In 2010, law enforcement officials began an investigation known as “Operation Wild West.” The operation involved state and federal drug crimes and gang violence in Florida. This week, 29 arrests were made under the authority of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration with an additional 35 state arrests made under the authority of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office’s Violent Crimes Division and Gang Units. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Palme Beach County State Attorney’s Office also participated in the investigation.
Those arrested face a variety of state and federal charges, potentially including drug possession, drug trafficking, drug manufacturing, weapons violations, conspiracy and criminal enterprise related offenses. Many of the charges involve felonies and expose the defendants to potential incarceration for years, as well as heavy fines. As part of the operation, authorities seized drugs, weapons, vehicles, jewelry and cash. Federal drug crimes may also expose defendants to tax law violations, such as tax evasion and RICO violations.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff indicated that the arrests were the beginning of the operation, rather than the end. Any information obtained from those arrested could be used to make further arrests and expand the investigation. The Sheriff referred to the arrests and seizures as “just a start” and indicated that the operation is till ongoing.
Federal drug crimes are subject to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. This means that a guilty plea or verdict will expose the defendants to a minimum sentence that the judge cannot reduce. This limits the discretion prosecutors and judges have in dealing with those facing federal drug charges.
Source:Sun Sentinel, “65 arrested in ‘Operation Wild West’,” by Karla Bowsher, 26 July 2012