Two men – one from Silver Springs and the other from Ocala – were arrested recently on felony drug possession and other charges after an operation by the Marion County Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team (UDEST).
John Christopher Angulo, 37, of 6136 E. Hwy. 326 in Silver Springs, was charged felony possession of marijuana (attempted), two counts of evidence tampering and resisting an officer without violence. Luis Francisco Irizarry, 34, of Ocala, was charged with felony possession of marijuana and evidence tampering.
UDEST became involved in the operation on April 17 after Marion County sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a suspicious package received by The Solar Guys, a business located at 13624 SW Hwy. 441 in Summerfield. The package, which appeared to be marijuana, had a return label of 5325 Elkhorn Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95842, according to the UDEST report.
A strike team agent observed the package’s sender was a “Jimmy G” and inspected the contents. Inside was a plastic storage bin with 12 vacuum-sealed plastic bags containing a green leafy substance with the odor and appearance of marijuana. The substance tested positive for THC content and was placed into evidence, the report said.
On April 20, the agent received a call from the manager at Solar Guys, who said an unknown male had called the business looking for the package. The manager provided audio of the conversation, in which a male with a strong Hispanic accent identified himself as Bryan Taylor from FedEx ground. The caller told the employee that a package was delivered to their business by mistake and a driver would be coming to pick it up. The employee asked for a call-back number and the caller stuttered and paused a short time before providing one, according to the report.
The agent went to the business parking lot and started conducting surveillance. A short time later, a “jacked-up” white Dodge pickup arrived and parked in the lot across from the agent. The vehicle had dark-tinted windows that made it impossible to see who was inside. The agent called the business manager to see if any of his employees owned a vehicle like that and was told no, and that The Solar Guys was the only open business in the plaza, the report said.
A short time later, the truck backed out of the parking spot and drove across U.S. Hwy. 441, where it parked in a business plaza parking lot with a clear view of the Solar Guys parking lot. The vehicle parked right next to UDEST agents who were conducting surveillance on the plaza. The agents reported that no one ever exited the vehicle, according to the report.
A short time later, a mail courier truck arrived at The Solar Guys plaza and a Hispanic male wearing a uniform for the mail courier company went inside and said he was there to pick up the package. The agent went inside and confronted the courier – later identified as Irizarry – and explained the package he was there to pick up contained drugs, the report said.
Asked who told him to come pick up the package, Irizarry said there was a written order when he came in to pick up his scanner in the morning. When the agent asked to see the order, Irizarry said he didn’t have it in his possession. He said he recognized the address and drove to location as part of his route. The agent called the mail courier company and no pickup order could be located at that time, Irizarry called his manager, told him about the incident and asked what he should do, according to the report.
At about that time, UDEST agents conducted a traffic stop on the suspicious white pickup after it was observed conducting loops in front of The Solar Guys as if it was doing surveillance or waiting for someone. Agents had grounds to make the stop because the driver was driving with his hazard lights on, which is a traffic violation, the report said.
The K9 agent and his dog, Babbo, approached the vehicle and found the driver, later identified as Angulo, to be uncooperative. Angulo refused to turn off the vehicle and hand over the keys. After being asked again, Angulo said through the closed door window he was placing the keys on top of the dash, but the key fob was the type that would still allow for the vehicle to be started by pushing a button, according to the report.
After refusing several times to hand over the key fob, Angulo finally complied and the K9 agent and dog were able to conduct a drug sniff. Babbo gave a positive alert. During the vehicle search, UDEST agents located a zip-lock plastic bag containing two Samsung smart phones that had been broken in half. The phones were extremely hot to the touch, meaning they had just been broken, making them inoperable so law enforcement can’t get any information from them. This is a common practice by people in the illegal drug trade, the report said.
Also found in the vehicle were five bundles of cash known as a “Dopers Roll,” which turned out to be $3,709. The odor of marijuana was detected during the search, but none was found inside the vehicle. Angulo was placed under arrest, according to the report.
The agents who were still with Irizarry were allowed to look through his cell phone and saw that he and Angulo were friends, fueling the theory that the two were working together to retrieve the package. Irizarry gave agents permission to take his phone and conduct a forensic analysis of it, but he asked if he could erase personal pictures of his wife before they took it, the report said.
While being allowed to erase the photos, Irizarry was observed deleting text/chat conversations from WhatsApp and what appeared to be package tracking confirmation. The agent took away the phone to preserve whatever evidence might be in it. Irizarry looked extremely nervous and his hands were visibly shaking, according to the report.
Angulo, who has a lengthy drug history in Marion County including trafficking in MDMA, possession of cocaine, evidence tampering, and possession of marijuana, was taken to the Marion County Jail, where he was released Tuesday on $7,000 bond. No court date was available. Irizarry was released Tuesday on $4,000 bond and will appear in Marion County Court on May 26.
The Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team is an initiative of the North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. It is made up of local, state and federal law enforcement from the Ocala Police Department, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Homeland Security.