Nearly 50 arrested in Oxycodone ring dubbed “Operation Checkered Flag”

Nearly 50 arrested in Oxycodone ring dubbed “Operation Checkered Flag”

STARKE, Fla. — Ten Florida state prison employees are among nearly 50 people facing charges in Bradford County in an illegal prescription drug ring dubbed “Operation Checkered Flag”. Arrests began at 4 a.m. Tuesday and many people have turned themselves in.

The people charged were involved in smuggling drugs, primarily Oxycodone, into Bradford County and state prisons in the area, according to Sheriff Gordon Smith.

Smith says former Department of Corrections employee Dillan Hilliard, arrested earlier this year, was the main dealer involved in bringing drugs to the community.

Hilliard and others allegedly brought in drugs from suppliers in Duval and Polk counties and sold them in Bradford County, including some to prison inmates. Hilliard allegedly had a runner who moved the drugs around the county.
Dylan Hillard

Dylan Hillard (Photo: Bradford County Sheriff’s Office)

“These are people that I know, I know their families… They are part of our community,” Smith said. “A lot of these people were friends. They grew up together all their lives.”

Oxycodone, methamphetamines and cell phones were allegedly smuggled into the prison by DOC employees, according to Bradford County Drug Task Force Sgt. Chris Bennett. Bennett says all of the Corrections employees involved in the ring have either resigned or been fired.

The investigation started with a tip in January 2015, but police had no idea how big this investigation would grow at the time. Forty-nine warrants were being served on Tuesday tied to the case. Besides the prison employees, several drug users in the community and a runner are facing charges. Multiple inmates are involved in the investigation but have not been charged yet, police say.

“This thing is not about the arrests, it’s about saving lives to me,” said Smith.

Smith says their next target will be doctors who are prescribing medications like Oxycodone when they should not be.

“Anybody that is over-prescribing or abusing our citizens is going to be investigated.”

The Department of Corrections issued the following statement about the arrests:

“All Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) staff arrested today have had their employment terminated. In the face of today’s arrests, it is important for the people of Florida to remember that the Department of Corrections employs more than 23,000 honest and hardworking people across our state. To ferret out the small minority of those who choose to engage in criminal activity, I have communicated a zero tolerance policy for misconduct, and instructed our Office of Inspector General (OIG) to take aggressive and direct action against those who engage in illegal activity. The Department’s OIG has worked collaboratively with the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office throughout this investigation and will continue to review the circumstances surrounding these incidents in two administrative investigations. Today’s actions send a clear message to both our officers and the people of Florida that any FDC employee engaging in criminal conduct will be identified and punished to the fullest extent of both Florida law and Department policy.”

2 Responses

  1. How quickly this article leaped from illegal use and distribution to targeting doctors and pharmacists. Where is the evidence that these pills were EVER legally obtained? I would very much like to see that distinction made in EVERY article about abuse.

  2. What’s that say to the public when 20% of the arrests made in only 1 county were members of the law enforcement community?

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