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37 charged in Miami-to-Tampa drug trafficking scheme

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 22, 2000

TAMPA -- One juvenile and 36 adults from all walks of life were arrested in Hillsborough County this week, charged with being the couriers in a drug-running scheme that stretched from Tampa to Miami.

Officials said the drug traffickers used cars, vans and commercial airlines to smuggle drugs from the Miami area to Tampa. Heroin and cocaine was sold in the areas around the University of South Florida, Town 'N Country and West Tampa.

The 37 suspects range in age from under 18 to 48. They include a 2000 graduate of Gaither High School, a mother of two young children and a car salesman. Some were released from jail after posting bail. Others face bail amounts up to $1-million. And some, such as Muriel Aponte, 22, described as a ringleader, are being held without bail.

The task force seized 6 kilograms of cocaine and 1 pound of heroin officials said had a street value of $500,000. They also confiscated $91,000 in cash, 15 cars and nine guns.

The arrests followed six months of investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a group of city, county, state and federal officers.

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