A midnight traffic stop by the Gulf County Sheriff’s office in Florida netted nearly $500,000 in cash and about another $500,000 worth of drugs this week. The seized drugs consisted of more that 34,000 oxycodone pills, along with quantities of heroin, cocaine and marijuana.
The traffic stop occurred just before midnight when a 29-year-old man who was driving a blue Kia van was clocked traveling at 40 mph in a 25 mph zone. Aside from speeding, the driver had a brake light that wasn’t functioning. When deputies tried to make a traffic stop, the van turned north on Route 71. It then veered into the southbound lanes of traffic and onto the shoulder where it stopped. That’s when the driver of the van jumped out and ran into a nearby woods. Deputies followed and apprehended the man after a short chase. Nobody was injured.
According to the Panama City News Herald, when deputies returned to the van, they discovered a loaded 9 mm pistol along with ammunition within reach of the driver. A further search of the van turned up the cash, 34 plastic bags with about 1,000 oxycodone pills in each one, 25.5 grams of crack cocaine, 7.8 grams of “black tar” heroin and 2 pounds 9 ounces of marijuana. The street value of the drugs was estimated to be at $540,000.
A sheriff’s department spokesman has said the forfeiture process on the cash and van has already been started. He didn’t indicate what the funds might be used for. The driver of the Kia van has been charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to sell, trafficking in oxycodone, possession of heroin, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and multiple traffic offenses. He is being held on a $374,000 bond. Deputies were congratulated by the Gulf County Sheriff on the stop and seizure. Investigators aren’t sure of either the origin or destination of the drugs. They’re looking into a supply chain. The drug bust could be the largest in Gulf County history.
Gulf County continues to suffer after Hurricane Michael. Nearly a half million dollars would be a windfall for a small county that was devastated by the hurricane. Many residents continue to live in homes that have yet to be fully repaired since Michael.