The link between guns and drug dealing hit a new benchmark for Central Florida this week when agents in Osceola County wrapped up an investigation that seized 70 firearms and more than 30,000 bullets.
The arsenal belonged to a ring in St. Cloud that traded methamphetamine during the past year for pistols, assault rifles and shotguns, according to charges filed Tuesday in federal court in Orlando.
Wesley Scott Jr., 47, was arrested Tuesday on charges of distributing pounds of the drug, known as speed, throughout the state. Investigators say he was the ringleader.
Most of the weapons, including hand grenades, were stored in Scott's home, where he kept them at hand during drug deals, agents said.
Guns turning up in drug investigations are so common that agents call them a "tool of the trade." But nothing close to 70 has been seized before in a single investigation in Central Florida, according the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
This week's arrest follows a sharp jump in methamphetamine abuse in Osceola County, agents said.
Last week the Osceola County Investigative Bureau shut down three laboratories making the illegal drug, OCIB Agent Terri Bradley said after Scott's appearance in federal court.
Eleven labs were found in the last 13 weeks of 2002, compared with four in all of 2001, Bradley said.
The year-long investigation of Scott seized about a pound of methamphetamine and a little-seen but highly publicized smokable form of the drug called "Ice," federal Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Jeffrey Harmon wrote in court papers.
Two ounces of the new drug along with $12,000 cash and a loaded 9 mm pistol were seized by Osceola deputies in mid-November from two motorists who were seen leaving Scott's home on Bass Highway, near St. Cloud, according to court papers.
About six members of the drug ring remained at large Tuesday night, agents said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Perry said authorities also seized kits to turn two Uzi rifles and a MAC-11 into submachine guns. Also seized were about 600 knives, ranging from switchblades to machetes, he said.
So far, four of the guns have been identified as stolen, an agent said.
Scott did not speak at Tuesday's hearing. His lawyer, Mark NeJame of Orlando, requested an evidence and bail hearing Friday. Until then, Scott remains held without bail in the Seminole County Jail.
Source: Orlando Sentinel