Feds arrest alleged drug-dealing gang members in Tampa

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A yearlong investigation landed 18 alleged gang members in jail Tuesday on a long list of federal charged related to drugs.

"I am happy to say that our community is safer,” said. FBI Tampa Special Agent in Charge Eric Sporre at a news conference. “Numerous arrests were made to dismantle a violent drug trafficking gang known as the Bird Gang."

Federal, state and local officials raided multiple locations in the Tampa Park neighborhood Tuesday morning, including a house on Nebraska Avenue they say was affiliated with the gang.

A resident nearby said he looked out his window to see agents with shotguns yelling "FBI! Search warrant!"

During the raid, investigators say officers seized 14 grams of crack cocaine and 100 grams of fentanyl - an amount of the synthetic opioid which could kill thousands of people.

"Fentanyl is lethal in extremely small dosages. It's sold in quantities that are less than 1 gram, so 100 grams is enough to distribute to a large community over a long period of time," Middle District Florida Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Murray said.

The crackdown was a yearlong coordinated effort known as Operation Blue Cast.

Officials say Bird Gang members menaced Tampa Park, committing robberies and assaults, selling drugs, and even killing people. 

Some had been arrested before by local authorities, but investigators say the criminals would get a slap on the hand and be back in the area and on to the next crime.

The feds hope Tuesday’s round-up ends the cycle for these offenders and sends a strong message to others.

"We will no longer tolerate this revolving door of people coming through the system, in and out without any kind of consequence or any kind of answering for their crimes," said Middle District Florida U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez.

If convicted, all 18 gang members face from five years up to life in federal prison. The U.S attorney says the investigation continues.