June 18, 2015
Contact: Public Information Officer
Phone Number: (571) 362-2887
Three Individuals Charged In South Florida For Possessing With The Intent To Distribute Alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone (a-PVP), A/k/a “Flakka”
MIAMI - Two central Florida residents have been charged by indictment with conspiracy to import alpha-(a-PVP), a/k/a "Flakka" from China. A Broward County resident has also been charged by indictment with distributing “Flakka” within 1000 feet of a Ft. Lauderdale elementary school and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crime.
A.D. Wright, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA), Miami Field Division, Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security (ICE-HSI), Ronald J. Verrochio, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection (USPIS), Miami Division, Franklin Adderley, Chief, City of Fort Lauderdale Police Department, and Scott Israel, Sheriff, Broward Sheriff’s (BSO), made the announcement.
Michael J. Hernandez, 25, from Orlando, and Jonell Philip Vega-Mercado, 19, from Clermont, were charged with conspiracy to import, conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute, and possession with the intent to distribute a Schedule I controlled substance, alpha-(a-PVP), a/k/a “Flakka.” If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison for each offense.
According to allegations contained in court records, U.S. Customs and Border (CBP) Officers in Chicago identified, searched and detained multiple parcels destined for Broward County, in the Southern District of Florida. Each of the parcels was shipped from China and allegedly contained multi-kilogram packages of a controlled substance, alpha-(a-PVP), a/k/a “Flakka.” The parcels were mailed to locations in Broward County. Hernandez and Vega-Mercado were apprehended while picking up two of the packages in Fort Lauderdale. In total, law enforcement seized approximately 24 pounds of “Flakka,” with a total street value of approximately $500,000.
In a separate indictment, Brandon Laquaine Anderson, 29, was also charged with possession with intent to distribute “Flakka” within 1000 feet of a Ft. Lauderdale elementary school, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. If convicted of possession with intent to distribute “Flakka” within 1000 feet of a Ft. Lauderdale elementary school and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, Anderson faces a minimum sentence of six years in prison and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
DEA Special Agent in Charge A.D. Wright stated, “Synthetic drugs are the most lethal drugs out there today no matter what trendy names these drugs dealers attach to them. Last year it was Molly, now it’s Flakka, and who knows what it will be called next. These are only street terms and these drugs can contain anything. The users are allowing themselves to be utilized as guinea pigs. They have no idea what they are putting into their bodies. The DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to keep our citizens safe and put these dangerous drug dealers out of business.”
United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The continued collaboration between federal and local law enforcement agencies to attack the trafficking and importation of “Flakka,” and protect our community from exposure to this dangerous and potentially deadly drug, is of paramount importance. Today’s charges demonstrate that we are dedicated to improving public safety and the quality of life for law-abiding residents by protecting our neighborhoods and schools, adopting proactive law enforcement initiatives, and prosecuting repeat offenders, firearms violators, and narcotics traffickers.”
“These dangerous synthetic drugs compromise the public safety of our communities,” said HSI Miami Special Agent in Charge Alysa D. Erichs. “As today’s charges demonstrate, HSI will continue to aggressively target this emerging threat to the South Florida region.”
“Law enforcement in Florida are working collaboratively to combat the distribution of a very dangerous synthetic drug called “Flakka,” stated Ronald J. Verrochio, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division. “We will aggressively investigate those that use the mail for criminal activity and bring them to justice.”
Chief Franklin Adderley stated, “The Fort Lauderdale Police Department will continue to work with various federal agencies and local partners to break the pipeline of Flakka entering our community.”
“These drug dealers are only interested in padding their pockets and have complete disregard for the damage they cause to our families and our communities,” Sheriff Scott Israel said. “In addition to our enforcement efforts, I’ve put together a team of experts from our agency to educate the community about the dangers of this deadly drug in an effort to prevent more deaths.”
This investigation was conducted by the DEA, HSI, USPIS, CBP, Fort Lauderdale Police Department and BSO. Both cases are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney Office for the Southern District of Florida.
An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.