Comments Off on Detectives Arrest 7, Seize 50 Pounds of Meth After 11-Month Multi-Agency Investigation

BARTOW | A sign on a Kissingen Avenue mailbox advertises worms, rabbits and farm-fresh eggs.

Next door, Lydia Santiago, a mother of four, discreetly moved her own product, authorities said, selling methamphetamine she bought by the pound in what investigators called a $1 million operation.

Santiago, 38, of Bartow, was arrested Tuesday after an 11-month investigation by a multi-agency team of Polk County detectives. With her cooperation, they arrested six more suspects connected to the drug sales and seized more than $13,000 in cash and 50 pounds of meth.


Sheriff Grady Judd shows some of the items the Polk County Sheriff’s Office seized in Tuesday’s drug bust.



Sheriff Grady Judd displayed the drugs — some of it wrapped in white packages, but most of it in liquid form in small containers — during a Wednesday news conference. Detectives are trying to trace the meth to suspects who produced and brought it into the county, he said. Two suspects accused of keeping a stash house in Winter Haven are cooperating with investiga-tors.

“We’ve got your dope, we’ve got two of your boys,” Judd said. “So get ready.”

Detectives arrested Santiago after stopping her Ford Expedition on State Road 60 because it had a broken taillight. Her four children sat inside. A detective asked to search her vehicle, her arrest report says, and Santiago responded, “Sure, go ahead. I have nothing.”

In her purse, the report says, detectives found about 2 pounds of meth and $8,000 in cash.



Detectives arrested Santiago’s boyfriend, Daquon Gunter-Santel, 20, of Lakeland, also seated in the vehicle, on a charge of violating his probation for armed robbery.

Santiago led detectives to her home at 1820 Kissengen Ave. in Bartow, where detectives said they found 5 pounds of marijuana. Through Santiago, detectives arranged to buy 2 pounds of meth from her alleged dealers.

Arturo Sanchez, 22, and Angel Castro, 24, arrived with the meth in their vehicle, authorities said. Detectives arrested them and Santiago’s son, Jorge Morales-Vallejo, 23, who was at the home.

Detectives searched a house at 540 Ave. L S.E. in Winter Haven, where they said Castro and Sanchez kept drugs. Detectives seized 46 pounds of meth and two guns from the home.

As part of the investigation, detectives also arrested Jose Torres, 35, of Winter Haven, and Edwin Hall, 61, of Bartow, on charges that include drug possession.

Santiago’s house, with Christmas lights on the eaves and dead plants on the porch, was quiet Wednesday.

Maria Armijo, 42, a neighbor, grew used to cars arriving outside the home at odd hours. She heard children play and yell in the road until mid-night.

She wondered about the fate of Santiago’s children, now in Department of Children and Families custody.

“I was praying that something needs to happen for the kids,” she said. “They’re the ones who suffer because of the parents.”



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