Manatee sheriff: Drug investigation started in 2006 (indictments attached)

MANATEE - Seven people, including six from Manatee County, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly smuggling large amounts of cocaine from Mexico to Manatee, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Tampa.

The suspects face prison sentences of between 10 years and life if convicted.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office said the indictments resulted from an investigation that started here in August 2006. In all, 16 suspects have been arrested and/or indicted.

Some of the suspects may have been involved in violent crimes in Manatee County, and the investigation is continuing. During the investigation, officials have confiscated $1.5 million in currency, 22 kilograms of cocaine, numerous firearms and various properties and vehicles in Florida and Texas, according to the sheriff's office.

According to the indictments, "the defendants were involved in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine," a news release from the U.S. attorney's office states.

The defendants were the targets of 'Operation Bean Bag' a long-term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area investigation, into the smuggling of large quantities of cocaine from Mexico into Manatee County and elsewhere in the Middle District of Florida, and, 'Operation Dual Identity' the related investigation of an organization involved in the sale of 'cloned' vehicles, according to the release.

Those indicted were: Daniel Pallares, 45; David Pallares, 23; Jose A. "Chepe" Pallares, 22; Homero Rodriguez-Mena, 28; and Joey Dunlap, 37, all of Bradenton; Antonio Rodriguez-Perez, 32, of Myakka City; and Guadalupe "Lupe" Maldonado, 39, of Naples.

On Wednesday, law enforcement agents arrested David Pallares, Jose Pallares, Homero Rodriguez-Mena, Antonio Rodriguez-Perez, and Joey Dunlap in Manatee County, Guadalupe Maldonado was arrested in Naples, and Daniel Pallares in Texas.

When they arrested Dunlap, agents seized four firearms from his residence, including an AK-47 assault rifle.

Homero Rodriguez-Mena is currently incarcerated on local charges related to the conduct charged in the indictment.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Lee County Sheriff's Office, the Miami-Dade Auto Theft Task Force, and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.