Manatee officials bust dozens of alleged opioid dealers

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A big-time bust took dozens of alleged drug dealers and traffickers off the streets of Manatee County.

Local officials say they were dealing fentanyl, a deadly and highly addictive opioid, along with cocaine, heroin, and meth.

Investigators said one of the suspects even sold dope in the parking lot of a drug rehab facility.

Tuesday afternoon officials with the DEA and the Manatee County Sheriff's Office announced the arrests and federal indictments of 34 men and women dubbed "full-time drug dealers."

Sheriff Charles "Rick" Wells said one suspect in particular, George Calhoun, went to disturbing lengths to move product.

"He decided that he would go to one of our local treatment facilities and sell drugs in the parking lot," said Sheriff Wells. "Now there's a place for George Calhoun worse than any prison that I could put him in."

Wells says the arrests are especially important to his county which had close to 300 fentanyl-related deaths since 2015.

"I will say this: 100% of the time they know they're killing people. They do not care," said Wells.

The issue of fentanyl is not limited to Manatee County, or even the state of Florida. National discussions have taken place regarding the rising numbers of opioid overdoses and deaths.

Officials have linked at least one overdose death to the network busted Tuesday, but over the past six months they say overdoses and overdose deaths are down 78 percent and 75 percent, respectively, county-wide.

"Today is the end of the road for this drug trafficking network," said Associate Special Agent in Charge with the DEA Jaime Camacho. "I think that it's safe to say that we saved many lives."