A undercover drug investigation in Lee County involving one of the country’s largest street gangs resulted in 18 arrests and the confiscation of amounts of about a pound of Fentanyl and various other drugs.

The investigation, called Operation Checkmate by Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno at a media briefing Thursday morning, was a months-long activity.


Sheriff Carmine Marceno gives details about Operation Checkmate

Fort Myers News-Press

Backed by hooded and armed drug detectives at the Sheriff’s Office headquarters, Marceno briefly outlined the operation.

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“We’re targeting drug dealers,” he said. “Yesterday, Lee County Sheriff’s Office narcotics detectives wrapped up  a several month long investigation … targeting drug dealers that were operating in south Fort Myers and Bonita Springs.”

Marceno said the U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force worked with several units of the Sheriff’s Office on the operation.

Lee County Sheriff, Carmine Marceno addressed the media regarding a narcotics investigation called Operation Checkmate Thursday morning at LCSO Headquarters. 18 people were arrested and they are looking for 4 suspects. (Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press/USA Today, Florida Network)

He said members of the operation conducted surveillance and made numerous controlled purchases of narcotics. In addition to the 390 grams or Fentanyl, They confiscated heroin, crack cocaine, meth and prescription pills.

“Our team was able to identify primary suspects being documented members of the Latin Kings gang,” Marceno said. “In the end our team was able to infiltrate the organization.”

Law enforcement descriptions say the Latin Kings are one of the most violent gangs in the United States.

The operation resulted in 18 arrests with four others sought. Some of those arrested have known drug connections, Marceno said.

Those arrested on a variety of drug charges included:

Fort Myers: Fernando Reyes, 27; Victor Tianga, 50; Felipe Costa, 32;  Orlando Avalos, 29; and Alyssa Bostwick, 26; Salvatore Guiffrida, 32; Clayton Michael Meeker, 37.

Lehigh Acres: Daniel Benzor, 26, and Wesley Gutierrez, 39.

Bonita Springs: Priscilla Ortiz, 35; Gabriel Mata, 34; Jorge Hernandez, 39; Rachel Ryan, 32;  David Santana, 32; Rigoberto Cisneros, 26; Joel Lopez, 40; Melanie Diaz, 38; and Angelique Band, 50.

Still being sought on a variety of drug charges are Emily Duron, 19,  Amber Anderson, 31;  Yaquan Stewart, 25 and Robert Goldberg, 34, all of Fort Myers.

Connect with breaking news reporter Michael Braun: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook), @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter) or [email protected].

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