Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith received quite a shock this year.
Back in January, the county’s drug task force learned that corrections officer Dylan Oral Hilliard, 25, was supplying Bradford County with large amounts of prescription pain medication, like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone.
The sheriff’s office announced Tuesday the end of Operation Checkered Flag, a 10-month investigation into the sale and distribution of prescription pills, committed by several state Department of Corrections officers and local residents.
Sheriff Smith said he was shocked to learn how many were involved.
“The faces that you see [on the list] are the faces that I live with every day,” he said.
Officials said, as of today, at least 30 of the 70 individuals suspected of participating in the drug trafficking organization led by Hilliard are in custody. The 30 were either already arrested or turned themselves into BSCO.
Sgt. Chris Bennett, the sheriff’s office drug task force commander, said two Department of Corrections employees (William Markham and Evan Williams) dealt prescription pills and cell phones — supplied by Hilliard — to inmates housed at Florida State Prison in Raiford.
Hilliard was arrested June 11 on felony charges of purchasing a trafficking amount of Oxycodone when undercover officers carried out a sting operation.
Another member of Hilliard’s alleged drug ring and fellow Department of Corrections officer, Maj. Charles Gregory Combs, 35, was arrested July 1 on felony charges of drug distribution and smuggling.
Bennett said Hilliard’s testimony served as the catalyst to finish the investigation, with a total of 49 arrest warrants issued by the state’s Office of the Attorney General for multiple crimes carried out by members of the alleged drug ring.
Sheriff Smith peppered Tuesday’s press conference with plenty of passion, calling this operation a “heat race” and saying he planned to win “the championship race.”
BCSO said, at the end of the investigation, it found four suppliers sold the prescription medication pills at wholesale price to Hilliard, who in turn sold those pills for a profit. Officials also said one of the four suppliers is based in Alachua County, but the sheriff’s office is not prepared to reveal which supplier it is until it confirms all information.
He said he is now interested in tracking doctors and other medical professionals in the county who might also have supplied the drugs.
“You know what, the next time that doctor’s writing that script, he better look over his shoulder,” he said. “The next person who wants to make an illegal drug buy, better look over their shoulder. There might a fellow there in green and blue who’s going to take your freedom away.”
Capt. Bradford Smith, director of operations for the sheriff’s office, was not able on Tuesday to put a precise dollar amount on how much the operation cost, but he said it did require multiple task force members assigned around the clock to track down the drugs and those involved.
Taking that into account, he estimated “somewhere around $300,000.” The office’s budget is about $4 million annually.