DELAND -- A Jamaican cocaine ring funneling drugs through cruise ships and cargo liners and into the DeLand area was dismantled Tuesday with 10 arrests and the seizure of drugs, firearms and cash, authorities said.
During a three-year investigation, agents seized more than 40 pounds of cocaine from the operation, and said it was headed by DeLand residents Devon Kenroy Somers, 40, and Harvey Oliver Layne, 38.
Authorities estimate the "close-knit" group distributed well over 110 pounds of cocaine in Volusia County since 2002. The drugs, both seized and distributed, are worth between $1.5 million and $2.3 million.
Agents are searching for three more DeLand residents involved in the operation and listed in the arrest warrant.
"If you cut the head of the snake off it's going to die and that's truly what we did with this organization," said Stephen Collins, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Orlando.
Collins said the ringleaders got rid of the cocaine as soon as they received it and federal, state and local agents who searched six DeLand homes Tuesday morning found only a small amount of cocaine and marijuana, and a handful of firearms.
According to confidential sources, the group was established about 1996 and began selling multi-ounce quantities. In 2002, the ring increased distribution to multikilogram quantities.
During the past four months, investigators tapped three cell phones, intercepted calls and used undercover agents to make purchases. But getting near the sophisticated group was difficult.
"They were very aware of surveillance," Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Jancha said. The dealers would use code on the phone, referring to the drugs as "pesos" or "platas." At least two homes were equipped with surveillance cameras. "They knew who to deal with and who not to deal with."
Jancha said some members were brothers, cousins or related in other ways to each other.
Members of the drug ring and its couriers would travel to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa to acquire drugs coming from the Caribbean and Central America through cruise ships and cargo liners. According to the arrest affidavit, the cocaine would be hidden in refrigeration compartments, luggage, sandals.