. And we're glad for that, " Espinoza said.
Last year, there were 676 heroin-related arrests in Orange County, the highest-ever number in county records, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Through the first nine months of this year, authorities have made more than 683 heroin-related arrests. Most of the arrests were for low-level offenses like possession.
Law enforcement officials are trying to get heroin users into the legal system, where they can seek treatment through the jail or through court-mandated programs.
"We cannot arrest our way out of this epidemic, " Orlando police Chief John Mina said. "But our job as law enforcement is to keep this community safe, and one of the ways we intend to do that is putting these drug dealers, heroin drug dealers, and some users, behind bars, and certainly seizing their drugs, money, guns, and vehicles."