‘A family affair:’ 64 arrested as Polk sheriff’s office paralyzes Lakeland-based drug ring (2024)

Fentanyl sold by family killed at least 2 buyers, sheriff says

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd held a news conference Friday to discuss “Operation Rooske,” a three-year investigation into a Lakeland-based drug ring that recently culminated with its leading members named among 64 arrests.

Judd said that most of the arrests were of the drug ring’s customers, at least two of whom — with their names shown red in the image at the top of this story — suffered fatal fentanyl overdoses. The sheriff’s office reportedly used these lower-level arrests to develop leads and build a case against the organization.

“We quit arresting the street-level people because it was putting heat on our ability to move up the chain of command,” Judd said. “... We could literally talk for a long time about all of the nuances of this case, but I think you’ve pretty well figured it out. Guns and dope equal violence and death, and why these fools can’t figure out the obvious that we all understand is a surprise to me every day.”

As far as which arrests served most to cripple the organization, as the sheriff put it, they would largely be those of the family behind Lakeland businesses Rooske Bait and Tackle Shop and Rooske Motorcycle Parts & Accessories, where the sheriff said drug money was being laundered. Both of the businesses have been shut down, according to Judd.

  • Hector Baez Torres, 43, of Lakeland

    • Called the “CEO” of the organization.

    • Operated bait shop and motorcycle parts shop with Pilar Rivera, his wife.

    • Faces charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and unlawful use of two-way communication device.

  • Pilar Rivera, 41, of Lakeland

    • Married to Hector Baez Torres and called the “CFO” of the organization.

    • Operated bait shop and motorcycle parts shop with Hector Baez Torres.

    • Faces charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering and unlawful use of two-way communication device.

    • Daughter of Hector Baez Torres and Pilar Rivera, girlfriend of Miguel Castro Rivera.

    • Faces charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering, trafficking in cocaine 28g or more, trafficking in fentanyl 28g or more, possession of oxycodone, possessing a structure for drugs with minor present, negligent child abuse w/o bodily harm, unlawful use of two-way communication device, possession of marijuana resin, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of prescription drug without prescription.

  • Miguel Castro Rivera, 24, of Auburndale

    • Boyfriend of Jeimylee Baez Rivera and called Hector Baez Torres’ “right-hand man.”

    • Faces charges of armed trafficking in cocaine, racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, trafficking in fentanyl 14g or more, armed trafficking in fentanyl 28g or more, possessing a structure for drugs with minor present, use of firearm during commission of felony offense, unlawful use of two-way communication device, negligent child abuse w/o bodily harm, possession of marijuana resin, possession of oxycodone, possession of marijuana, possession of altered firearm, resisting without violence, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of prescription drug without prescription.

  • Luis Ramos Delgado, 48, of Lakeland

    • Boyfriend of Wilma Fuentes Laureano, called an “operator.”

    • Faces charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, trafficking in fentanyl 4g<14g, trafficking in fentanyl 14g<28g , trafficking in fentanyl 28g or more and unlawful use of two-way communication device.

  • Wilma Fuentes Laureano, 56, of Lakeland

    • Girlfriend of Luis Ramos Delgado, called an “operator.”

    • Faces charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering and trafficking in fentanyl 4g or more.

  • Casimiro Bidoit Del Valle, 59, of Lakeland

    • Called a drug supplier for the organization.

    • Faces charges of trafficking in fentanyl 28g or more, trafficking in cocaine over 200 grams, possession of firearm by convicted felon and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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The operation began in January 2021 when Polk County detectives realized street-level fentanyl dealers in the Lakeland area were selling hundreds of bags each day, Judd said.

Spurred to look further into where the drugs were coming from, investigators soon secured backing from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida State Attorney’s Office, with state funding from S.A.F.E. to boot.

“We were working the street and all of a sudden our detective said, ‘Oh my gosh, these folks are cranking out 500 to 1,000 bags of this a day in Lakeland from this one operation,’ so they needed to go further,” Judd said. “We set up wiretaps, or communication interceptions, through warrants. We saw that this immediately went across county lines... So what did this tell us? It told us, ‘OK, now we figured out that Pilar and Hector are the top of the organization.’ We define the hierarchy. We figured out the next level was part of the family affair. We figured out who they were (Jeimylee Baez Rivera and Miguel Castro Rivera). Then we figured out the operators and two of the operators are boyfriend and girlfriend, Wilma Fuentes and Luis. We also figured out that as these people at (the street) level were arrested, they would quit letting them deal dope, they would distance themselves.”

Come June 20, 2024, Polk County deputies served search warrants for Rooske Motorcycle Parts & Accessories, Rooske Bait & Tackle Shop, Hector and Pilar’s residence, Jeimylee and Miguel’s residence and Luis and Wilma’s residence, a total of six.

“We seized a lot of things. We seized motorcycles. We wiped out and seized everything from the bait shop because we were able to funnel the money and see it follow back up to be laundered at the legitimate places. We seized guns,” Judd said.

A sheriff’s office news release goes into more detail, stating the following drugs and assets were seized in the investigation:

  • Fentanyl (742.14 grams)

  • Cocaine 3,585.42 grams

  • Methamphetamine (13.08 grams)

  • Oxycodone (57 grams)

  • Marijuana (228.69 grams)

  • $12,270 in U.S. currency

  • Five vehicles ($154,000)

  • Two personal watercrafts ($15,000)

  • Dirt bikes and off-road vehicles ($40,000)

  • Enclosed trailer ($4,000)

  • Rooske Bait Store merchandise ($35,000)

  • Rooske Motorcycle Shop merchandise ($55,000)

  • Jewelry/electronics/firearms/designer apparel ($67,500)

  • Bank accounts ($40,000)

  • Liens on the residence of Hector and Pilar ($200,000)

“In essence, this fentanyl trafficking organization was the family business. The motorcycle shop and the bait shop were corrupt businesses that were used as a means for money laundering. Their customers weren’t involved; they had no idea what was going on. In fact, the owners tried to project a wholesome façade while conducting their criminal enterprise behind the scenes until it all came crashing down on them, thanks to the fantastic work by our detectives,” Judd said in a statement.

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‘A family affair:’ 64 arrested as Polk sheriff’s office paralyzes Lakeland-based drug ring (2024)
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